Microsoft Surface, Sun Starfire and Apple Knowledge Navigator Videos

Yesterday, I wrote about how the “cyberwar” in Estonia seemed rather different from the way William Gibson depicted cyberattacks in his “Sprawl series” novels, most notably Neuromancer. I thought that as long as I was comparing speculations of what future tech would be like against how the future actually turned out, I should tie it in with the hot news of the moment, Microsoft Surface.

Microsoft Surface’s Promo Videos

In case you haven’t seen the promo videos for Surface yet, I’ve posted them below. Here’s the first one: Microsoft Surface – The Magic:

Thos one’s called: Microsoft Surface – The Power:

And finally, Microsoft Surface – The Possibilities:

Sun’s Starfire Concept Video (1992)

I mentioned Sun’s Starfire project in my post about Surface, but thought it deserved a front-and-centre mention. Starfire wasn’t a project to develop an actual platform, but to develop concepts that would eventually find their way into future platforms when the technology made it possible and show them in a video. The video is available online in MPEG-4 format, but you’d better have a good connection: it’s 270 megs in size:

Still from Sun’s “Starfire” video.
Click the image above to view the Starfire video.

Apple’s Knowledge Navigator Video (1987)

If the Starfire video gives you a sense of deja vu, it’s probably because you’ve seen Apple’s Knowledge Navigator concept video, shown below:

If the Starfire and Knowledge Navigator videos bear similarities to each other, they should; Apple UI guru Bruce “Tog” Tognazzini helped create both.


I’m going to post some notes on some of the concepts in the Starfire video that appear to have come to fruition with Surface as well as my notes on what they thought 2004 would be like back in 1992.

2 replies on “Microsoft Surface, Sun Starfire and Apple Knowledge Navigator Videos”

Thanks for linking to that Knowledge Navigator clip, I hadn’t seen it before.

I imagine many (or at least a few) people drew the parallels with Starfire when they saw Surface and I googled ‘Starfire Surface’ on the off-chance that the connection had been raised at either Endgadget, Gizmodo or Digg (and therefore all of the above) … that’s what led me here.

I guess with the combination of LISA, Macintosh, Bruce Tognazzini, and NeXT, most of the key features of current and near-future UI development are firmly based on Apple designs/designers.
(post Xerox … seeing that Macintosh was based on a combination of LISA+ Xerox)

I’m glad you liked it, Michael!

I lucked out and saw the Knowledge Navigator video around 1990 thanks to a friend of mine who worked as an Apple VAR. The video was included in a bundle of the CD-ROMs that Apple HQ regularly sent to Apple resellers. I’m glad someone put it up on YouTube.

I agree with you — in a lot of cases, there does seem to be some kind of trickle-down effect as far as Apple and user interaction goes.

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