Hungarian Flag

Insignia of Hungary.

University of Minnesota

Click here to jump to beginning of text

AltaVista Translation Service
Angol-magyar szótár

Map of Hungary.

Hungary HomePage

USA Flag

Keynote Address
13th Annual microCAD International Computer Science Conference
University of Miskolc

Miskolc, Hungary

24 February 1999

"inter-Facing the Inevitable:

Appropriate Technology in the 21st Century"

Tim Roufs
University of Minnesota, Duluth

Essentials of good design and scientific practice transcend millennia

-- even if most cultures and civilizations do not



TODAY: A.D. 1999


Four Canons:

Canon I: Philosophically, and Paradoxically, the Pursuit of Truth is Constant, Albeit that the "Truth" Itself Changes

Canon II: Creative Processes Require Contemplation as Well as Hard Work

Canon III: Resource Allocation Tasks Will Not Go Away; They Will Get Worse

Canon IV: Avoid Predicting Future Trends and Events

Six Principles:

Principle I: Audience and Purpose Should Define Projects

Principle II: Ockham's Razor Cuts Well

Principle III: Basic Principles of Good Design Endure

Principle IV: Communication is Central to Understanding, and is the Heartbeat of Education

Principle V: Proofread Drafts, and Field Test Beta Releases

Principle VI: Appropriate Technology Fits Audience and Purpose


Nagyra becsült miskolci, magyarországi, nemzetközi kollégák és vendégek. Nagy megtiszteltetésnek tartom, hogy meghívást kaptam ezt a beszédet Önnöknek eladni.

Twenty-five years ago I was a delegate to the International Sigma Xi conference held in St. Louis, Missouri, the US city most recently visited by the Pope (on January 26th 1999). Sigma Xi is one of the most important scientific research organizations in America. The keynote speaker at the St. Louis convention was James A. Michener, author of books like Iberia, Poland, Texas, The Source, and Tales of the South Pacific.

A quarter of a century later I still remember two things from Michener's keynote address: FIRST, Michener contended that in the entire history and prehistory of the world only a handful of countries lasted a thousand years or more. And Hungary is one of those few select cultures. In May of 1896 Hungarian-Americans celebrated the one-thousandth anniversary of the Hungarian conquest of the Carpathian Basin (A.D. 896-900). I will return to Michener later.

It is thus fitting that today, here in Hungary, a country of more than a millennium, we pause to reflect on principles and essentials that endure millennia.



Let us go back to the time of the founding of Hungary -- to the years just prior to Y1K.

If we look for the Y1K person most representative of the group gathered here today in Miskolc, at this 13th annual microCAD Computer Science Conference -- a person of science, of math, one versed in state-of-the-arts computing technology (abacus), one versed in arts and humanities, and knowledgeable of the social sciences of the times -- we will most certainly come up with Gerbert of Aurillac, considered by some as the "most accomplished man of the middle Ages" (Erdoes, 1988, p. 10).

Gerbert was born ca. 945 near Aurillac, Avergne, France. He was renowned for his scholarly achievements, his advances in education, and his shrewd political judgement. At the Monastery of Santa María de Ripoll, he studied the quadrivium -- the higher division of the liberal arts, which included arithmetic, geometry, astronomy, and music theory. Together with disciplines of the trivium -- grammar, logic, rhetoric -- the subjects of the quadrivium formed the seven liberal arts, which were taught in the monasteries and the cathedral schools of the times. These liberal arts were regarded "as the very mathematics of human knowledge, without a knowledge of which it would be foolish to proceed." (BO) Gerbert was educated by the Benedictines, and was widely known throughout Christendom as a learned monk, full of wisdom.

And he was talented in the design of pre-microCAD educational products: "Gerbert was a great scholar, and he was also a good teacher and devised several practical means for learning [these included]: [1] a chart for learning rhetoric; [2] his writing about the abacus, which became the basic work on the subject and included the use of Hindu-Arabic numerals of the base-10, which he had learned in Spain; [3] celestial globes; [4] a hemisphere for learning the imaginary celestial circles; and [5] auxiliary spheres, one for identifying constellations and another with planetary orbits. He also acquired an astrolabe and wrote about its uses. He also constructed a timepiece (horologium). He prepared a work on geometry that attempted to fill the gap caused by the existence of a fragmentary Euclid. . . . He had an extraordinary knowledge of music and seems to have constructed several organs and also a monochord for studying music theory. His philosophical tract De rationali et de ratione uti -- "Concerning the Rational and the Use of Reason" -- emphasized problems of definition and classification of knowledge. . . ." (BO)

Most notably among all of these items stands the fact that about A.D. 1000, Gerbert introduced to Europe a type of abacus -- the "ancestor" of the modern calculating machine and computer -- in which numbers were represented by stones bearing Arabic numerals. Such novelties were then known to very few.

