Dated Technologies

After listening to Leo Laporte’sThe Tech Guy – episode 360” podcast today. I decided to try and answer the question:

What technologies we use today, or not long ago, that we may not have tomorrow?

  • Record player
    Remember the phonograph, or gramophone? It is also commonly know as “record player” or “turntable“. It was the common device used to play recorded sounds during the 1870s to 1980s.
  • Photocopier
    The photocopier was the must have equipment in an office during the 1980s. Now this has mostly been replaced by digital and analog scanners.
  • VHS Cassette Tape
    It took almost two decade for the VHS cassette tape to come out as the winner in the video cassette storage medium war in the 1980s. It won over the arguably superior technology by Sony, Betamax.
  • Rotary Telephone
    The Rotary Dial Telephone was invented by Almon Strowger in 1888 and began to phase out in most major countries by the 1970s.
  • Traditional Paper Photo Album
    Although the traditionalist still swear by the need of a classical photo album, this is becoming a less and less desired form of presenting photos to others.
  • Blu-ray LogoHD-DVD Logo
    The current Blu-ray and HD-DVD format war reminisce the VHS and Betamax war in the 1980s. Although, this time will the war end before a winner can be decided?

What will be in your list of “technologies we use that we may not have tomorrow”?

SeeReal Hi-Res Holographic Display

SeeReal, a German company, developed a high resolution Holographic Display that allows you to see 3D images with a LCD flat panel display.

This is the kind of display they extrapolated along with the Heliodisplay, by IO2Technology, in the 2003 movie “Paycheck” staring Ben Affleck.

read more | digg story

Choosing a Technology

I still hear people say, “It’s about time I learn how to use xxxx”. You can replace the “xxxx” with almost any technologies now a days. From SMS (text messaging) to Instant Messaging (IM), doing word processing on a computer to downloading HD (High Definition) movies from the Internet, video chatting to voice over IP (V0IP).

In many cases these people would clarify their statements with something like, “I really don’t know how xxxx works”. That is usually their reasons for not using the technology in question.

I believe a technology is ready for “prime time”; general consumption, when it is easy enough to use, such that people do not need to know how it works, but understand what it can do for them.

The latter is what I believe technologist or versatilist like myself is specialized in. Especially in terms of aspiring technologies that has yet to reach the pervasiveness I described above.

Technology should always be thought of as serving a business objective or solution. In very rare cases does technology dictates the business model or objectives.

Apple Inc. for one has captured this essence of technology perfectly through its products; may it be hardware or software. Their computer operating system (Mac OS) and personal computer (“Apple” and then “Macintosh”) are my computing tools of choice for the past 25+ years.

Technology companies out there should stop pushing technologies, which are not ready for prime time, down consumers’ throats.

In recent years, many such technologies existed:

  • 3G (third generation) mobile telephone. This technology and mobile phones were at least 3 years ahead of its time when mobile phone carriers were pushing the 3G phones onto consumers. Of course, now 3 years later much of European Union (EU) countries and Asia are 3G capable.
  • HD (High Definition) TV was another technology waiting for content when it was shown at CES 10 years ago, and then made widely available 3 – 4 years ago. In this case the United States, source of majority of the English TV content, took the lead in generating HD content for the massive adoption in the past 2 years. Now there are almost just as many HD channels as SD (Standard Definition) channels in the United States. Unfortunately, the rest of the world are still playing catch up with China only recently finalized their national HD standards.
  • Windows OS (operating system), until Windows Vista, was really a technical tool designed more for geeks and technophiles. Especially when we speak of the software Microsoft produced for these operating systems and the Mac OS. Microsoft Office is a very power suite of software, but for the untrained user, they are only able to use the tip of the iceberg of these tools’ capabilities.
  • Another Microsoft OS, the Microsoft “Windows Mobile”, is a bloated operating system that majority of the devices and software manufacture would not be able to take advantage of, hence, the consumers who purchase these devices are under utilizing. Majority of the consumers who purchase a Windows Mobile device; PDA (Personal Digital Assistant), has three simple requirements:
    1. Make telephone calls.
    2. Keep their business and personal contact details organized.
    3. Keep track of their business and personal appointments.

    From this set of consumers a small percentage also have the following requirements:

    1. Take photos for sending to friends via email (307,200 pixels or less). Because of the size of the average photo size requirements, a camera with less than 1M pixel resolution is sufficient.
    2. Read emails from their personal account (normally POP type), and if the device is subsidized by their employer also read corporate emails (either Microsoft Exchange, POP, IMAP or Blackberry type).

    From this smaller set of consumers a small percentage may find the following requirements necessary:

    1. They want to listen to music in MP3 format (with an average quality of 128kbps sampling rate). This quality means that the average 3 minutes song is about 2.8MB (Mega Bytes) in size.
    2. They may want to keep track of where they are via GPS and GPS software.

    Finally a very very few people wants to edit MS Office documents and/or presentations on these devices.

    As most of my readers can agree, they fall into the first set of consumers, and may be less than half of that falls into the 2nd set.

