Arthur C Clarke’s Newspad RSS news aggregator

30 May 2008

Author and futurist Arthur C Clarke is credited with predicting the emergence of a number of technologies, including a tablet-like device called a “Newspad”, which could serve the latest news stories from electronic versions of newspapers.

So far more has been said about comparing the Newspad to PDAs or Tablet PCs, but the Newpad also worked in a very similar way to today’s news aggregators, or RSS feed readers.

In the novelised version of 2001: A Space Odyssey, (chapter title “Moon Shuttle”, pg 66-67) Dr Heywood Floyd, chairman of the US National Council of Astronautics, spends time reading on his Newspad, while traveling to the Moon.

Floyd sometimes wondered if the Newspad, and the fantastic technology behind it, was the last word in man’s quest for perfect communications. Here he was, far out in space, speeding away from Earth at thousands of miles an hour, yet in a few milliseconds he could see the headlines of any newspaper he pleased. (That very word “newspaper,” of course, was an anachronistic hangover into the age of electronics.) The text was updated automatically on every hour; even if one read only the English versions, one could spend an entire lifetime doing nothing but absorbing the ever-changing flow of information from the news satellites.

Not only did Arthur C. Clarke predict PDAs and Tablet PCs, he also foresaw the emergence of news aggregators, and RSS technology.

Originally published Friday 30 May 2008.

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