The abacus survives today in the Middle East, China, and Japan, and an expert practitioner can compete against many modern mechanical calculating machines. In 1946 a contest between a Japanese abacist and an electronic computer was held for two days, resulting in an unmistakable victory of the abacist (Kaplan 1999). Although not yet tested, the Big Blue team of IBM feels confident their new ThinkPad model coming out in a week or two can beat the abacus. But still, for most of the last millennium, the abacus was the "computer" of choice in Europe, thanks in large part to Gerbert.

Gerbert thus, in a sense, was the Bill Gates of the end of the first millennium.

But Gerbert surpassed Bill Gates by subsequently becoming Pope. And since Bill Gates is now married, Bill Gates seems to be out of the running for Pope.

Gerbert was consecrated Pope -- the first Frenchman to be elevated to the throne of Peter -- on April 9, 999. He took the name Sylvester II, declaring his main task to be to work for a renewed Christian Roman Empire.

Pope Sylvester II

Gerbert, now Pope Sylvester II, was immediately faced with a major problem: Y1K -- the end of the world! Not all that different, some would have us believe, than Y2K.

People of Europe widely believed that the world was coming to an end, and they pondered it "not only the year 999, [when Gerbert was elected Pope] but the whole century that preceded it" (Erdoes, 1988, p. 1), albeit the details were widely debated:

"Some were certain that the Second Coming of Christ would fall on the last day of the last year, 999, at the very stroke of midnight. Others were equally convinced that Armageddon would happen a little earlier, on the eve of the nativity. Some fixed the date on the day of the summer or winter solstice in the thousandth year after our Lord's passion" (Erdoes,1988, p. 2).
Richard Erdoes suggests it was an "all-pervading dread of the apocalypse that held humankind in its grip. Legends set the period against an apocalyptic background and associate the end of the first millennium with some vague terror of judgement day." Not all believed in the impending doom. Many did not. Prelates and abbots disparaged the belief that the earth was about to burn up. But the common people, the lower nobles, village priests, and peasants, took it as an absolute truth that the "night-fall of the universe was at hand" (Erdoes, 1988, pp. 1-2).

In spite of the belief that the world was coming to an end, and judgement day was nigh, people failed to heed the Ten Commandments:

"Close to a thousand years after the Virgin gave her son to the world mankind threw itself into the most fatal errors. . . . They waxed fat and proud, and kicked against God's laws. For even princes and bishops had their hearts set on ill-gotten riches, turning to theft and greed. And the lower sort of people followed the example of the higher so that never before had there been such base crimes of incests, adulteries and fornications between close kindred, such immorality and keeping of concubines" (Erdoes, 1988, p. 5).

To many Americans, that account sounds much like the evening television news report of the 1999 Bill Clinton administration. In the 990s, the clergy took such behavior as proof that the world most certainly would end. Some, I suppose, think the same way today.

In the 990s the people did not know what to expect with Y1K, because, after all, there was no YØK. They did not know what to expect, because, after all, for those on the Julian calendar, there had never been a millennium problem before.

Pope Sylvester II handled the Y1K problem at a special midnight Mass, with special religious rituals, on New Year's Eve in the year 999. Legend has it that he did it with a little help from Arab magicians; some even suspect he made a pact with the devil. Either way, as it is written, "humanity had been given a new lease on life upon an earth reborn. The year of fear and trembling had passed. A new day had dawned" (Erdoes, 1988, p. 193).

The Y1K problem was solved.

Legends about Sylvester II's great learning surfaced. Some attributed his learning to magical arts learned in Spain, some to the devil's coaching, some to an artificial head that answered his questions. . . . So in a sense, should the legends be believed, Gerbert / Pope Sylvester II was also the father of AI -- "artificial intelligence!"

