The Star7 was a device ahead of its time
Would you like to have a device that can program the TV shows you watch, automatically record any live streamed events, and let you watch them whenever you like? Today, this sounds rather mundane and ordinary. Who would want to record anything anyway? Just find it on social media and watch any event whenever you like. But back in the early 1990s, this was a pipe dream, except for some ...
The Start 7, built in 1991 (when MS-DOS was still popular), was a wireless handheld unit with a touch screen and graphical interface to control all of the devices in your living room. (Mainly the TV and VCR, if you remember what a VCR is. It even had a digital TV guide.) You can see a really cool demo of one in this neat video. Its inventor was one of the pioneers of the high-tech world, James Gosling. The Star 7 didn’t catch on, but one of his other ideas – the Java programming language, did. The Start 7 was part of a project called the “Green” project as Sun Microsystems, it developed many ideas around controlling complex devices. The Green project eventually led to the Live Oak project at Sun, which is where Java was released in 1995. With Java and a Java interpreter, computer code could be written for any hardware device; this has been instrumental in building today's connected world.
To think about the challenge in creating a platform where devices made across industries to different standards can easily be made to interact and co-exist together is almost mind-boggling. If this can be done for consumer electronics, why not other industries where we could benefit from devices that work together? In health care, for instance, there are an astounding number of medical devices that have been made to improve human health. From pacemakers to Linear accelerators to Apple watches to MRI machines, all of these devices are used to improve human health and rely on some sort of computer technology. But they don’t talk to each other, and our healthcare system seems hopelessly complex.
Sounds like the consumer electronics industry before the Star 7. Maybe we need a new way of thinking about connecting medical devices – like James Gosling did.