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The attendees at the 1998 JavaOne developers' conference were all given a Java Ring as one of their goodies. These rings contained a processor, with a Java Virtual Machine. One can write (small) Java programs and run them on the ring.

The "sexy" program was to download a coordinate of a fractal to the ring, have the ring compute the colour of the fractal at that coordinate, and then upload the colour back to the server. Over the course of the conference, we completed the fractal by periodically plugging our rings into a network, computing one coordinate, and then moving on.

A second program on the ring stored one's business card, and favourite flavour of coffee (this was a Java conference, after all). There was a specially equipped coffee machine that, when the ring was plugged into it, would brew a cup of coffee of the desired flavour.

During the conference, between presentations, I was walking through the Hacker's Lab when I came upon Will Walker. I stopped to chat. He said (and I paraphrase),

"You know what you could use these rings for? Imagine storing accessibility preferences on them - you know, your screen reader preferences. Then you walk up to a computer, plug in your ring, and, bang, up comes your screen reader exactly the way you want it. You could configure the entire work station according to your accessibility needs."

How prophetic.

Smart Cards

Little did I know that two years later, I would be the lead architect on exactly that sort of system.

Web-4-All is precisely what Will described. A user stores their preferences on a smart card, and when they insert that card into a card reader, the attached work station is configured according to those preferences. To be precise, Web-4-All configures the station to facilitate the user's web browsing experience. For the present, these preferences are slanted toward adaptive technologies, but there is no reason why they couldn't be more inclusive.

Web-4-All is an ATRC project sponsored by Industry Canada, a ministry of the government of Canada. The government's Web-4-All web site tends to emphasize the server side aspect of the project. The purpose of the document you are reading is to provide more information on the smartcard/preferences part of the system. The list of links below take you, respectively, to a couple of articles about the smartcard aspect, and then, to Industry Canada's main site:

Copyright © 2002 Adaptive Technology Resource Centre, University of Toronto.

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Updated: 04 Nov 2012