Milestones to the Connected Lifestyle Archive

40 years of being wired for sound with the personal soundtrack

Article

Sony holds 40th anniversary event for iconic Walkman music player | Japan Today

From the horse’s mouth

Sony

Walkman 40th Anniversary video – Click or tap to play

My Comments

Since the middle of 1979, there came a new way of listening to our favourite music while on the move.

This was brought about by Sony where its founder and CEO wanted a way to listen to music held on cassette tape through a highly-compact stereo cassette player that is connected to a pair of headphones. The production device that came about whose model number was TPS-L2 was based on one of Sony’s best handheld notetaker-grade cassette recorders of the time but played music in stereo through a set of headphones. In some markets it was known as the “Stowaway” or the “Soundabout” but Sony changed the product class’s name to “Walkman”.

This tape player opened up a product class based around a highly-portable stereo cassette player or radio that worked with a pair of lightweight headphones. As more of these devices came on the market, there was a huge rush to improve on their design for portability, sound quality, functionality, and affordability and they became the thing to have during the 1980s. A classic example of this was the Sony Walkman II (WM-2) which was about the size of two cassettes in their cases placed back to back.

Using these devices underscored the idea of a “personal soundtrack” that you enjoyed while you were on the move, whether it was your favourite broadcaster or one of your favourite tapes as you shut out what you didn’t want to hear. Most of these units were so lightweight that you could end up walking, jogging or running for a significant distance without them weighing you down, with this idea encouraging an increase in an interest towards physical exercise. On the other hand, travellers or those of us who had to go to hospital would take a Walkman and a collection of tapes with us to while away the time.

JBL E45BT Bluetooth wireless headset

Today’s headsets like this JBL headset replace the headphones associated with the Walkmans

This is while you were able to hear your taped music in a manner where tape or playback faults could show up clearly. It encouraged the record labels to improve the quality of their pre-recorded “musicassette” offering with this manifesting in high-grade tape and higher-quality mass-duplication techniques for the cassettes. Examples of these include EMI’s XDR and CBS SuperSound cassettes.

Schools and parents worried about this device because it was a way for teenagers to shut out what they didn’t want to hear i.e. the lesson material or what the parents wanted them to do, then substitute it with the music that the kid preferred to listen to like the New Wave sounds of the era. As well, it brought about the expression of one being “wired for sound” when they continually used a Walkman device to listen to music, something highlighted in that 1980s Cliff Richard song “Wired For Sound” (Spotify).

With the CD came along the Discman which was a highly-portable CD player intended to he used as a Walkman but for a digital media source. There was also the DCC and MiniDisc Walkman products that used their own media kind. But these led towards file-based audio in the form of MP3 players like the Creative Nomad and Apple iPod family.

USB-C connector on Samsung Galaxy S8 Plus smartphone

The smartphone is today’s equivalent of that Walkman

Eventually the role of the Walkman became part of the smartphone’s function set thanks to the Apple iPhone and some of the Symbian-based Nokia feature phones. You would be able to connect a headset to these phones which would be loaded with file-based audio content whether through tethered syncing with a companion app or through loading a memory card with these files. This is while it could be a navigation device, a communications device, a personal library or handheld games machine amongst many other things.

Along with this, the quality of lightweight easy-to-wear headphones improved over the years with factors like improved bass response. The different types of headphones came about such as active-noise-cancelling headphones and Bluetooth wireless headphones that removed the factor that destroyed many a set of Walkman headphones – broken wires. The headphones ended up being full-on headsets that allowed you to listen to music or make a phone conversation with the same device.

Over the past 40 years, the Walkman underscored the idea of the personal private soundtrack that you can enjoy anywhere using a small battery-operated music-playing device with a set of headphones.

