In this weekly column, filmmaker Danish Aslam will be your purveyor of the finest quality random facts, useless trivia and other esoterica from the world wide web. He lives mostly behind a keyboard and may or may not be a wizened old green man who speaks in grammatically incorrect aphorisms. You can find more on his home page http://pictually.me/dontpanic
32 Innovations - The Future is Now
I remember reading an article some time back about how Apple uses its gigantic cash reserve (upwards of $110 billion) to invest in technology that isn't economically feasible to produce right now and brings it to the market years before its time. Now all we need is for Apple to run the world and make moon colonies a reality.
Until then, there's pieces like this from the NY Times Magazine, which lists out 32 innovations that we can expect to see within the next five years, with potential timelines next to each. Some, like the subway/bus strap-video game combination we could probably do without. But room-wide computer monitors and shut up guns? Bring it on!
Ray Bradbury (1920-2012), R.I.P.
Ray Bradbury was a giant in the world on Sci-fi writing and not just because of the seminal Farenheit 451. Among the many eulogies that have come out over the past week, this one from 1971 released by NASA's Jet Propulsion Labs stood out for me. Mainly because it's such a beautifully human moment. And also because I didn't know that he was a poet!
iXoost iPhone Dock
iPhone docks have become so commonplace now that a living room almost feels incomplete without one. But I doubt you've seen this one in any house so far, which is a situation that needs to be remedied ASAP. Hand-built in Modena, the home of Ferrari, Lamborghini and other Italian plots to take over the world, these works of art are constructed out of an exhaust manifold mounted on a solid block of aluminium. Available in 8, 10 & 12 cylinder versions (along with various colours), this is a conversation starter if there ever was one. And I'm hoping they sound good too.
A Book Lover’s Guide To Walking And Reading At The Same Time
Being so engrossed in a book that you just have to keep reading it, irrespective of your current mode of transportation? That's one of the symptoms of being a true bibliophile. And never has it been so evocatively written about than in this piece by Time's book critic, Lev Grossman (also responsible for some excellent works of fiction himself). Articles like this are what remind you of the joys of reading the written word. Preferably on paper and holding a real book.
Dial-Up Modems and Other Sounds Of The Past
The one sound from my teenage years that generates a Pavlovian smile of anticipation on my face is the very industrial dial-up modem tone. Sitting in front of your handset listening for that cacophonous noise always involved a sense of good things about to happen: in this case, being able to connect to this brand-new phenomenon called the Internet. Mainly to use ICQ (What? You don't know what that is? You embryo…) and send extremely long emails which had been typed out offline so that online time could be minimised. And battling off the parents who wanted the phone to be used for what it was invented: talking to people.
This rambling preface bubbled to the surface because I found another soul who felt equally nostalgic about the Jurassic age of technology and decided to do some research into the dial-up tone and what it actually meant. Alexis Madrigal has written this piece about the soundscape of the late 90s and specifically, what the sequence of beeps and clicks meant. Have fun reminiscing!
PS: There's a link within the article to another website that I discovered last week that continues the retro trip but expands it to include many other sounds from the early days of computers, TV sets and other such technological innovations.
Unsourcing - The Future Of Customer Support
Now that call centers and Indians called 'Mike' are old hat (and source material for sitcoms), here's the latest innovation in the field of customer support - unsourcing. In a piece in The Economist, their resident science blogger talks about an idea that's being implemented by some of the biggest tech brands. Unsourcing basically involves creating a workforce out of the customers themselves. Companies establish online communities and users with problems post them there and get a solution from other customers who get points for helping out (which can be used to reduce their bills, for example). No more fake accents or people with less basic knowledge about your computer than your 10-year old cousin (my favorite conversation with tech support: "Please click on the start menu." "I have a Mac." *Silence, accompanied by the sound of furious page-flipping* "I'm sorry sir, but we cannot trouble-shoot your Macintosh on the phone."). On the other hand, the next person that you yell at for not being very helpful might just be your 10-year old cousin.
Game Of Thrones Sigils
So we've finally reached the end of Season 2 of Game of Thrones (please try to hold back the cries of anguish). But the spinoffs, parodies and commentary will thankfully continue. And here's one to kick off: some of the major TV show families if they had banners and sigils a la our favorite medieval fantasy TV extravaganza. House Swanson (Parks & Rec!) had me in splits. And I think 'House House' just speaks for itself.
A Day Made Of Glass
I first heard of Corning's Gorilla Glass in the Walter Isaacson biography of Steve Jobs. Apparently, Jobs wanted scratch-proof glass for the screen, contacted Corning and told them to revive an abandoned project form the 1960s and manufacture enough for the release of the first iPhone, all within six months. And they did.
But they're more than just tough touch screens now. Corning came out with an interesting concept video last year of a future where glass is incorporated into every aspect of our everyday lives. And now they've released two more. Called 'A Day Made Of Glass', these videos are exciting mainly because the world they depict seems so very…possible. Remember the Google Glass Project that I posted about some time back? This is sort of like that, but without having to wear the glasses on your face all the time.
Berndnaut Smilde is a Dutch artist who makes clouds. Using a combination of a smoke machine, a water spray and some clever backlighting, he creates these visually stunning works of art in large empty galleries in Amsterdam and then photographs them. But nothing compares to actually seeing a tiny cumulus cloud appear in front of your eyes.
And again, ending with a smile. Have you met the The Incredible Hulk? How about this one? Thanks to one of my devoted fans for the link.
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