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Computer Reminders and Alerts
January 1997 (vol. 30 no. 1)
pp. 42-49

With busy users relying increasingly on computers to provide reminders and alerts, the enabling technology is rapidly gaining importance. Surprisingly, many issues have not yet been thoroughly explored.

If you have to keep reminding yourself of a thing, perhaps it isn't so.-C. Morley, 1929

Being only human, we sometimes forget. Computers can be a great help in this area: Barring disk crashes or other malfunctions, they are far less likely to forget than humans. Reminding and alerting are pervasive, though perhaps ancillary, functions of computing. Nevertheless, it is surprising that they attract so little attention.

The state of the art is characterized by after-the-fact application patches, plug-ins, and custom-designed reminder methods. This hodgepodge of approaches is likely to change. Recent trends indicate that

  • hundreds of millions of dollars of personal information management (PIM) programs have been sold, mainly because of their reminding abilities;
  • billions of dollars in savings per year and increased quality of work are projected as more reminder and alerting programs are deployed; and
  • agents that perform reminding and alerting tasks represent one of the fastest growing areas of the World Wide Web and other digital repositories.
  • Clearly, professionals, consumers, and employees in all types of businesses are turning to digital reminders to increase their efficiency. The demands of a fast-paced technological world appear to be outstripping the capabilities of old-fashioned cerebral reminders. This shouldn't be surprising, considering the limitations of our standard-issue biological memory systems.

    Citation:
    Barry G. Silverman, "Computer Reminders and Alerts," Computer, vol. 30, no. 1, pp. 42-49, Jan. 1997, doi:10.1109/2.562925
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