Other civilizations, with other calendars, have had their own YnK problems, of course -- and their own solutions. To make the transition to their New Age the Aztecs of Mexico, for example, used what they called "The New Fire Ceremony," featuring human sacrifice and self mutilation. (Vaillant, 1966 203-205). The contemporary Mayans of Mexico are now preparing for their YnK in our year A.D. 2012. The Mayan calendar points to 22 December 2012 as the end of their present age -- and this time it may be the end of the world! 2012 is the end of the 13th cycle (baktun) that started 1,872,000 days earlier at 13 August 3114 B.C.

Hungary Coat-of-ArmsWith the Y1K problem solved, the world did not end, and Pope Sylvester II turned his intelligence to promoting "a renewed Christian Roman Empire." Both the Eastern and Western churches at that time strove to draw the Magyars, and the other peoples of east-central Europe, into their folds. Already, in 975, in Hungary, Géza, the supreme Magyar hereditary chieftain and great-grandson of the founder of the House of Árpád, and his family were received into the Western Christian church. In 996, three years before Gerbert's ascent to the papacy, Géza's son, Vajk -- now usually known as István (Stephen) -- married Gisella, the daughter of Duke Henry II, a Bavarian princess. Born a pagan, but baptized and reared as a Christian, István came to rule the Árpád dynasty. By then, the house of Árpád had became one of the leading powers of Europe.

István reigned from 997 to 1038, carrying on his father's work and expanding upon his family's accomplishments, officially converting his people to Christianity in the Western Church in A.D. 1000.

Hungary Coat-of-Arms

In his efforts to renew the Christian Roman Empire, Pope Sylvester II, that is, Gerbert, planned to crown Duke Boleslav of Poland, but at the last minute, according to legend, an angel of the Lord appeared to Gerbert in a dream, and instead he gave István of Hungary a crown that is still held as a national treasure (Erdoes, 1988, pp. 171-173).

According to tradition, István was anointed King of Hungary on Christmas Day, in the year 1000. István's coronation signified Hungary's entry into the family of European Christian nations. Pope Sylvester II thus acknowledged István I, as the first King of Hungary -- and, at István's request, the Pope created an archbishopric centered in Esztergom, István's place of birth, and established Hungary as a Catholic country. With a few exceptions, István's reign was a period of peaceful consolidation. István died in 1038, and was canonized a saint 1083.

St. István and Hungary watched out over a thousand years -- throughout:

. . . and he'll likely be there for Epi-Post Modernism too.

And through all of these I believe István witnessed some essentials of good design and practice that transcend millennia -- even if most cultures and civilizations do not.

A thousand years ago István joined a church which prides itself in the Ten Commandments. The members of the church do not have intellectual property rights over them, or even necessarily like them much, but, still, they take great pride in their ten-point program. And their program has lasted since Moses, since the 13th century B.C., even though they were celebrated by their disregard just prior to A.D. 1000.

TODAY: A.D. 1999

Modern civilization seems to use number systems that are binary or decimal, and, it seems, truths even come in tens. So let me propose that we also have ten essentials of good design, subdivided into two categories: four canons and six principles.

Canon I: Philosophically, and paradoxically, the pursuit of truth is constant, albeit that the "truth" itself changes.

In education and other endeavors to understand the universe people are often zealots in the pursuit of truth. A commitment to SEARCHING for "truth" transcends time, albeit truth itself is tentative.

Sigma Xi members, for example, pride themselves as "zealots" in the scientific pursuit of truth, and today they actively promote scientific research and the promise of science and technology. Their goals are to foster interaction among science, technology and society; to encourage appreciation and support of original work in science and technology, and to honor scientific research accomplishments. Sigma Xi, The Scientific Research Society, was founded in 1886 as an honor society for scientists and engineers. Today more than 90,000 scientists and engineers have been elected to the Society because of their research achievements or potential. Sigma Xi has more than 500 chapters at universities and colleges, government laboratories and industry research centers worldwide. More than 170 of its members have won the Nobel Prize. And its members unite in the zealous pursuit of scientific truth.

The Structure of Scientific Revolutions

Yet the Sigma Xi members understand that the "truth" they zealously pursue is itself tentative. When I was studying sociological theory with the highly-respected Professor Don Martindale, we read Thomas Kuhn's The Structure of Scientific Revolutions -- a book that has been called "a profoundly influential landmark of 20th-century intellectual history" -- and we had to learn what a "paradigm" was. We had to learn what "paradigm shifts" involved. Nowadays, even politicians know and use the terms "paradigm," and "paradigm shift" -- at least in America.

