Virtual Work in the Year 2004

This was originally published in August 1995 when I was CTO for the company that put on “TeleCon”. The old timers in the videoconferencing industry should remember….and for the the new folks….understand this: These were great times bringing this new technology we all know as videoconferencing into being. Now, in 2019, you can easily “video chat” with anyone, anytime, anywhere or watch any show or movie and you can see the fruits of our labor are fully being used. A lot of people gave a lot to make this a reality.

Update Feb 2019: Well I guess I missed the timing on this. It’s 2019 and this is not even close to being a reality.  🙂

Update March 20, 2020: In the midst of the coronavirus, many businesses and people are probably wishing they had instituted virtual work years ago instead of now when they have to learn on the fly. I told you so…..and you did not listen.



by Mike Pihlman

Published in Applied Business teleCommunications “View of the Desktop” Newsletter, 8/95

The year is 2004 and you are video-commuting from your beach front home in Malibu as part of Applied Business teleCommunications (ABC) Virtual Work Program.

7:45 AM. You just came in from your run on the beach. After showering, you put on your sweatsuit and start to enjoy your first mug of coffee as you sit down at your computer to check your video, voice, and electronic mail. You see that there will be a virtual meeting of the ABC staff at 10:00 AM to discuss the presentation you are giving at 1 PM to dignitaries at the National Press Conference in Washington D.C. At noon you and your friend of 15 years, who now lives in Hawaii, will be getting together for virtual lunch. At 2 PM, you are planning to connect to ABC’s digital library to conduct research on holographic videoconferencing using Pacific Bell’s new switched terabit telephone service.

8:35 AM: You check the interactive New York Times to catch up on the news. One article in particular catches your eye. It details the profitable relationship ABC and the cites in the Tri-Valley area have established because of “virtual work”. Using the virtual work program, the magazine and the cities have collaborated to bring millions of ‘Jobs” to the Livermore Valley, and have developed the worlds first 10 mile long walk-thru mall-and superconducting people carrier-on an abandoned stretch of 1-580. The Tri-Valley area is now called “Desktop Valley” and the number of people” virtually working” in the region outnumber those who live there by 10,000 fold. There is no air pollution and traffic jams are limited to occasional slow downs on the ATM 500 Gbps backbone.

9:00 AM: Petting your dog, you decide that it’s time to see how things are going at the “office”. You put on your work shirt, comb your hair, open the shutter on your camera, and drag your icon into the “Office” icon on your computer. By doing this, you electronically walk the halls of your office and as you “peek” into the offices you “see” who’s in and who’s not in HDTV quality video on your computer screen. Suddenly you “bump” into your supervisor who also happens to be checking to see who is “in”. You both stop to chat for awhile and you notice her eyes are a bit bloodshot. She tells you she stayed up late last night to watch the Rolling Stones 40th anniversary concert on the Internet. Not seeing much action in the hallway, you decide to move your icon to the “virtual watercooler” and wait to see who else shows up. After all, this is where your team really gets most of it’s work done. While you are waiting, you access CNN to catch up on the latest news and put the finishing touches on your presentation

9:30 AM: Your friend shows up at the “virtual watercooler”. You chat with her for a while and “show” her the latest version of your presentation, she makes a few changes and you decide to go back to your office to practice your speech.

9:40 AM: You have finished practicing your presentation. Your computer “knocks” and you drag the icon of your secretary-who lives in New York-into your office icon. He discusses your physical trip to Chicago, but, has forgotten how to make reservations on the only airline still in existence-“Chat with Pat”. You both “sit down” to figure this out together. After you make the arrangements, you call up the airline for directions to the airport, after all it has been 5 years since you have been there so you need to be refreshed on how to find the airport. They send you a map, and a video showing a virtual car drive from your house to the long term parking lot which is directly adjacent to the terminal building. You call your travel agent to reserve a car at your destination, and to see some of the hotels in the area. One hotel has a particularly nice exercise room and pool so you decide to book a room there. You have no problem getting a physical room, but all of the virtual rooms are booked. The travel agent sends you your ticket and bar-coded car key, for the laser keylock system, which you promptly print out.

10:05 AM: You drag your icon into your workplace’s “meeting room” icon. As always you are a little late, so everyone looks at their computer clocks, in unison, to give you a hard time. Your partner is there from Kauai, your boss is there from Idaho, both of your team members from Wisconsin are there and there is even a live person in the meeting room who lives in Livermore. Her house is being painted today. You show them your presentation, and they make some minor changes. Everyone saves the presentation on their computers and you save the meeting video and audio for storage on the groups CD-ROM. Before, the meeting ends, you “give” everyone the article you read this morning in the Interactive New York Times.

Noon: You anxiously “knock” on your friends door and she opens her shutter. You have set­ up a “virtual Casa Orozco table” complete with “beer and chips”. She shows you the video of her new house and then brings her handheld computer outside-using a 45 Mbps wireless video connection-and shows you around the house and grounds. She happens to be right on the beach and, in fact, heads there so she can eat lunch at the beach. The beach is very wide with pure fine sand, crystal clear blue water, and gently swaying palm trees. A background of green mountains shows you why she moved to “paradise” so many years ago. Renee tells you that the beach is the one used in the movie “South Pacific”. After lunch you decide to get together again next Thursday, but this time, you’ll be on your beach in Malibu.

12:45 PM: You put on your slippers, your “suit” top, and drag your icon into the “National Press Conference meeting room” icon. You see the audience as they are entering the auditorium, and you see your fellow dais mates. You sit and chat with them until it is time for the meeting to start. You give your presentation and everyone applauds your pioneering efforts. Glad to be “out of there”, you decide to take a virtual driving tour of the U.S.A on your way back “home”. You select the southem route which brings you thru Albuquerque where you decide to “visit” your friend Cindy and her daughter Erika. In a fit of nostalgia you take Route 66 to California while listening to Asleep at the Wheel sing “Route 66”.

2 PM: You log into the digital library for some interesting research into holographic videoconferencing. You plan on implementing this at ABC as soon as the new terabit circuit is installed in your house. Should be week or two.

6 PM: You “leave” your office and decide to watch Monday night football. You access the direct satellite feed from your computer and display the video on the big screen in the family room. You can finally relax, change your shirt and sit down for a relaxing evening with Joe Montana and his broadcasting crew of Deion Sanders and George Foreman (the oldest heavyweight champion at 55 years of age).

6:30 PM: Suddenly in the corner of your screen is your daughter at the University of Kansas. She is having a problem with her homework and is calling to see if you can help. You interactively work with her from your remote control unit. After you are done, she shows you her new dorm room in McCollum Hall and you meet one of her “classmates”. You are surprised to find out the he is from the same town in New York that you were bom in …. small world. Right then and there you decide that you have to make the time to access the latest multimedia clip from KU and see what changes they have made-with all that money from your alumni credit card-in the past ten years. It’s been a long time since you’ve done your virtual “Memorial Run” through campus. Maybe tomorrow but right now.

6:55 PM: Back to the football game


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