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20 Years of Wi-Fi wireless

From the horse’s mouth

Wi-Fi Alliance Wi-Fi Alliance 20th anniversary logo courtesy of Wi-Fi Alliance

20 Years of Wi-Fi (Press Release)

My Comments

“Hey, what’s the Wi-Fi password here?”. This is a very common question around the home as guests want to come on to your home network during their long-term visit to your home. Or one asks the barista or waiter at the cafe “Do you have Wi-Fi here?” with a view to some free Internet use in mind.

“What’s the Wi-Fi password?”

It is brought about by Wi-Fi wireless-network technology that has become a major lifestyle changer over the last 20 years. This has been propelled in the early 2000s with Intel advancing their Centrino Wi-Fi network-interface chipset which put forward the idea of highly-portable computing.

Dell XPS 13 9380 lifestyle press picture courtesy of Dell Corporation

The laptop like this Dell XPS 13 – part of the Wi-Fi lifestyle

The laptop computer, mobile-platform tablet and smartphone benefited from Wi-Fi due to their inherently-portable nature. This effectively allowed for “anywhere anytime” online work and play lifestyle including using that iPad or smartphone as a second screen while watching TV. Let’s not forget the use of Internet radios, network-based multiroom audio setups and those smart speakers answering you when you speak to them.

“Do you have free Wi-Fi here?”

Over the years there has been incremental improvements in bandwidth, security and quality-of-service for Wi-Fi networks both in the home and the office. Just lately, we are seeing home networks equipped with distributed Wi-Fi setups where there are multiple access-point devices working with a wired or wireless backhaul. This is to assure full coverage of our homes with Wi-Fi wireless signals, especially as we face different floorplans and building-material types that may not assure this kind of coverage.

But from this year onwards, the new Wi-Fi network will be based on WI-Fi 6 (802.11ax) technology and implement WPA3-grade security. There will also be the idea of opening up the 6GHz wavebands around the world to Wi-Fi wireless-network traffic, along with having support for Internet-of-Things applications.

Telstra Gateway Frontier modem router press picture courtesy of Telstra

The Wi-Fi router – part of every household

The public-access Wi-Fi networks will be more about simple but secure login and usage experiences thanks to Wi-Fi Passpoint. This will include simplified roaming between multiple Wi-Fi public-access hotspot networks, whether this is based on business relationships or not. It will also lead to telcos using Wi-Fi networks as a method to facilitate complementary coverage for their mobile-broadband networks whether they use current technology or the new 5G technology.

What needs to happen for Wi-Fi is to see work take place regarding high-efficiency chipsets for Internet-of-Things applications where such devices will be required to run on a small number of commodity batteries for a long time. One requirement I would like to see for public-access Wi-Fi is the ability to create user-defined “secure device clusters” that allow devices in that cluster to discover each other across the same public-access network but other devices outside of the cluster can’t discover them.

So happy 20th Anniversary to the network technology that has effectively changed our online lifestyle – the Wi-Fi wireless network.

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Google celebrates Hedy Lamarr who is behind how Bluetooth works

Articles

Hedy Lamarr: Five things you didn’t know about the actress and inventor in today’s Google doodle | The Independent

From the horse’s mouth

Google

Celebrating Hedy Lamarr (Blog post)

Video

My Comments

Google is celebrating Hedy Lamarr who was an Austrian film actress who moved to France then America where she gained her footing as one of Hollywood’s most beautiful film stars. They have done this using their animated “Google Doodles” which shows you the pathway from a film star to the home network.

But it wasn’t all about being the most beautiful woman in Europe or starring in these films that made her significant. When Hedy was with her first husband who was a German arms dealer, she had taken an interest in applied science which was part of what made military technology work.

After fleeing Germany, she also wanted to contribute to the Allied war effort during World War II in a more useful way than selling war bonds. She realised that Hitler was using his U-Boats to sink passenger liners and wanted to do something about that.

Hedy Lamarr worked with George Antheil, an avante-garde composer who was her neighbour in Hollywood, to invent a frequency-hopping system for radio communications. This was a tool to allow successful communications to take place without being at risk of radio jamming which the Germans were good at. 

