An Internet appliance (sometimes called a Net appliance, a smart appliance or an information appliance) is a machine designed for a specific function that also has a built-in Web-enabled computer. Internet appliances include small devices created especially for e-mail and Web surfing, as well as such diverse products as personal digital assistants (PDAs), smart phones, Web TV, and Web-enabled refrigerators and microwaves. The proliferation of such devices is a crucial component of the anticipated development of pervasive computing. Experts predict that for specific Internet appliances to catch on, they must be easy to use and provide a practical solution to an every-day problem.
One of the first Internet appliances was a Coke machine at Carnegie Mellon University in the early 1980s. A group of programmers, working several floors above the vending machine, wanted to ensure that they wouldn't make the long trip downstairs only to find the machine empty or receive a warm Coke. The enterprising programmers wrote a server program that tracked how long it had been since a storage column in the machine had been empty. By using an Internet connection and a finger command, the programmers could check the status of the machine and determine whether or not there would be a cold drink awaiting them, should they decide to make the trip down to the machine.
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- A First Monday article discusses The Visible Problems of the Invisible Computer: A Skeptical Look at Information Appliances."