At one time in America, Kuhn's The Structure of Scientific Revolutions was the most frequently used interdisciplinary book in colleges and universities. It has sold about one million copies in sixteen languages and remains required reading in many basic courses in the history and philosophy of science.

Kuhn's work on the history of science and the sociology of knowledge had enormous influence across a multitude of disciplines. Professor's Kuhn's treatise influenced not only the "hard" scientists but also economists, historians, sociologists, anthropologists, and philosophers -- touching off considerable debate.

From beginning to end, Kuhn maintained an interest in science education and the processes of learning science. But it was Kuhn, in modern times, who brought to mind the transitory nature of scientific truth. Professor Kuhn argued that the typical scientist was not an objective, free thinker and skeptic. He argued that the typical scientist was a somewhat conservative individual who simply accepted what "he" was taught, and applied "his" knowledge to solving problems within an accepted paradigm, with archetypal solutions to problems. Nevertheless, the scientists zealously pursued truth in extending the scope of the paradigm.

As a result of Kuhn's work, and subsequently the work of Postmodernists, we now more clearly appreciate the fact that philosophically, and paradoxically, the pursuit of truth is constant, albeit the form of truth itself changes

Canon II: Creative Processes Require Contemplation as well as Hard Work.

Contemplation and time to contemplate will always be a part of creative. processes. Paradoxically, time for contemplation or meditation -- an "incubation" period, if you will -- is indispensable in good time management. And, paradoxically, good time management becomes even more important in a high-tech world. As G. Wallas pointed out almost seventy-five years ago (The Art of Thought,1926), the creative process involves:

  • Preparation

  • Incubation

  • Illumination / Inspiration

  • Confirmation, and,

  • Validation

To that list Thomas Alva Edison would add "perspiration." (Life, 1932, Ch. 24)

I mentioned at the beginning James A. Michener's Sigma Xi talk of a quarter-century ago. The second thing I still remember about his talk is that he writes in his office in the morning, and walks in his woods in the afternoon. And, he claims, the most important part of his writing is walking in the woods. No walking, no writing. In order to write and create he needs to have time to think and contemplate. And this from one of the most prolific authors of the twentieth century! He has tried to explain the needed woods walking time to grant agencies, suggesting up to half of the time proposed for a grant should be for walking in the woods. But without avail. Some bureaucracies, it seems, simply can not comprehend the need for contemplation.

But many religious groups and advanced civilizations have recognized its importance, and so have some companies. Gerbert / Pope Sylvester II was educated by the Benedictines, as was St. István's son, who went off to study with Gellért (Gerard). The Rule of St. Benedict, as do most other religious rules, prescribes a balance of contemplation and prayer, work, and study. The Benedictines have been around for 1,500 years. . . .

Contemplation / meditation has been part of most civilizations that have lasted longer than one thousand years. That is most likely not a coincidence.

My brother was an executive of a major U.S. company and it was company policy for their executives to take one day off a month and spend it doing anything but tasks associated with work. A friend of mine, when he was editor-in-chief of one of the most prestigious business magazines in America, encouraged staff to stare out the window and daydream. He did not have a woods handy for them to walk in.

In the advanced writing course that I teach one of the course assignments is to do nothing for two days. That is one of the most popular assignments, certainly, but it is also one where they learn much about the writing process.

Canon III: Resource Allocation Tasks Will Not Go Away; They Will Get Worse.

With new technologies inevitably comes increased life complexity. Once it appeared that computers were here to stay, it was predicted that "the paperless office" would be so efficient, for example, that many time and resource management problems would be solved by the computer itself. But we now have more paper and less time.

Resource allocation tasks will not go away; they will get worse. This current term, I have a total of about 225 students in all of my classes. Most of those students expect that at any time they can E-mail me and get a timely reply. In my department we have fostered that attitude and practice, and outside of class communicate regularly with students via E-mail and class discussion boards on the WorldWide Web. But the genie is out of the lamp. "E-mail helps move messages," said a participant on a recent U.S. National Public Radio forum, "but how much of this insanity can we take?"

When the University is in session I receive as many as 100 messages a day. I have found that I can not operate a high-tech classroom and properly communicate with students when I have 225 students at any one time. Hi-tech has caused new time allocation problems. At my request, the Dean of my college has recently changed my workload assignment for next year. I will have, for all of next year, 125 students compared to the 650 that I have this year.

