The Xerox EuroPARC lab in Cambridge was a heady mix of Wallace and Gromit-style crazy inventors and a group of sociologists and anthropologists figuring out what would happen if the inventions really came true. Luckily for me I was on the crazy invention side (not sure I'd have lasted too long on the sociology side).

What if, they thought, everyone carried around a tiny device, that was always connected to a network, and knew where it was, and could be operated via touchscreen? (Bear in mind the first mass-produced GSM cellphone, the Nokia 1011, only came out at the end of 1992, costing nearly £1000). This was the ubiquitous computing vision of Mark Weiser. A little impatient for this future to arrive, they made PARCtab devices that did all the above, albeit just within one building.

The Wrong Trousers wasn't out until the end of 1993, but my team mates Mik, Mike and Marge (particularly Mik and Mike) wouldn't have been out of place developing gadgets in an Aardman film. My job was to make a "communicator", employing various strategies to contact people with the tiny device. The first attempt was a bit boring, so Mik told me to go away and make the Martian version. Excellent bit of advice. The second version was much better.

We didn't have many pixels to play with (128 x 64 as I remember, black and white only), but in that space I made individual caricature icons for every person in the office. You could keep a set of frequent contacts on a desktop area, and contact them via phone, message (with short-cuts for frequently used words and phrases), video conference, or just find out where they were and go talk to them.

Now for a random aside. After the summer was done I received a postcard of a robot from one of the other interns. Back at Stanford, I sneaked into PARC with Craig one weekend to use their precious colour scanner, and uploaded the robot as a mascot for the first robotics group web page. Looks like he's still there :).