New Directions in Systems Research

For years, we have spoken of a golden era where high performance ``super-computers'' will be available in local department stores and we will be able to communicate with anyone and any organization we want via computer networks. In the past, we have whimsically said that in this era, computing systems will be used in dramatically different fashion than they are today. That era is here now, with 60-80Mips computers available in local computer shops, ``on-line'' coffee houses springing up in trendy neighborhoods and National Public Radio broadcasting on the Internet for almost a year. And yet, the way we use computers has not changed dramatically.

Clearly, improved speech understanding and generation systems, vision systems and other sophisticated I/O technologies will change our interaction with computers. What will change the content of our interaction with computers? What type of systems research will enable revolutionary changes in the use of computers?

In an attempt to provoke discussion about these topics, a talk was presented several times during the spring semester 1994. A slightly different approach to systems research was presented as well as a few new directions that are being undertaken at Cornell. Hopefully, the ideas and questions raised by this presentation will be of use to others.

This technical report is rather rough and disorganized, consisting as it does of slides from those talks and textual commentary. I felt it more valuable to make the material available in a timely manner than to wait until the details had been worked out, and the prose polished. It is an experiment and I am interested in the reaction any readers have to this form of presentation. I am interested in any comments you might have, both on the content of this report and how it is presented. Please send them to

This work was supported by the Advanced Research Projects Agency of the Department of Defense under ONR Contract N00014-92-J-1989, by ONR Contract N00014-92-J-1839 and by a grant from the United States-Israel Binational Science Foundation.
Richard Zippel