In my own case hi-tech education has not increased the number of students I can teach, it has rather, and counter-intuitively so, cut the number of students in my class. A few years ago, one would likely have predicted just the -- opposite, that hi-tech would lessen the workload and allow fewer teachers to teach more students.

Institutions have similar resource allocation problems with non-time resources. For example, the new high-tech library at my University, currently under construction (scenes of which are available "live" on a WebCam) certainly involves resource allocation tradeoffs. With its increased expenditures in technology the University of Minnesota expects to become one of America's top ten university systems. We do not point out in our press releases, however, that it will also cost undergraduate students an estimated $4,000 more to get a four-year degree from the University of Minnesota at Duluth -- in addition to cost-of-living increases over those four years.

The need for good time and resources management transcends time, and becomes increasingly important in a high-tech world.

What about the future?

The last canon is addressed to that --

Canon IV: Avoid Predicting Future Trends and Events.

We can learn a lot from the past, especially about predicting the future. I asked the Chair of our Computer Science Department about predictions. From his files come the following past predictions and views from "the best science and society has to offer" (Dunham 1999):

  • 1876 "This 'telephone' has too many shortcomings to be seriously considered as a means of communication. The device is inherently of no value to us."

    -- Western Union internal memo

  • 1895 "Heavier-than-air flying machines are impossible."

    -- Lord Kelvin, president, Royal Society

  • (Later) "Airplanes are interesting toys but of no military value."

    -- Marshal Ferdinand Foch, Professor of Strategy, École Superiéure de Guerre

  • 1899 "Everything that can be invented has been invented."

    -- Charles H. Duell, Commissioner, U.S. Office of Patents

  • ca. 1899 "The internal combustion engine will be the answer to air pollution in New York City."

    -- explaining why the car was better than the horse

  • 1907 "There'll be so many cars [in this country] they'll be running into one another."

    -- Chippewa American Indian elder Wrinkle-Meat to an incredulous young Paul Buffalo

  • 1920s "The wireless music box has no imaginable commercial value. Who would pay for a message sent to nobody in particular?"

    -- David Sarnoff's associates in response to his urgings for investment in the radio

  • 1927 "Who the hell wants to hear actors talk?"

    -- H.M. Warner, Warner Brothers Movie Studio

  • 1943 "I think there is a world market for maybe five computers."

    -Thomas Watson, chairman of IBM

  • 1949 "Computers in the future may weigh no more than 1.5 tons."

    -- Popular Mechanics, forecasting the relentless march of science

  • 1957 "I have traveled the length and breadth of this country and talked with the best people, and I can assure you that data processing is a fad that won't last out the year."

    -- The editor in charge of business books for Prentice Hall

  • 1968 "But what . . . is it good for?"

    -- Engineer at the Advanced Computing Systems Division of IBM, commenting on the microchip

  • n.d. "So we went to Atari and said, 'Hey, we've got this amazing thing, even built with some of your parts, and what do you think about funding us? Or we' ll give it to you. We just want to do it. Pay our salary, we'll come work for you.' And they said, 'No.' So then we went to Hewlett-Packard, and they said, 'Hey, we don't need you. You haven't gone through college yet.'"

    -- Apple Computer Inc. founder Steve Jobs on attempts to get Atari and H-P interested in his and Steve Wozniak's personal computer

  • 1977 "There is no reason anyone would want a computer in their home."

    -- Ken Olson, president, chairman and founder of Digital Equipment Corp.

  • 1981 "640K ought to be enough for anybody."

    -- Bill Gates

    And, finally,

  • 1989 "I don't know why you want me to go to America and study with the National Science Foundation; we'll never have a computer in our department."

    -- Borsányi László, Budapest

    Avoid predicting future trends and events.

    These four basic cannons support six design principles:

    Principle I: Considerations of Audience and Purpose Should Define Projects.

    Audience and purpose are linked. Hardware design, software design, content and applications are best driven by considerations of audience and purpose, and these should be clearly articulated in the minds of designers and scientists and teachers. Audience and purpose in writing and teaching determine pretty much everything. So too in hardware, software, and applications.

    Characteristics of end-users delineate projects. What are they interested in? What does the user already know about the topic? Should the project be of greatest interest to the general user, the enthusiast, or the professional?

    End-user background, experience and technical skill levels, interest levels, and the resources available to them are of key importance.

    How much time, money, and software and hardware resources end users have determine the usefulness of projects.

    Whether the end-users are researchers, academics, professors, students, special interest group members, people who share your views, people who do not share your views, young, old, etc., affect choices in applications development.