The proof of concept was based around a player piano a.k.a. a pianola and its perforated rolls that had the music and taught the instrument how to play. Here, a piano roll was used to unpredictably change radio equipment between 88 different frequencies with the setup only operating on the frequencies for a short time. The sequence was only known between the controlling ship and the torpedo and it would require a lot of power in those days to jam a large swathe of frequencies. 

This was not implemented by US Navy until the early 1960s where it earnt its keep as part of a blockade of Cuba. But this technology and the spread-spectrum ability that it allowed for ended up as an integral part of today’s digital-radio communications techology. Examples of this include Bluetooth, CDMA used in some cordless phone and mobile phone applications and COFDM which is used in Wi-Fi wireless networking which nearly every home network runs with, DAB and digital satellite radio and DVB-T digital TV.

Here, it is about a film star who appeared through Hollywood’s Golden Era but also contributed to the features essential for mobile computing and home networking.

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Windows 95–20 years old

Previous coverage

Special Report – Windows 95 now 15 years old and a major change to the PC computing platform

Video

“Start Me Up” video ad

To sum up

Windows 95 launch campaign billboard poster

Start It Up campaign billboard for Windows 95

Windows 95 was an operating system that led to a revolution as far as PC-based computing was concerned and was treated as such when it was launched. It actually revised how one thought of the Microsoft DOS / Windows computing platform towards something that was on a par with other computing platforms.

One of the key features that was highlighted was to have the Windows GUI front-end and MS-DOS integrated in to one package. Firstly, you didn’t have to buy Windows as a program nor did you have to type WINDOWS to pull up the graphical user interface. As well, there wasn’t the need to run various menu utilities to provide a user-friendly operating interface where programs are easy to find and run.

Instead, you used Start Menu to find programs and Windows Explorer to know your way around the computer’s file system. There was even the ability to give files and folders a meaningful file name rather than a very short name that wasn’t meaningful at first glance.

Another key feature was to do away with the need to run extra software to add functionality to a computer. Previously, if you were to run a CD-ROM, network abilities or any type of added functionality, you had to run certain memory-resident programs and this became very awkward for most people.

This led to an operating system that was “ready for the Internet and the network” out of the box, thus opening up the possibility for small organisations and households to set up easy-to-administer networks for sharing files and printers, and gaining access to the Internet.

Happy 20th Birthday, Windows 95! Start Me Up!

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The Commodore Amiga turns 30 creating a turning point for desktop computing

Article

Iconic computer and game system Amiga turns 30 | The Age

Video

Amiga Demos of the late 80s

My Comments

In the late 1980s, Commodore released the Amiga series of computers which brought forward the concept of advanced graphics, video and music to the desktop computer.

These computers had the necessary hardware like the Motorola 68000 series RISC processors and graphics and sound chipsets that were advanced for their day. Initially, there was the Amiga 1000 computer but the popular machines that represented the Amiga platform at its peak were the Amiga 500 and the Amiga 2000.

They could generate high-resolution advanced moving graphics which put them on the platform for CGI animated video. As well, they were capable of turning out music which was either synthesised or sampled and this ability became very important during the “Acid House” era of the late 80s where house, techno and other electronic dance music came on the scene.

For that matter, if you ever seen a Commodore Amiga in action or used one of these computers yourself, you may have dabbled with the “demos”. These were self-running programs that showed a moving-graphics display on the screen set to music, typically electronic dance music of the day. I have linked in a YouTube clip of some of these “demos” so you can see what this computer was about.

The fact that the Amiga was popular in Europe instigated the European game-development scene where a lot of graphic-rich game genres that we take for granted were being exposed courtesy of this computer that, at times, was called the “game machine of all time”. For business applications, the Amiga platform even became the heart of some public-facing computer applications where a graphically-rich user interface was considered important, along with it being used to create computer graphics for film and video content.

