Dr. Margo Seltzer is an Associate
Professor of Computer Science at Harvard. Hardvard is a prestigious
Ivy league school. Dr. Seltzer provides us with a knowledgeable prospective
What do you think is the most important component
of the computer industry today?
I think it's the "invisible" component -- the industry around
all the computers that you don't know exist -- the few dozen in your car,
the couple in your oven, in your wrist watch, etc.
If you could choose one important innovation for
the future surrounding computers, what would it be?
Rock-solid reliability. People rely on computers as
much, if not more, than we rely on cars, yet computers break far more often
than cars. And people tolerate it!? To me, that is the most
staggering aspect -- why do people tolerate the fact that they have to
reboot their computers on a daily basis?
What do you think is the most revolutionary invention
for the computer industry?
That's a tough one. In some sense, I think the ATM
machine is probably one of the most widely deployed, commonly used computers
around. Things like ATM and electronic funds transfer have fundamentally
changed our economy and the way people think about liquidity.
How do you see yourself involved in the computer
My job is to bring the "science" into Computer Science.
Computer Science is really a combination of engineering and science and
for the past fifty years, the engineering has dominated. I see my
job as bringing the science component to an equal standing.
What do you think is the most important trend
to watch in the development of computers?
The user paradigm. The user-paradigm shifts once every
10 years or so. We went from one-user/one-machine to time-sharing, from
time-sharing to personal computing, from personal computing to web browsing,
from web-browsing to personal computers. Where will we go next?
What is your favorite aspect of today's technology?
I love being able to purchase just about anything from my
desktop. I have become a much more thoughtful person with the ease of sending
Do you credit anyone in particular for leading
the computer industry to where it is today?
Not really, but I just spend some time wandering around
the Marc Weiser Memorial Pages and it's quite possible that in the next
decade, Marc's vision of ubiquitous computing will really become a reality.
Marc was certainly a visionary and certainly had impact. I'm not
sure I believe he alone deserves the credit, but he's certainly in the
Who do you think will be the prominent figures
in the computer industry in the future?
Someone we've not yet even heard of.
What would you refer to as the first "computer"?
I suppose Babbage's Computing Engine.