Robert W. Lucky is an engineer and writer. He was a senior researcher first at Bell Laboratories, then at Bellcore and later at Telcordia Technologies. At Bell Labs, he invented the adaptive equalizer -- a technique for correcting distortion in telephone signals that is used in all high-speed data transmissions today. In 1987, he received the Marconi Prize for his contributions to data communications. He is author of the popular book Silicon Dreams (St. Martin's Press, 1989). He spoke recently with Computerworld's Gary Anthes.
Which IT story took you by surprise in 2006, and why?
YouTube is bought by Google. I didn't know such things -- instant billionaires -- could still happen, but the greatest thing about the Internet architecture is that it empowers the periphery and unleashes tremendous innovation, mostly by young people who would never be employed by the traditional media. It harkens back to Napster and the lasting contribution by Shawn Fanning of peer to peer, even as his site was sued to death.
Which technology will make a difference in 2007?
[MIT's] Nicholas Negroponte's $100 laptop [is] a beautiful design, reminiscent to me of the iPod, and they have just about made the cost goal. Also, it's a feel-good story that could change the world for the better by channeling the energy of the young people in developing countries and connecting them with the world as they have never been connected before.
What will be the biggest IT story of the new year?
I'll pass. We're always wrong about such things. Some things are surprisingly predictable -- Moore's Law and the fast decrease in cost of both storage and communications. But the great things to me are the social inventions like Napster, eBay, YouTube, and I'll include Google.