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August 28, 2021

Constructing the OS of the future

In my lab notes so far, we’ve explored a handful of new and renewed concepts for the operating system of the future. There are more to come, but today I want to pause and consider the bigger picture, starting with some of those concepts themselves:

What if you could transclude anything in your personal computing domain within any other thing? Demos of this included dropping a podcast episode into the note you’re developing your thoughts in, letting you pause and play the episode whenever you open the note again.

What if you could develop your thinking or work in browsing paths that can contain all the items you need, regardless of type or source? And what if you could return to your recent paths anytime? Demos of this included moving from your day’s task list into a project that required taking down notes and tasks while researching a specific topic with assets in your path, and returning to this path later to continue the work.

What if your system could identify associated items from past browsing paths when you have items open? Demos of this included having automatic recall of the email thread about a meeting from the meeting’s calendar event notification?

And the list goes on: What if you could swap out the views used to render specific items? These views might come from third-party developers, or what if you could create your own views for items? What is the result of using references among your things that form an items graph of everything in your personal computing domain?

All of these individual concepts contribute to an explorative operating system of the future — or more specifically, to the user environment of one.

The demos you see in the above lab notes all work, and for the most part, together. Building out the concepts helps me learn more about them, from both implementation and use. But the next step is becoming more clear: letting others use them too.

So here’s my plan: over the course of the next few months, I hope to share with you this system I’ve developed. As a fullscreen app for your current machine, it becomes an alternative user environment in which you’ll be able to explore these concepts with your own work and data.

What concepts need more thinking? What gaps exist? Is this something that is only incrementally better than today’s operating systems, or is the difference more meaningful than that? How does it affect the ways we think or work? There are lots of questions I hope to explore by sharing these first implementations.

In the meantime, I’ll keep the lab notes coming with more of the concepts I’m exploring.

As always, I hope you’re well.

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