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Brief history of the WearComp effort

This section outlines briefly the historical context leading up to WearComp6 which is the version presented in this paper. WearComp6 is a modular wearable computer designgif. See also a separate paper by this section name:

Name        When completed  Processor     Text,Graphics      Where on body

WearComp0   1970s           electromech.  ---                back
WearComp1   1970s           SSI, MSI      ATV RS170          back+waist+shoulder
WearComp2   1981            6502          40x12,280x,NTSC    back+waist+shoulder
WearComp3   early 1980s     8085          7segment displays  waist+chest
WearComp4   late 1980s      80286         80x24,640x480      ordinary backpack
WearComp5   early 1990s     80486/33      80x24,640x480      large waistbag
WearComp6   early 1990s     PC104,80x86   80x24,640x480      medium waistbag
WearComp7   mid/late 1990s  TMS320C3x/4x  RS170              underwearable
It is debatable whether WearComp0 or WearComp1 were really computers, as they were specifically designed for control of experimental body-worn lighting equipment and the like, and thus certainly not ``general-purpose'' computers. WearComp2 was the first system that could be regarded as a general-purpose computer, as it could execute a general instruction set, and even had a BASIC interpreter, making it easy to write programs to edit ASCII text files, or exchange messages (e.g. ``email'' of sorts), do floating-point calculations, and other things that one might regard as falling in the domain of general-purpose computing. WearComp2 was the predecessor of many of today's wearable computers (e.g. wearable computer with display over one eye).

WearComp3 was much less capable than WearComp2, but at the same time, the WearComp3 effort emphasized small size and better integrating the unit into clothing to some degree. This was accomplished by an early attempt to make the unit more like clothing than like a backpack. The efforts of Eleveld and Mann, to make wearable technology both comfortable and fashionable, began in 1982. This marked a bifurication in designs, toward some that were clothing-based. There were also many hybrids (smart clothing with ``lumpy'' add-ons).

Furthermore, WearComp3 marked the beginning of the use of the chest area as a display space that others could see. This design choice arose out of the fact that WearComp3 put more emphasis on computer-supported collaborative living than on the more individual spirit upon which WearComp2 was designed.

Steve Mann
Wed Dec 24 05:46:06 EST 1997