One of the problems with our accelerating technological progress is that the evolutionary path is strewn with dead formats. Remember cassettes? VHS? Betamax? Laserdiscs? I was reminded of this again when I got involved in some serious de-cluttering. I found multiple boxes of SVHS-C cassettes left over from ten and twenty years ago. Many of them are treasured memories so I decided to dub these to DVD with the eventual goal of importing into Avid to edit them.
For dubbing purposes, I picked up a Sony VRD-MC6, which Sony calls a “multi-function DVD recorder.” It’s a convenient little box for burning DVDs from various other sources. It has a small screen to show you what’s being burned to the DVD and it can write to single and double-layer discs. Perfect for my needs.
Working my way through ten years of recorded videos was both joyous and frustrating. Read on for some of the lessons I’ve learned from several decades of shooting personal videos and candid stills.
Over a year ago, I wrote in this space that 3D TV is inevitable in the home theater market. I still feel that way, and I’ll explain why.
I saw my first 3D movie in 1953. It was House Of Wax, starring Vincent Price, Phyllis Kirk, Carolyn Jones, and featured a pretty scary newcomer named Charles Bronson. It was directed by Andre de Toth, who ironically only had one good eye.
To this day, it remains one of my favorite 3D movies, and I wish Warner Bros. would get off their butts and release it on 3D Blu-Ray, perhaps a double set with Phantom Of The Rue Morgue, starring Karl Malden. I’d also like Universal to release a box set of The Creature From The Black Lagoon, Revenge Of The Creature, The Creature Walks Among Us (not in 3D) and It Came From Outer Space.
Last year, the editors of MaximumPC magazine tossed a challenge my way. “David, design your own dream machine.” So I wrote a column, specifying what kind of hardware I felt should be inside the box. The result was the Star Trek themed PC, designed by Mike Okuda and built by Bill Owen and the other fine folks at MNPCTECH.
But despite the lustworthy appeal of this machine, there’s another more important point to make. As much fun as it is to build an impressive dream machine and show it off at Comic-Con, the ultimate goal of any computer has to be functionality, because MaximumPC isn’t just about maximum specs or even maximum performance. It’s about maximum usability.
Before it shipped, a friend of mine expressed a great deal of skepticism—even hostility—about the Kindle Fire. This was right after HP had dropped their remaining stock of Touchpads onto the market for $200 each.
My buddy failed to understand two things—first, HP was abandoning the Touchpad and cleaning out their warehouses. And second, the Kindle Fire is not a tablet—it’s a low-cost content-delivery system. This is critical to understanding what the Kindle can and can’t do.
Recently, a correspondent with more attitude than common sense excoriated me for having no taste. He could be right, but I doubt it.
I had mentioned in passing that I have thousands of CDs in my music collection, enough to fill a 3-terabyte hard drive. This particular adversary’s argument was that because taste is the product of a thousand distastes, obviously I had none because I had failed to winnow my collection. It doesn’t take a lot of smarts to realize that this is an inaccurate application of Sturgeon’s Law.
Somebody had the good idea to put a camera into a cellphone. This was a good idea. It was a great idea. What made it even better was including a slot for a Micro-SD card. I have a 32-gigabyte chip in my phone and I haven’t run out of storage yet. I can shoot photos or movies wherever I go—and email them immediately. I can read e-books or listen to music or watch videos. (The Samsung Galaxy phone has a great screen.)
The smartphone is a combination of many good ideas and its overall usefulness should be a guide for all manufacturers of portable electronics. So why doesn’t the iPad have a memory card slot? Why doesn’t Amazon’s Kindle Fire have a slot for an SD card? Who knows, but here are some other good tech ideas that need to be implemented ASAP.
One of my favorite zombie movies is Revenge Of The Zombies, made in 1943. It stars John Carradine as the mad scientist and Gale Storm as the female ingénue. It’s not a great movie, in fact it’s not even a very good one, but it has an ending that still disturbs me to this day. John Carradine has turned his beautiful wife into a zombie. He’s also trying to breed a race of zombies for Hitler. But his wife still has some free will. She takes control of the growing army of zombies (well, only four or five) and they take Carradine down to the spooky swamp, where she faces him, holds him by the shoulders so he can’t escape, and they both sink down into the quicksand. He struggles, she doesn’t. The rest of the zombies sink down with them. What’s disturbing about this ending is the thought that if zombies never die, then they’re all still down there, waiting, brooding…and maybe some night will come oozing and squelching out of the swamp…?
I believe America’s greatest strength has been its ability to cultivate the most profitable crop in human history—geniuses. This country is the way it is because of men and women with genuine vision and the ability to move that vision into the realm of accomplishment.
The great strength of Apple computers was always the commitment of Steve Jobs to “make it better.” Jobs’ return to Apple was the smartest move the shareholders ever did. (Apple’s darkest days occurred during the reign of whatshisname, the soda salesman. Whatever experience he had managing a company that made its profits from selling carbonated sugar water, it wasn’t the kind of visionary experience that a computer company needs.) So the loss of Steve Jobs now could be as critical a moment for the company as it was when he was forced out in 1985. A visionary company needs a visionary leader.
In fact, our current economic woes may very well be due to a failure to invest in the next generation’s crop of geniuses. We have spent too many years failing nurture vision and innovation. Industry has made the near-fatal mistake of thinking that “make it cheaper” is an acceptable substitute for “make it better.” The evidence says that it is not.
(This was written before Steve Jobs died, and it was never intended to be disrespectful, only slyly satirical. Because of publishing schedules, it is only appearing now. I admired Jobs and I will sincerely miss his presence in the consumer electronics industry. His influence went far beyond his own company. He was a human catalyst accelerating the pace of computer evolution to warp speed.)
1984 was and still is a year forever tainted by George Orwell’s novel of the same name. Orwell, “Big Brother”, and even the year itself have become shorthand terms for totalitarianism or anything that even hints of it, whether it’s a security camera or a political philosophy you disagree with or Microsoft’s Windows validation software. “Orwellian” is a way of saying “like the Nazis, but without Godwin’s Law.
During the 1984 Super Bowl broadcast, Apple showed one of the most memorable commercials ever filmed. If you’ve never seen it, you can probably find it on YouTube. Directed by Blade Runner’s Ridley Scott, the commercial shows a woman in a track suit running through a totalitarian environment. She dashes past all the drone-like people sitting on benches and hurls a hammer at a huge screen that represents the Big Brother of George Orwell’s novel, 1984.
I was minding my own business, happily writing a novel, not thinking beyond the needs of the story, when the following sentence suddenly occurred: “The Baby Cooper Dollar Bill, for example, was only fifty years old….”
I stared at the sentence for 15 seconds. I knew what it meant. The entire anecdote had flashed into my head simultaneous with the creation of that first ominous sentence. I typed, “The short version:” and began. 1741 words later, I had the longest paragraph I’d ever written.
And one of the most terrifying predictions I have ever written: