David Gerrold's perception and vision of the past, present, and future of technology
Sci-Fi author and former Maximum PC contributor David Gerrold needs no introduction, though if you've been cryogenically frozen for the past 50 years and find yourself just now getting up to speed on what's happened during your conscious absence, Gerrold is quite the accomplished writer. He's written episodes for the original Star Trek series, worked as a story editor on Star Trek: The Next Generation, penned the Star Wolf trilogy, and much, much more. Gerrold also used to contribute technology columns to Maximum PC magazine, and if you missed them (or want to revist), he's made them available on Amazon in Kindle form.
Former Maximum PC columnist turns Kickstarter campaigner.
There are several ways you might be familiar with David Gerrold. We've had the pleasure of working with him as a former columnist for Maximum PC magazine, in which he penned technology pieces under the "Future Tense" heading. He's also a screenwriter and novelist who wrote scripts for the original Star Trek episodes, and is the author of the Star Wolf series of books, which he's now trying to port over to television with the help of Kickstarter.
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.
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.
First of all, it is pronounced noo-klee-ar. Not noo-koo-lur.
Please. If we accomplish nothing else in the next twelve hundred words, could we at least stop mispronouncing it?
Without fail, every August anniversary of the first atomic war (Hiroshima and Nagasaki), the commentariat trots out the usual Monday morning afterthoughts about the rightness or wrongness of President Truman’s 1945 decision to use nuclear weapons.
Regardless of which side of the argument you take today, we also have to consider the circumstances under which the decision was made and the thinking of the moment. With the victory in Europe secured, Americans wanted the war in the Pacific to end as well. The nation was emotionally exhausted.
The prospect of an invasion of Japan was daunting. Some military planners estimated a half million casualties or more. Soldiers who had fought their way across Europe were already being shipped to the Pacific theater. Marines who had island-hopped all the way from Guadalcanal to Iwo Jima knew how ferocious the Japanese soldiers were, and many did not believe they would survive an assault on the home islands of Japan.
From Truman’s perspective, the decision to use the bomb was dictated by circumstances.
For more about the impact of the atom bomb, and how it relates to technology, read on.
The “maximum” in MaximumPC means doesn’t just mean the fastest speed or the highest ratings—it means more than best. It means pushing the envelope to be the best possible.
As geeks and nerds, we are always striving for the best possible, because we’re never satisfied with where we are or what we have. We want more. That’s everything you need to know about the forward thrust of technology—the unsatisfied human desire to have more, better, and different. In the long stumbling, bumbling, fumbling history of our weird little species, we have invented so many marvelous tools to expand the power of our muscles, but only one tool to expand the power of our brains—the computer.
As a species, for the first time in history, we have the opportunity to be more accurately informed and make wiser decisions than ever before. —assuming we use our technology wisely.
Too often, we forget that the most important component in any system is the user. We forget that we are the authors of our own choices. Even worse, we forget that we actually have a choice.
If that’s true, then the Internet is a serious pummeling by an unruly mob, with an occasional mugging mixed in.
The architects of this beating are web-designers. The best evidence of this can be found at Vincent Flanders’ website,http://www.webpagesthatsuck.com/. The theory behind Web Pages That Suck is that you can learn a lot about good design by looking at bad design. Flanders also has two similarly-titled books on the subject and his website and his books ought to be mandatory reading for anyone designing, building, or even maintaining a website.
Read on formy three rules for creating a web page that doesn't suck.
Despite the skepticism, of the commentariat, I believe that 3D television is inevitable. Within a few years, all television sets and all Blu-Ray players and all gaming consoles will be 3D capable. And because the capability is there, studios and networks will continue to use it as an audience magnet for important events.
I also believe that the current implementation of 3D technology—using polarized or active shutter glasses is only an intermediate stage.
Once a month, I get together with friends for sushi. We call it ‘Sushi-Con’ and we descend on Sun-Sushi, on Reseda Blvd. in Northridge. (It’s an open invitation, check my Facebook wall for the next one. Or follow DavidGerrold on Twitter.) The conversation is generally free-spirited and meanders through such territory as favorite movies, science fiction books, ebooks, rock music, classical music, anecdotes about people not present, interesting scientific advances, current and future technologies, and whether or not the perfect cucumber roll includes oshinko.
A few weeks ago, one of the folks asked for advice on a new computer.
What’s interesting about the shift from an industrial age to a technological age is that we keep inventing new media: movies, records, radio, television, the internet, and now ebooks—and one of the things that’s most interesting about the invention of a new medium is watching it reinvent itself as it penetrates the culture.
In the study of mass communication, we see that a new medium always starts out building on the formats of preexisting media. A couple quick examples:
As movies grew up, especially in the first decade of sound, they went to novels and broadway plays for source material. (They still do. In fact, now they go to comics and TV shows too for ‘inspiration.’)
As radio spread, radio stations went to records and concerts for material to broadcast. Radio networks also went to vaudeville for performers and made stars out of Jack Benny, Fred Allen, George Burns, and others. (This is what killed vaudeville. You could stay home and listen to live performances.) Eventually radio started doing drama, mysteries, soap operas, game shows, and sitcoms.
When television began, it modeled itself after radio.
For more about what technology's history says about ebooks' future, read on!