    Do you want to educate, convince, evaluate, entertain, inform (getting / sharing information), promote, experiment, decorate, or advertise? Or maybe you want to do something just for the fun of it, because of its frivolity and whimsicalness.

    Or do you want to build a community of users?

    What do you want your end-users to know or be able to do when they have finished with your project? Ask the question, "What problem does my end-user want to solve?"

    Purpose, too broadly specified, is not useful. But even a carefully specific objective is of little value unless one keeps it in mind as they work. One should guard against losing sight of audience and purpose as other steps of a project progress.

    Principle II: Ockham's Razor Cuts Well.

    The medieval principle of parsimony, or principle of economy, frequently used by William of Ockham (1285-1347 / 49), asserts that entities are not to be multiplied beyond necessity: non sunt multiplicanda entia praeter necessitatem. One should not increase, beyond what is necessary, the number of entities required to explain anything. When faced with two or more interpretations of a phenomenon, accept the simplest explanation. Accept the simplest solution.

    In plain English that is KISS, "Keep It Simple Stupid." When faced with the choice between complex and simple, take the simple.

    Principle III: Basic Principles of Good Design Endure.

    Good design transcends time. Certain design principles endure the millennia -- simplicity, clarity, balance, harmony.

    Avoid clutter.

    Build-in consistency.

    Have reset buttons recover from unintended changes!

    Principle IV: Communication is Central to Understanding, and is the Heartbeat of Education.

    Good design promotes good communication. Idea exchange is the essence of the educational process, and communication undergirds that exchange.

    At first glance, new technologies -- currently such as publishing on the Web, E-mail, real-time discussion rooms, CD-Rom, etc. -- might appear to simply replace "traditional" technologies because they provide information quickly and relatively inexpensively. But the real importance of these technologies lies in the fact that while their users explore subjects multi-dimensionally and inter-disciplinarily, they capitalize on the internet as a communications medium. In the final analysis, the Web is most importantly used, in education, to develop dialogs between the Web author and audience, and among end-users.

    I personally have eight clusters of Web sites, with about 275 actual web pages integrated into the eight hubs. The prehistoric cultures cluster gets 1000-2400 hits per week, depending on the week. In the last few years I have communicated with people from dozens of countries.

    As the sites are mainly pointer sites for students in my classes, these web sites have literally thousands of links to the outside world, and each class has an "on-line chat-room" where students can carry on threaded, that is, interlinked, discussions. In a colleague's class of about thirty students, last quarter there were almost 700 messages exchanged in ten weeks.

    The real significance of the to-date technology lies not in the immediate access to the ten thousand or more full-text books available instantly, and probably nobody knows how many high-quality WebPages of specialized information, but in the fact that we can talk about any of these interrelated things with students and other learners, any time, anywhere in the world.

    Principle V: Proofread Drafts, and Field Test Beta Releases.

    Since the 15th century it has become imperative to proofread drafts. More recently, testing Beta-releases in real-time real-life situations falls into this same category.

    On the 22nd of January I spent much of the day with five executives and technicians from IBM. They had come to campus to make a presentation of their "integrated framework" for converting our university to "LaptopU," complete with access to "ThinkPad" University and entry into Distance Education. Teams of presenters had just the night before departed the national IBM meetings, and they began overwhelming us with 12-hour-old information on the latest IBM had to offer.

    We were told by the business-suited Alpha-male, wearing a maroon thatched tie, about the most recent developments in "E-business," "E-education," "E-administration," "E-software," "E-technology."

    They versed us on "Enterprise Resource Planning, "Supply Chain Management," "Data Mining," "Data / Information Warehousing," "Wrapping," "Pervasive Computing," "Web Years of 6-month generations," "Leveraging Knowledge," "Web Self-Service Marketing," "Markets of One," "Digital Libraries," "MultiTasking," and security, privacy, and legal issues related to the above.

    We learned that there is a "paradigm shift" taking place in education -- one where WorldWide Web linear thinking is giving way to non-linear thinking. And the non-linear thinking comes with graphics, sounds, and written texts.

    And, of course, they showcased their state-of-the-art hardware: "This 'box' right here is the new 'box' coming out in March, The ThinkPad XXX, with the same footprint as the TP XX -- the 14-inch notebook has the same size screen as a 15-inch monitor -- but don't tell anyone about it." Most of my colleagues were really impressed with and excited about the new "box" -- apparently forgetting that in a little over 4000 hours it will likely be the "former generation" hardware, having been supplanted by "voice-to-text" technology, or some other technology already in Beta-test.

