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Claim port - Portable online by 2010

Category: Science & Technology:Technology JUDGED at 0
Judge:1756, Massey
due date:2010/01/01

The Claim

This claim is judged YES if and only if, by January 1, 2010, in any state with more than 5 million inhabitants, at least 25% of the adult population are "portably online". A "state" can be a country or a member state in a federation.

For a person to be "portably online" all of these conditions must be fulfilled:

  • The person must carry a device that provides access to general-purpose computing as well as access to a major global network. The general-purpose computing power must be good enough by the standards of the time to actually use for general-purpose computing work. I.e. a HP calculator would not satisfy this requirement, nor would a cellular phone unless something like the NoKb claim has come true. (Note the key phrase "access to". The device itself doesn't need to be more than an interface.)
  • Two different portably online persons must be able to communicate with each other through this network.
  • The device must be actually carried along for more hours of the day than not, in a pocket, a bag or the like. I.e., if it is lying on someone's desk, only the time when this someone is sitting at that desk counts. Time spent asleep does not count.
  • The device must not require plugging into an outlet to become online.


In the 1980s there was a trend towards portable computing: Computers were growing ever smaller and lighter. Today, in 1995, this trend seems to have stalled, as it never got the big popular breakthrough that at a time looked to be just around the corner.

Today another portable technology has gotten that big popular breakthrough: Cellular phones.

Could it be that the combination of portable and online computing will prove more succesfull than portable computing alone? If so, is that a desirable development?

Judge's Statement

This claim will be judged based on its wording. Should the wording be unclear, the claim will be judged on the judge's perception of the intent behind the wording.

A question was asked to clarify the meaning of a "state" in the claim. I will judge a state as being an internationally recognized sovereign entity. For example, the state of Delaware, as a member of the United States of America will not be recognized as a "state" for purposes of this claim unless it were to successfully secede from the US and be recognized by other entities as having done so. Another example, members of the European Union will continue to be recognized as independent "states" unless and until they have ceded their sovereign authority to the union.

Comments added (January 9, 2002):

It is possible that by the deadline (which is rather abrupt) that a qualifying device is present (as determined by me), but no firm numbers are available on the extent of usuage. If there's a serious question of whether or not the device is being used in sufficient quantities, then I may wait as long as six months past the deadline (Jan 1, 2010) to locate any surveys that describe the extent of usuage of the device. And I decide whether a given survey is acceptible or not. If no such survey (showing a 25% or better usuage rate for a qualifying device present by the begining of 2010) is available by July 1, 2010 then the claim will be judged False (and pay 0).

Loose criteria for determining "general purpose computing"

First, what is the meaning of "general purpose computing"? The PC is an excellent example of a general purpose computing device. My fundamnetal question is "will be can this portable device duplicate most of the functionality and application flexibility of the near future PC?" I.e., can one use the portable device in place of the desktop PC for most PC functions? One platform that currently qualifies for this particular criteria is a laptop with a wireless internet connection.

I see this as a series of ad hoc tests. A strong "YES" indicator would be if one could develop fairly sophisticated applications for the device using the device itself. Can I write WYSIWYG reports on the device? Does the default device allow me to control what applications I can or cannot use (i.e., are "installed" on my device)? The reason I am vague about my "tests" is that it's possible that applications on the PC might change drastically in the future. A particular category of I/O intensive applications (high quality graphics, voice over IP, sophisticated computer games, etc) will be ignored (ie, not qualify) for purposes of this claim, since the I/O requirements of the portable device are more or less specified in the claim. At this time, I will not rule on any requirements of usability of such features - it may be possible that a feature is present but I determine it to be unusuable because of the extraordinary painfulness of the feature's interface. Generally, in such a case I'll look for support (of my stance) from published product reviews, etc. For example, some early cellular phones and PDA's had extremely poor web interfaces (eg, I once used a PDA browser that couldn't handle most types of HTML form inputs (in particular the "select" form). It gagged on just about every web page I wanted to view.

Comments on availability criteria

A feature might be available "unofficially" in which case it doesn't satisfy the requirements of the claim. For example, the Tivo (a web TV thing) is based on an embed PC design. It is possible (so I understand) to convert most Tivo's (or at least the old ones) to general-purpose Linux machines. While the converted Tivo qualifies as a general purpose computing machine (though fails the portability requirements), I don't consider an unconverted Tivo to be "available" as a general purpose computing machine. OTOH, if the required 25% of the population had converted their Tivo's, then that would be a different story.

Machines that satisfy some requirements of the claim

These lists are subject to revision.

Machines used by 25% or more of the population of some state (as defined in the claim):

  • Calculators
  • Cellular Phones
  • Desktop computers
  • normal telephones
  • Color TVs

Machines that are general purpose computing machines or provide access to such machines:

  • Desktop and laptop PCs
  • X windows terminals
  • dumb terminals (eg, VT-100 and its clones)
  • a terminal shell (eg, a typical telnet connection, MS DOS, Borne shell, etc) to any machine that allows the user to write programs and access functions associated with a general purpose computer.

Machines that satisfy or partially satify the portable connectivity requirement (some are extremely common fixed location devices - eg, normal phones and TVs - that most people can't help but be near for 8 hours a day):

  • regular phones and color TVs (one disqualification is that they need to be plugged in to work, cordless phones and portable TVs probably aren't common enough).
  • cellular phones
  • PDAs with wireless (a PDA that needs to plug into a interface to download things like email from a PC isn't portably online).

Everything but the oink:

  • Laptop with wireless modem (cellular phone based). There aren't enough users to satisfy the claim.
  • Cellular phones and wireless PDA's - not (yet) general purpose computing devices, but for the most part they satisfy the other requirements (except PDA's aren't in common enough use at this time).

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