The Internet of Things (IoT) meets Max Headroom

Authors photo of DVD set for Max Headroom TV series

I was recently a guest on a new LinkedIn video podcast hosted by my friend Mark Salisbury, PhD. He is a Professor of Computer and Information Sciences at the University of St. Thomas, Minnesota. As a Computer Scientist & Software Architect, I was interested in his podcast called “The Future of Work Life”.

I’m really excited about the Internet of Things (IoT), and the ability to use IoT for great hands-on Computer Science learning. Thus, a title we used was:

How can we leverage and scale the Internet of Things (IoT) in the workplace?

But Mark also really wanted to hear about my quest to implement the “Max Headroom Vision”.

Starting around 1986, the TV show “Max Headroom” was a big hit especially through the eyes of our evolving computer science vision. The tag line of the show was “20 minutes into the Future”, spot on. The first episode concerned a technology concept called “Blipverts”, which were 1000’s of commercials condenced into a fraction of a second. Their future had 100’s of TV channels and users would channel switch faster than commercials could be watched, defeating the purpose of commercials. Sound familiar? The technical concept was great except for the side effect that “causes extremely slothful TV viewers to explode”. The computerized Max Headroom was born in the chase to catch the TV reporter since he got too close to the story (spoiler alert: the report Edison Carter and Max Headroom share same mind and memories). I recently purchases the DVD of the 3 or so seasons unavailable for 30 years; great vision. see

Max Headroom (Computer Science) Vision

Mark and I worked together at Boeing during the Max Headroom years in a research group exploring human-computer interfaces and advanced rapid prototyping. Cool stuff. We worked on a number of interesting projects and published a few papers too. The Internet of Things (IoT) in 2021 shares a lot of concepts we developed in 1980’s including distributed programming (then RPC), speech recognition, AI, language processing, touch screens, and advanced user interfaces. But now I can run similar concepts using my smart watch, iPhone, smart TV, using bluetooth, WIFI, MQTT, nodered, cocoapods, internet, xcode, etc. I later earned my Associate Technical Fellow by extending that work onto many other projects in my career, continuing to today. And I still use real UNIX.

Screen capture from my interview with Mark Salisbury

The 25 minute podcast and linkedIn discusses many of these topics, including:

1. What is the Internet of Things (IoT)?

2. How can we make Internet of Things (IoT) applications for the workplace?

3. What is a cool example of an Internet of Things (IoT) application?

For IoT examples I talked about the iDogWatch capability I’ve been developing for collorabative dog training, leveraging the afore mentioned technologies.

4. What innovative technologies will soon affect the workplace?

On the last subject of innovation, I mention both a concept called “energy harvesting”, and also “computer vision”. The first is innovative (but rare) technology that creates energy through the act of use (such as clicking a light switch or magnet sensing) — creating energy to send messages (without batteries or electric power).

My real excitement is leveraging the modern computer vision processors we have in all our mobile devices. Here objects can be recognized through various approaches including model learning (faces, objects, etc), but also visual objects like barcodes, QR codes and text.

I discussed many technologies openly available for building modern IoT systems. I also mention how I use these in my Software Architecure courses including lots of hands-on prototyping. Fun stuff.

I’m new to the podcast but I think it turned out ok.

UW Computer Science, VAX 11/780 and UNIX

VAX 11/780 Computer Glass Enclosed in UW Computer Science Lobby

Who else has their main college computer, the VAX 11/780, framed in glass in the lobby of their UW Computer Science department? That was real UNIX (although they also swapped it out weekly with VMS but that eventually ended.)

Well I also cross compiled a Pascal Compiler to the DEC 20/20, but that’s another story.

Computer Scientist and futuristic app developer ; is my next gen technology navigator.