    And they showcased their educational software. It was equally impressive.

    They told us about the British Open University incorporating in the State of Delaware, with the avowed intention to be offering education-at-a-distance degrees in all fifty U.S. States -- with the expectation to be "the biggest educational provider in the United States within ten years." Could this be the beginning of a new millennium Neo-Colonialism? And we heard about "Phoenix," and of the recently de-colonized "Hong Kong," and other interfaced "universities."

    We were told how IBM developed a special digital camera to preserve the collections of the Vatican Library, and how happy the current Pope was to know that IBM expected these new images to last "another 2000 years."

    We were told that, for IBM, 2000 years storage was good -- but not good enough for IBM! We were told that their R & D teams were working on data storage at the molecular level, which would be independent of hardware and software obsolescence.

    They were, of course, as is the trend now in the United States, politically correct in their presentation. They even asked us if it was OK to call professors and students "customers," noting that "in some places we can't say 'customer.'"

    They promised to integrate our interfacing with different audiences -- faculty, students (including the "non-traditional students" who are making up an increasing portion of the student population), other academics, alumni (especially those with money to donate), and potential students to recruit. And Big Blue promised to web those audiences into advising, registering, class scheduling, teaching, recruiting, book store operating, student services, financial aid, library services, business operations, consulting services, campus security, and building maintenance. "Students," we were told, "with their laptops will even be able to check what's on the menu at the dining hall."

    And, of course, we "got the pitch" on how students could go into debt to finance all of this at the rate of $800 - $1,000 per year, "depending on the hardware configurations."

    Yes, they tried to convince us, Big Blue was in the best position to do it all -- and all with a company down-time average of only five minutes a year, compared to some "competitors" who are "97% available" -- which they conveniently computed for us to be ten days a year. They also pointed out that -- since IBM had received 2200 new patents from the U.S. Patent Office, and some of the "other companies" had received none, and "hadn't actually invented anything other than a very fine process to assemble hardware from other peoples' parts," -- their "competitors" weren't really competitors, but simply end-product vendors. "But," they hastened to add, "don't take this as a criticism of them."

    And they did this all in such . . . a . . . very . . . nice . . . manner.

    Here we had, for the day, some of the best executives and technicians from one of the best hi-tech companies in the world, with 12-hour-old information, with the newer-than-the-latest hardware, trying to sell us about $7,500,000 per year worth of hardware, software, and services.

    For $7-1 / 2 million dollars a year, they had done it all. All, that is, except pretest their state-of-the-art Lotus Freelance slide-show-like presentations in the field. Our "Garden Room," where most of their presentations were held that day, has no room-darkening shades, and hence, throughout the highest-tech performance currently available on the face of the earth we heard things like, "Right there in the middle, where you can't see, is the University of Minnesota logo." "You can't see this, but . . . ." "This is a little hard to see. . . ." "I know this is an eye test here. . . ." "I can't see my screen right now, but I'm going to try to. . . ."

    The room was just too bright to be able to see many of their very carefully prepared Lotus Freelance slides on the screen. And most of our classrooms are the same.


    Field test.

    And finally,

    Principle VI: Appropriate Technology Fits Audience and Purpose.

    Small is Beautiful

    In 1973 E.F. Schumacher, in Small is Beautiful: Economics as if People Mattered, questioned the soundness of an increasingly centralized global economy which separates the consumer from the production process. The London Times Literary Supplement of October 6, 1995, ranked Schumacher's book among the one hundred most influential books published since the Second World War.

    Schumacher promoted technology designed to serve the human person instead of making people the servant of machines. He introduced the concept of "scale" in modern economic planning. He argued that smaller-scale enterprises based on local production for local consumption would provide greater diversity, flexibility, and ultimately economic security. An economy based on face-to-face contact, he thought, fosters the human relationships that make life richer and encourages responsibility to the community. And Schumacher argued for appropriate technology -- technology environmentally friendly and scaled appropriately to the task at hand.

    John Henry Cardinal Newman One of the great books of the 19th century was Idea of a University (1852) by John Henry Cardinal Newman. In this book Newman set forth his ideas on higher education, arguing that a university more than anything else is a place. George P. Landow, writing on "Newman and Information Technology," points out that Newman would almost certainly consider the use of current educational technology with greatest suspicion.

