My father saw much technological change in his lifetime (1906-1991). He was raised in the Ozarks of Missouri but extracted himself from his farm heritage by earning a Ph.D. in Chemistry. When he was a young professor, he used to lecture on things that were not possible but quickly stopped doing that when astounding inventions proved him wrong. My generation saw the development of the computer age. The first U.S. Census tabulation via computer was in 1960. The initial calculation of data for my Ph.D. was on a Control Data mainframe at Indiana University. I also used a programmable HP Calculator for some analysis. My first home computer was an IBM PC bought in December of 1991. My initial use was to calculate grades for classes with as many as 400 students. When I brought that computer to my office at Cavanaugh Hall at IUPUI in 1982, it was the first computer in the four-story building of faculty offices. Things have certainly changed in 30 years. I am writing this blog on a MacBook Pro and my mobile device is an iPhone 4. I can't think of a single person who has had a more profound influence on how we work, play and tell stories than Steve Jobs. It is sad that his brilliance is lost to us through his death yesterday. I encouraged Dennis Cripe to develop perhaps the first desktop-published course in the country at IUPUI. We used a Mac and the early tools available at the time, which were very crude compared to the amazing tools now available. Over the years I have used almost every type of computer available, mainframe, mini, and personal. I have owned an IBM PC, a Next and Macs. The ones that held my interest over time were the NEXT (a Steve Jobs invention when he was ousted from Apple) and Macs. But a machine is a box of hardware, it is software that makes the difference in our lives. Can we imagine calculation before the spreadsheet? Can we imagine doing layouts without InDesign? Where would digital photography be without Photoshop, Lightroom or Aperture? Professionals in the visual and design worlds cannot work without the amazing software tools that have emerged in the last 20 years. In my view, one of the strongest accomplishments of Steve Jobs and his team was the iLife system of products, iMovie, iDVD, iPhoto, etc. All integrated. All incredibly easy to use. It empowered nonprofessionals to tell their stories with software tools that gave professional quality results. Empowering ordinary people to tell their stories that use sight, sound and motion I believe is the most important contribution of Steve Jobs. Yes, he transformed the music industry. Yes, he created the tablet as a device we have to have. Yes, he transformed the cell phone industry. The list could go one endlessly. But our lives are made up of stories both large and small. It is our stories than endure beyond our own existence. Apple's hardware and software have forever changed story-telling beyond mere words. So mere words cannot express my appreciation but I will try anyway. Thanks Steve Jobs.
There are many young people who probably don't know what a phone booth is. I'll explain. It was a place occasionally used by reporter Clark Kent to change into Superman. But it was also an enclosure in which a coin operated public telephone was housed. These booths were never far apart in our major metro areas. They were ubiquitous before the diffusion of cell phone technology. Continue reading
There is big news in the Rubik's Cube world; scientists have created a computer algorithm that will solve a Rubik's Cube puzzle of any size. In a 3 x 3 x 3 puzzle, there are 43 quintillion possible moves. Cubes of larger dimensions would have so many possible moves that ordinary humans cannot immagine how big the quantity really is. Since the cube was introduced in the 1970s and was a popular craze in the 1980s, it has certainly taken a long time to solve this burning issue. Much, much longer than my son, Brian, took when he was a very young boy. Continue reading
I like simple solutions to long-standing problems. Biting flies are certainly annoying and they do carry diseases. I happened on to the Epps Ultimate Biting Fly Trap because I am now on the email distribution list of AgriSupply where I bought some plastic water-proof manual cases. The manual cases were originally intended to be mounted on farm equipment to hold operating manuals. Motorcyclists also use them to hold extra fuel containers, tool kits and the like. I now have three of them mounted on my motorcycle. The appearance of the fly trap mimics the profile of a farm animal (horse or cow). As the flies circle in for their meal, clear plastic deflectors knock them into ordinary soapy water. The soap breaks the surface tension of the water and the flies drown. The manufacturer claims the trap will drown a pound of flies a day. That's a lot of flies. Of course anything named "Ultimate" should be effective.
Ever heard of a light field camera? Neither had I. Imagine snapping an image without having to focus. Later, with software, you can play with exactly where in the frame you want the focus to be. The Lytro camera is the by-product of a Ph.D. dissertation by Ren Ng. It is due on the market late this year and is apparently to be a point-and-shoot camera, which means it might be afordable. The Lytro website has some images up that you can play with. Explore the focus on the test images. It is an unbelievable experience. Imagine having the freedom to concentrate only on the framing and moment of a picture. Focus can be determined later. Wow!