This computer demonstrated the concept of a desktop computer being able to serve graphically-rich applications whether it be games, video content or the like and other computer platforms acquired this ability through the 1990s and now serve this purpose.

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The BASIC computer language turns 50

Article

BASIC, The 50-Year-Old Computer Programming Language For Regular People | Gizmodo

How Steve Wozniak wrote BASIC for the original Apple from scratch | Gizmodo

My Comments

Those of us who ever had a chance to tinker with personal computers through the 1980s or were taught computer studies through that same time dabbled in a computer programming language called “BASIC”. This language was provided in an “interpreter” form with nearly all of the personal computers that were sold from the late 1970s and is celebrating its 50th anniversary.

It was developed by two Dartmouth professors who wanted a simplified language to program a computer with in the early 1960s because mainframe-type computers had more difficult ways to program them. The language was built around words common to the the English language along with the standard way mathematical formulae was represented. It was initially represented as a compiler for the mainframes, which turned the source code in to object code or an executable image in one pass, but was eventually written as an interpreter which executed each line of source code one at a time.

Bill Gates and Paul Allen worked on a successful BASIC interpreter for the Altair microcomputer in 1975 and used this as the founding stone for Microsoft with it initially being implemented in a variety of microcomputers and some manufacturers implementing slight variations of it in to various personal computers like the Tandy TRS-80. Similarly, Steve “The Woz” Wozniak wrote the BASIC interpreter for the Apple II computers from scratch in 1976, a path followed by other computer manufacturers like Commodore, Acorn (BBC Micro), Sinclair (ZX80, ZX81, ZX Spectrum) and Amstrad.

This language was not just taught in the classrooms, but people taught themselves how to program these computers using the manuals supplied with them and many articles printed in various computing and electronics magazines. There were even books and magazines published through the 1980s replete with “type-through” BASIC source code for various programs where people could transcribe this source code in to their computers to run these programs.

BASIC – the cornerstone of the hobby computing movement of the 1980s – turns 50

How this relates to the networked connected lifestyle is that the BASIC language gave us a taste of home computing and computer programming as a hobby. Even as Microsoft evolved the language towards QuickBASIC and Visual BASIC for the DOS / Windows platform, it exposed us to the idea of an easy-to-understand programming language that was able to get most of us interested in this craft.

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50 years ago was the first public demonstration of the videophone concept

Article

50 years ago today, the public got its first taste of video calls | Engadget

My Comments

When we use Skype, Apple FaceTime, 3G mobile telephony or similar services for a video conversation where we see the other caller, this concept was brought to fruition 50 years ago courtesy of Bell Telephone.

Here, a public “proof-of-concept” setup was established between the site of the World’s Fair in Flushing Meadows in New York City and Disneyland in Los Angeles. People who wanted to try this concept sat in special phone booths where they talked in to a box with a small TV screen and camera as well as the speaker and microphone. They were able to see their correspondent as a 30-frames-per-second black-and-white TV image on this device and many people had a chance to give it a go for the duration of that World’s Fair.

Bell had a stab at marketing the “Picturephone” concept in different forms but the cost to purchase and use was prohibitive for most people and it got to a point where it could have limited corporate / government videoconferencing appeal. As well, a lot of science-fiction movies and TV shows written in the 1960s and 1970s, most notably “2001 A Space Odyssey” sustained the “Picturephone” and video telephony as something look forward to in the future along with space travel for everyone. For me, that scene in “2001 A Space Odyssey” with Dr. Heywood Floyd talking to his daughter on the public videophone at the space station stood out in my mind as what it was all about.

But as the IP technology that bears the Internet made it cheaper to use Skype and FaceTime, there are some of us who still find it difficult to make eye-contact with the correspondent due to having to know where the camera is on each side of the call.

In essence, the Bell public demonstration certainly has proven the concept from fiction to reality by allowing people to try it as part of a “world expo”.