    Therefore, I believe using the Microsoft Windows Mobile OS for a PDA is like using an aircraft carrier to cross a river when a simple row boat is sufficient.

Doing the above in many cases will cause the technology in question to have a very slow up take and in some cases risk of being discontinued before their time.

Over the past decades many great and arguably superior technologies had seen such demise:

Now in the past 6 months and the next 12 months to come we may see Blu-ray and HD DVD having the same fate.

Dissolving dress


A dress made out of materials invented by a British designer and chemist, which slowly melts as the person wears it. It brings new meaning to the phase, “you must have here home by midnight”.

I think we should all be more aware of the environmental affects of the activities from our daily lives. Our society has grown to be a disposable one, especially for the non-develop nations.I can imagine great practical use for this new material, especially for the less environmentally aware consumers. But using it to make a dress is a bit too artsy.

read more | digg story

Pervasive Technologies

Real dog meeting a robot dog
While at Starbucks I over heard an elderly couple speaking to another elderly gentleman about staying in touch while living in Shenzhen using email, Flickr and blog.

Putting All Your Apples in One Basket

I am sure many of you had heard of the saying or advise, “don’t put all your apples in one basket”. Meaning you should not focus all your efforts with one idea or a single solution.

As for applying this principal to software and technology, I had been advising friends and clients for as long as I can remember; at least 19 years.

I often advise my clients, “Today’s leader may be tomorrow’s looser”. Most recently Microsoft proved this statement with the simple release of Zune MP3 player and the Zune’s Marketplace.

I am not referring to Apple being the Leader here, since Microsoft’s current Zune products are definitely not a serious challenge to Apple’s iPod, iTunes and iTunes Store. Instead, what I am talking about is Microsoft’s “Play for sure” program.

I am also not suggesting that Microsoft’s “Play for sure” were ever a leader but in terms of DRM there are limited choices, with Apple’s FairPlay and Microsoft’s DRM being the two most used, with the Microsoft’s DRM being the only one used by other vendors other than the DRM owners themselves.

Many organizations including, libraries, MP3 player manufactures and online music stores, unwisely chose to use Microsoft technology and subscribe to Microsoft’s “Play for sure” program. Now, Microsoft has abandon its own “Play for sure” program with the release of Zune, and even gone as far as closing down its own MSN music store. The new Zune MP3 player is not even compatible with Microsoft’s Windows Media Player and Microsoft Windows Vista. So, now MP3 player manufactures and online store operators, except Apple, are left with no support and no future DRM technology to support.

The parties affected the most are the libraries who encoded their Audiobooks with Microsoft technology and DRM. Now with the future of Microsoft’s DRM and “Play for sure” program in limbo, these organizations now have to decide whether to continue encoding using Microsoft technology or to change to an open format (industry standard) and reencode everything they have.

I am definitely not in favor of DRM of any kind for any content. I believe the use of DRM is assuming all people are dishonest. No different from taking the approach of “assuming someone is guilty until proven innocent”. I think it is just wrong.

Again, I openly advise all, you should never put all your apples in one basket. In the case of technology, never bet on proprietary technology for the long term strategy.

Another free advise, popularity does not equal Standards. Standards are set by independent organizations. In the case of the web, ecommerce and technologies W3C, OASIS and IEEE are three of the Standards body. By the way, Microsoft is a member of the former two organizations, but their products are the ones that fail to comply with the Standards the most.

You may ask what is a safe bet? Well… you will need to either interpret the above or hire me to consult for your organization.

Technology Not Always the Solution

Having worked in the technology field for the past 17 years and an avid gadget guy, I am the first to admit that a technical solution is not always the best solution.

Some times a pen and paper is the right solution.

Take for example, a widow in Ohio, United States, rented a rotary telphone (remember those?) for 40 years and paid a total of USD14,000.00 for it over the period. AT&T was charging this lady USD29.95 a quarter for the service.

When her relatives found out, they helped her switched to the new digital service. Although the new service from AT&T saved her money every month, she insisted that she wants the rotary telephone back.

The moral of the story is that sometimes the best solution is not about cost savings. The right solution is what fits the needs and requirements of the end-user.

In my experience, the above concept is often very difficult to convince CFOs or Financial Controllers of companies. These individuals job is to reduce cost and increase revenue. It is human nature to take the shortest path or the path with least resistance.

I am not saying that all corporations are as I had described above but there are just too many.

Until more corporations figure out the balance the loser in this game are the end-users.

Do You See Double?

A senior Japanese researcher at ATR Intelligent Robotics and Communication Laboratories outside Kyoto, has created a machine in his own image. A perfect thing for times when you need to go see a chic flick with your wife or girlfriend. Of course this also applies for the women who have to suffer through the ball games or action movies.

read more | digg story

What SUN is up to

The attached video shows what SUN OS R&D is thinking about.

Please note that this is not about OS war or comparing how great one OS over the other. Or whether one OS copied another.

Do note that this SUN OS experiment was done well before Mac OS X had its public beta and long before Microsoft “Longhorn” (aka. Windows Vista) was even a project.

My personal preference and computing tool of choice is Mac OS and had been for the past 21.5 years.