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Survival of the Fittest Jini Services, Part I
Ensure the Quality of Web Services in the Age of Calm Computing
by Frank Sommers
First Published in JavaWorld, April 2001

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Not your Father's Database

In the above words from a 1991 Scientific American article, "The Computer for the 21st Century," the late Mark Weiser, then head of Xerox's Palo Alto Research Center (PARC), shares his vision of a world in which computing technology quietly disappears into the background of everyday life, making itself unnoticeable, and yet indispensable. In the age of "calm computing," as Weiser described his vision, a person uses many computing devices, and these devices make information available ubiquitously, regardless of time or geographic location.

For most of us, the truly indispensable things in life become unnoticeable. We take for granted the telephone, the automobile, ATM machines, and lately email and the Internet -- and perhaps only notice them when they don't work as we expect.

However, while we take these tools of information processing and access for granted, we still can't do the same with the information itself. We would be looked upon with sharp eyes, should we, while traveling in our automobile, ask the car the name of the restaurant we enjoyed so much a few months before; or if, while at home, we ask our speaker system the current balance of our bank account. Currently, our activities are still focused around the tools of information access, and not around the information itself. The age of calm computing -- when the tools recede into the background, and we are free to interact with the information in a smooth, natural way -- has not yet arrived.

But this vision is well on its way.

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