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Len Deighton had set the standard for creating the magnum opus using a computerised word processor

Article

Len Deighton’s Bomber, the first book ever written on a word processor. – Slate Magazine

My Comments

Before the arrival of the word processor, whether in today’s office suites that you can buy for your computer or even the basic text editor programs that came with most operating systems, the creation of a novel or other book required a lot of work.

This work was especially in the form of a continuous cycle of typing and reviewing the chapter drafts for that magnum opus. Len Deighton had a few IBM Selectric “golfball” typewriters which he used to work out his manuscripts and his personal assistant was ending up typing the chapter drafts as part of the review cycle for his novels. But in 1968, Eleanor Handley mentioned about this hard work to an IBM technician who worked under contract to this author to service these workhorses for him.

At that time, IBM had just launched the MT/ST which was a Selectric typewriter that worked alongside a tape drive system so the documents can be stored on reels of magnetic tape. The technician mentioned that IBM had this machine that could help him with this and future magnum opuses. He had leased the machine and the delivery men had to remove his front window so they could hoist it in by crane.

The features and tricks that this device had allowed him to review, insert and substitute text for each of the chapters that existed on each reel of tape. He exploited the “marker codes” that could be placed on the tape so he could locate the passages he was working on and this machine came in to play in him writing “Bomber” which was a novel set in World War II.

These devices evolved from the dedicated word-processing machines that worked alongside electronic or, in some cases, electric typewrites to the dedicated computer programs that you bought for most desktop computer systems from the early to mid 1980s.

With the arrival of the Graphic User Interface in 1984 courtesy of the Apple Macintosh, the ability to turn out copy that was hard to distinguish from published copy became a key feature. Here, the computer could draw out the typeface without the printer needing support for that font. As well, the word-processor became part of integrated “office” computing packages that had this function along with database, spreadsheet, presentation / business graphics and email functionality.

For me, the concept of creating a document from “go to whoa” using a computer’s word-processor software rather than handwriting it was a marked change. Here, the time it took to turn out a polished document was significantly reduced and I realised that I could easily work “from mind to document” without “scratching out” text with a black line or “wedging in” text using the caret symbol.

As for novelists and other authors, the amount of time it took to create copy for the paper or electronic destination was significantly reduced and you were able to make sure that the copy was “how you wanted it”.

Similarly the fact that Len Deighton had the MT/ST equipment at his home was a prediction of things to come in the form of desktop and personal computing which came about 10 years later.

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The evolution of the mobile lifestyle summed up in a video

GSMA YouTube videoclip

http://youtu.be/wOryfTLTc1oClick to view (if you can’t see it below or want to “throw” to a Smart TV with a TwonkyMedia solution)

My Comments

This video sums up in two minutes and thirty seconds how the online lifestyle has evolved from the late 70s with the hobbyist computers through video games being popular to the brick-like mobile phones and desktop computers coming in to every office.

It then also shows how the mobile online life is becoming integrated in to everyone’s daily lifestyle and workstyle. Have a chance to look at this clip!

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Even the 2012 London Olympics honours the founder of the World Wide Web

Article

Berners-Lee, Web take bow at Olympics | CNet

Video

http://youtu.be/KHmF14LaX5g

My Comments

Those of you who have watched the Opening Ceremony for the 2012 London Olympics may have thought that the obvious factors associated with Britain like the cottages, Industrial Revolution or the Beatles would be honoured in this ceremony.

But think again!. As part of a celebration of the recent popular history that was centred around life in an archetypal UK semi-detached house, there was a chance to celebrate the foundation of what has made the Internet-driven life tick. Here, the house fell away to reveal Sir Tim Berners-Lee, the founder of the World Wide Web, tap out a Tweet that celebrated this milestone to the connected lifestyle on the invention that he stood behind.

This ceremony definitely integrated the foundation stone of the home network and the connected life, with some of us perhaps watching it through the Web rather than on regular broadcast TV.

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