Next Generation Celebrities

11 Jun 2007|Lori Hobson

In 20 years, no one will remember Paris Hilton, but someone will write a book about Bob Brunner. Last week, Ms. Hilton went to prison, an event covered by every major news source, and Mr. Brunner and Jerry Manock spoke in Mountain View at the Computer History Museum, to little fanfare. Mr. Manock was instrumental in the development of the first Macintosh, and Mr. Brunner, with the first Apple PowerBooks. Jerry and Bob were moderated by Bill Moggridge, an early notebook designer and modern-day father of interaction design. All three men’s work has broadly influenced computer design today down to the ThinkPad on which I am blogging. OTOH, Ms. Hilton has not done much more than, well, time.

I look around Silicon Valley, where I live, and see history being forged by people who are largely overlooked by traditional media. I write about this place for two reasons. First, Cheskin is all about people, culture and change. This is the culture I know best and can reasonably compare to others. Second, there are so few people capturing what is going on here.

At the CHM event, one quickly realized that many of the people in the room had designed some piece of technology that changed the world. Yet, looking through the museum itself was a bit eerie. Virtually all of items on display have been used my lifetime, many in my offices. Are we ready to have this stuff in a museum? Still it is awesome to be standing next to the guy (they were almost all guys, by the way) who designed part of the object you are admiring.

The technology industry is still so young that its legends are not only still alive; they are still generating amazing things. Bob Brunner just launched a new design consultancy called Ammunition. Another attendee, Lawrence Lam, I’d heard recently left his definitive role at Palm, and now is up to something with handhelds at HP. There were many retirees in attendance, but there were also people actively creating the next generation of museum displays.

I was not the only one who recognized the audience was as interesting as the speakers. As we left, a photographer was snapping pictures of people at the exit. She maneuvered around my husband and me to get a shot of the gentleman behind us. I joked that the guy behind us was older, so he must be important. (My husband, merely a low profile designer of these Jony-come-lately cell phone gadgets, will have to wait perhaps until there is a mobile device museum.) I suspect the photographer was employed by the museum, so at least someone is keeping track of these people’s stories until a time when their work is appreciated to the full extent of its contribution.

Gracious apologies to those who’d choose to comment. We had to turn off comments because of the reference to Paris Hilton and a resulting fear of overwhelming spam. Please email comments to me at Cheskin.

prev next