So far, the papers I’ve looked at have been from 1992 but not of 1992. The topics and outcomes could have been from today. Air Traffic Control is still a thing people do, and it’s still a highly collaborative activity. Software can schedule operating rooms but last minute changes still happen. Software support for collaborative work is still frustratingly bad. And most organisations still have an overly rational view of how work gets done.
Today, if you want to speak to someone, you can call their mobile. But who even does that? Text them. Message them in Slack. In the unlikely event you need voice, you’ll arrange a time for a Zoom call. These days, someone’s location doesn’t matter.
In 1992, if you wanted to speak to someone who wasn’t in the same room, you called their fixed line phone from yours. If they worked in a big office and they had lots of meetings, they probably weren’t at their desk. Maybe you left them a voicemail. More likely you left a message with the receptionist. If it was urgent and you asked nicely, the receptionist would go for a walk and see if they could find the person you wanted.
At Olivetti Research in Cambridge, England, Roy Want, Andy Hopper (the lab director at the time), Veronica Felcão and Jonathan Gibbons developed the Active Badge to solve the problem of finding people in indoor spaces like offices.