    The prevailing trends are now going strongly against both Schumacher and Newman. The world's economy is becoming more centralized and global, and its multinational companies are becoming bigger and more powerful, and, week-by-week, distance education is eroding the idea that a university is necessarily a place where people come together to communicate face-to-face.

    And the very concept of "place" may itself be changing.

    And computers and hi-tech are accelerating these processes at a mind-boggling rate.

    And, one might add, this seems to be inevitable.

    "Nonetheless," Landow points out, "there are several points in the new [a-local] high-tech university of which [Cardinal] Newman might fully approve. First of all, educational hypertext's defining emphasis upon making connections -- between text and other texts, text and context, and among various approaches -- certainly supports Newman's conviction that education consists fundamentally in making connections. . . . [Second, Newman] would also approve of the characteristic multivocality and interdisciplinarity implicit and inevitable in hypertext technology, which blurs the borders between individual texts and separate disciplines."

    Newman claims that true knowledge, wisdom, and learning are more-than-disciplinary; therefore, anything like hypertext that promises to cross boundaries has the potential to create the kind of education that Newman proposes as an ideal. . . .

    One thing seems clear with high-tec: [digital media] provide an efficient means of enabling students to develop their intellects. In Newman's terms they do this, "by going round an object, by the comparison, the combination, the mutual correction, the continual adaptation, of many partial notions. . . ." Newman's emphasis is on the inevitable interdisciplinarity of true knowledge. Hypertext, which continually presents all information and all beliefs as part of a greater whole, also inevitably 'makes every thing in some sort lead to every thing else,' thereby encouraging the particular fundamental approach Newman [himself] emphasizes as necessary to the truly educated person."


    So, to conclude, let me suggest that while heeding the lessons of the millennium, let us face the inevitable world of changing technologies by (A.) taking Schumacher's hardware prescriptions, adopting appropriate hardware to whatever the task and purpose at hand.

    And (B.) let us embrace Newman's idea that the truly educated person -- the one schooled in today's version of the trivium and qudrivium studied a thousand years ago by Gerbert of Aurillac -- is one who [in Newman's own words] comes to "the recognition that every subject, every science, every discipline, exists as part of a NETWORK of interrelations."

    Szépen köszönöm a gondos, barátságos figyelmüket.


    Britannica Online

    "Árpád Dynasty"
    [Accessed 06 February 1999] .

    "The History of Mathematics: European mathematics during the Middle Ages and Renaissance."
    < >
    [Accessed 06 February 1999]

    Dunham, Doug. Personal Communication. Duluth, MN: January 1999.

    Erdoes, Richard. A.D. 1000: Living on the Brink of Apocalypse. San Francisco: Harper & Row, 1988.

    Györffy, György. King Saint Stephen of Hungary. New York: Columbia University Press, 1994.

    Horvath, Dr. Michael Joseph. An Annotated Bibliography of Stephen I, King of Hungary: His Reign and His Era. College Park, MD: University of Maryland Press, 1969.

    Kaplan, Erez. "Calculating Machines."
    [Accessed February 1999].

    Tezla, Albert. The Hazardous Quest : Hungarian Immigrants in the United States, 1895-1920 : a Documentary. Budapest: Corvina Books, 1993.

    Vaillant, G. C. The Aztecs of Mexico. New York: Doubleday, 1966.

    Van Gelder, Lawrence. "Thomas Kuhn, 73; Devised Science Paradigm [Obituary]." The New York Times, June 19, 1996, p. B7.



    I wish to thank Borsányi László, Doug Dunham, William F. Fleischman, Charles I. Mundale, Sister Claudia Riehl, Gretchen Ruth Roufs, Kathleen S. Roufs, Dan Sulzbach, and Albert Tezla for their assistance in preparing this manuscript.

 top of page /\  A-Z index

© 1998 - 2016 Timothy G. Roufs — All rights reserved   Envelope: E-mail
Page URL: http:// /cla/faculty/troufs/tr/Miskolc.html
Last Modified Tuesday, 17-Nov-2015 13:35:28 CST
Site Information / Disclaimers ~ Main A-Z Index

View Stats 

© 2015 University of Minnesota Duluth
The University of Minnesota is an equal opportunity educator and employer.
Last modified on 11/17/15 01:35 PM
University of Minnesota Campuses
Crookston | Duluth | Morris
Rochester | Twin Cities | Other Locations