The transistor radio

From Walter Isaacson’s The Innovators:

radio“Transistors were being sold in 1954 to the military for about $16 apiece. But in order to break into the consumer marker. Haggerty insisted that his engineers find a way to make them so that they could be sold for less than $3. They did. He also developed a Jobs-like knack, which would serve him then and in the future, for conjuring up devices that consumers did not yet know they needed but would soon find indispensable. In the case of the transistor, Haggerty came up with the idea of a small pocket radio. When he tried to convince RCA and other big firms that made tabletop radios to become a partner in the venture, they pointed out (rightly) that consumers were not demanding a pocket radio. But Haggerty understood the importance of spawning new markets rather than merely chasing old ones. He convinced a small Indianapolis company that built TV antenna boosters to join forces on what would be called the Regency TR-1 radio. Haggerty made the deal in June 1954 and, typically, insisted that the device be on the market by that November. It was. The Regency radio, the size of a pack of index cards, used four transistors and sold for $49.95. It was initially marketed partly as a security item, now that the Russians had the atom bomb. “In event of an enemy attack, your Regency TR-1 wiU become one of your most valued possessions,” the first owner s manual declared. But it quickly became an object of consumer desire and teenage obsession. Its plastic case came, iPod-like, in four colors: black, ivory, Mandarin Red, and Cloud Gray. Within a year, 100,000 had been sold, making it one of the most popular new products in history.”

“More fundamentally, the transistor radio became the first major example of a defining theme of the digital age: technology making devices personal. The radio was no longer a living-room appliance to be shared; it was a personal device that allowed you to listen to your own music where and when you wanted—even if it was music that your parents wanted to ban.”

Apple Pay

George Kopp and I went to Panera today for lunch and to try out Apple Pay. [The video is vertical because George thought it might get more of the transaction] This took a few extra seconds because I forgot to put my thumb on the Touch ID button. Had I done so it would have automatically used the first credit card in my Passbook app. As it was, I had to tap on my VISA card and then do Touch ID. I’m just not sure how paying for something is going to get easier/faster than this.

UPDATE: I stopped by Walgreen’s for a flu shot and on the way out picked up a bag of cookies to see if I could pay with Apple Pay. And, because nutrition is important to me, I swung by McDonald’s and got some fries. What I found most interesting is at both places, the person behind the counter had obviously never heard of Apple Pay. But when I passed my phone over the scanner, the registers made a happy beep and the transaction just happened. All the counter people did was enter the amount.

I see two possible futures for Apple Pay. (And I think we’ll know in six months) It will either be an unqualified success or it will go the way of the Amazon Phone, Microsoft’s Zune or Google’s Wallet. If it flops it will be because there was insufficient demand; retailers decided they didn’t want it (for reasons good and bad) and refused to make it an option; or some other combination of factors I’m not smart enough to see.

But it won’t be because people started getting their thumbs hacked off to fool TouchID or any other Mission Impossible bullshit.

Your grandpa’s bank

oldbankI’ve enjoyed my VISA Amazon rewards card (from Chase) and I’ve used the points to make purchases. But rewards cards (at least this one) is not part of the Apple Pay system. No problem. Took about 5 minutes to get approved for a card that will work with Apple Pay. Haven’t decided on whether to keep the Amazon card.

My “back-up” card is a MasterCard issued by my local bank. So I stopped by to ask if they had any information on when/if they would support Apple Pay. The first guy I spoke with had never heard of Apple Pay.

“Have you heard about Ebola?” I asked him. It was a joke!

While he was calling different departments to see if anyone knew about this new “Apple Pay thing,” the lady at the next desk gave me a little lecture on how their bank (Central Bank, Jefferson City, MO) didn’t jump on every new thing that came along.

“We were one of the last banks in this area to offer online banking,” she proudly announced. “We’re very conservative.”

“So, this is Your Grandpa’s Bank,” I teased.

Stony silence.

Like the music business and television and newspapers, the banking industry is due for some major disruption. I really don’t need them for much these days and have started looking for ways to use them less.

iPhone 6 time-lapse video

An hour of video using the time-lapse feature on the iPhone 6 boils down to 30 seconds. A pretty cool effect. This is my local coffee shop (Coffee Zone) between 7-8 a.m. today. If you watch closely you might see someone’s breakfast get knocked over and cleaned up. That’s Jordan behind the counter. I’ll try to be a bit more creative with this in my next effort.

More play with iPhone slo-mo

I’ve been looking for opportunities to play with the new slo-mo feature in the new iPhone and this morning I grabbed a few minutes of the homecoming parade of one of our local colleges. Everything looks sort of cool at 120fps.

We call these devices phones (or devices) but I get/make so few calls I really think in terms of camera or computer. Maybe a “communicator” is the more descriptive term. Whatever, they just keep getting better and better.

A new kind of presence

David Weinberger imagines an exciting technology future:

At the FlyEye site you scan a huge video wall that shows you a feed from every person out in the streets who is sporting a meshed GoPro or Google Glass wearable video camera. Thousands of them. […] Off on the left there’s a protestor holding a sign you can’t quite make out. So, you click on one of the people in the crowd who has a blue dot over her that means she too is wearing a meshed video camera. Now you see through that camera. The protestor’s sign isn’t as interesting as you thought. So you video surf through the crowd, hopping from camera to camera.

FlyEye provides a “Twitch Plays Pokemon” sort of interface that lets the remote crowd ask participating meshed camera-wearers to turn this way or that. You click furiously asking the person with the camera you’re “riding” to look backwards. No luck. So you hop to someone further back. […] The software enables a user to choose which camera to ride, as well as the sorts of services that would make it easier to choose which cameras to surf to. Plus some chat capabilities of some sort.

This would require some serious bandwidth but that will happen.

SWAT app

Screen Shot 2014-10-14 at Tue, Oct 14, 11.21.02 AM“With a single press of a button, stream live video of your interactions with police to our secure servers. Know what to do if you’re approached by police on the sidewalk, in the car, in your home, or at a protest. Know what to pay attention to if you experience or witness police misconduct. Fill in the information you need to file an official complaint, and send it automatically to the police department. Use your phone’s location services, camera, and time and date stamps to collect evidence.” SWAT app


sparkThis was a very satisfying read. The cold, professional killer story has been told so many times it must be difficult to find a fresh take. I liked this one. By John Twelve Hawks.

In reality, the universe is neutral about our existence. Only dogs care.

A Vast Machine watched and evaluated them, remembering their past actions and predicting their future behavior.

All language –everything we say– is just an approximation of reality.

Most conscious thought is simply an attempt to claim ‘authorship’ for a choice that has already been made. Our thoughts are just an ongoing attempt to explain what we’ve already decided.

Lying, not love, is the fundamental indication of humanity.

The laws of mathematics are stronger than the laws of man.

True ideology has vanished, replaced by fear and fantasy. The right wing wants corporate control and a return to a past that never existed. The left wing wants government control and a future that will never exist.

Our problem is not machines acting like humans — it’s humans acting like machines.

What happens in our future can change the meaning of what has happened in our past.

Senator McCaskill honors Bob Priddy

“He’s a journalist and I’m a politician and if you’re a journalist then you don’t make friends with politicians. You keep your distance because you have to be objective and you have to be willing to ask questions that you know is going to irritate them.”

Apart from the tribute video (and Bob), there was only one speaker at Bob Priddy’s retirement dinner this past Monday. U. S. Senator Claire McCaskill. She was very good.

For those who know Bob and couldn’t be at the event, you can watch it here.