Two steps from oblivion

I have a theory, one which could be torn apart with ease, but I will persevere and try to explain it. The theory is that a product survives when it is superseded by something new, and then it is killed off when the newer product is superseded by something newer or better. Make sense? No? Fair enough, I will explain.

Vinyl: it survived the arrival of cassettes, possibly because the sound quality was not excellent from tapes, but when the CD arrived it was eventually killed off. Also, the cassette died as well and please don’t use the resurgence of vinyl as a counter-argument because it is a tiny blip in the grand scheme of things.

Horses: The bicycle came along at roughly the same time as the car, but the latter took longer to become mainstream. When it did horses were no longer used for common travel despite the fact that they had largely co-existed with bicycles.

Phones: The landline was all we had and then the mobile phone came along. Landlines continued alongside mobile phones and then the smartphone arrived. The mobile operators caught up, slashed prices over time and how often do we use our landlines today? We don’t. Our parents will call us using one and we need the line for broadband, but the reality is that the landline is dead.

So, what else will suffer the ‘two steps’ fate?

Watches: This is an oddity because I suspect that quartz watches will fall to the side and be replaced by smartwatches. Mechanical watches will likely continue, but in numbers that are largely insignificant in comparison to the wider watch market.

Computers: Multiple steps have already taken place consisting of tablets, smartphones, smartwatches, Chromebooks and (in the future) foldable phones. It blows apart my silly theory, but the desktop computer is without doubt a time-limited product.

Cars: They will not die in the near future, but the combustion engine will. Electric cars are here today and are moving up the market relatively quickly, but they need to change. When battery technology reaches a level where they are completely practical to use the new electric car will take over and the car we know today will die quickly.

I could try to think of more, but time is short today. However, it does seem that there is a vague pattern that fits the two steps from oblivion idea.

To Grieve Is to Carry Another Time

When my wife died, my life was thrown out of time. My past didn’t seem to connect to my present. How had the last 13 years turned me into an only parent of two young children, owner of a house in the suburbs of a Midwestern city with a job that paid too little to send the kids to child care? It didn’t seem possible that I’d made those choices. I would never have made them alone. My life only made sense if my wife was alive… More here.

This is a remarkable piece of writing. A must read if ever I saw one.

How did the qwerty keyboard become so popular?

Typing at 60 words per minute (wpm) – no stretch for a good typist – means five or six letters striking the same spot each second. At such a speed, the typist might need to be slowed down for the sake of the typewriter. That is what qwerty supposedly did.

Then again, if qwerty really was designed to be slow, how come the most popular pair of letters in English, T-H, are adjacent and right under the index fingers? The plot thickens.

The father of the qwerty keyboard was Christopher Latham Sholes, a printer from Wisconsin who sold his first typewriter in 1868 to Porter’s Telegraph College, Chicago. That bit’s important… More here.

This subject has been debated many many times and so it continues.

Instagram is awful

Recently I decided to set up a new Instagram account and to write about Tudor watches. I wanted to experiment with simple images and longer form text than you normally see on Instagram. No great ambitions here, just something to do when the thought would strike.

Little did I realise how dominated by businesses, not always the best ones, Instagram is and how much the experience would be ruined within a day.

The moment I posted an image with what I thought were relevant hashtags the responses started to come in. Lots of likes and lots of simple comments like ‘excellent photo’ and so on. It was relentless and did not stop, to the point that its close to impossible to find genuine people who follow because they have an interest in the subject.

And while someone who has thousands of followers no doubt has many genuine people viewing their content, they must be absolutely inundated with spam from Kickstarter outfits and dodgy Chinese creators selling cheap nonsense.

Instagram is no longer a social network to me, apart from posting family photos on my personal account. It is merely a destination for those who lessen the experience immensely. Such a shame.

No backdoor…

Cook and Sewell met with Eric Holder and Jim Cole, then the deputy attorney general, in late 2014, and FBI agents told them they were “interested in getting access to phones on a mass basis.” This was way before the attack in San Bernardino, and Apple made it clear from the start that they were not going to grant the FBI access to hack into Apple users’ phones. Cook and Sewell told Holder and Cole that they “didn’t think that that was an appropriate request to be made of a company that has as its primary concern the protection of all citizens.” They had a similar conversation with Lynch and Yates… More here.

Good article.

Behind Brexit lies a yearning for a past we destroyed

Was that period perfect? Of course not. Bad things happened, poverty existed, governments screwed up, and there were wars and reversals and crises. But the general trend was for increased wealth, health, life expectancy, security, openness, home-ownership, saving, disposable income, social cohesion, and acceptance of others. In the years since the mid- to late-80s, to put it mildly, the pendulum swung back. Those gains – and for the vast majority of us, they were substantial gains – have juddered to a halt, stagnated, and then begin to slide inexorably back.

Prior to that, wages were high, growth was almost constant, unions ensured jobs were safe, education was free, productivity was strong, healthcare was well funded, and housing was cheap… More here.

A quite brilliant article.

Just because you’re paranoid, doesn’t mean the algorithms aren’t out to get you

By no means are all malevolent programs an accident; some are designed with mischief in mind. Bots can be used to generate or spread misinformation. Jamie Bartlett, author of The Dark Net (US) (UK), warns of a future of ultra-personalised propaganda. It is one thing when your internet-enabled fridge knows you’re hungry and orders yoghurt. It’s another when the fridge starts playing you hard-right adverts because they work best when you’re grumpy and low on blood sugar. And unless we radically improve both our electoral laws and our digital systems nobody need ever know that a particular message was whispered in your ear as you searched for cookies… More here.

A quick, but good read.

The humbling of Britain

This is not “taking back control”. This is not the proud, independent, liberated Britain that the Brexiteers promised. It is grotesque, calamitous, an epic act of self-harm brought about not by some war or disaster but by our own stupidity. And the true “enemies of the people” are not those opposing this catastrophic Brexit. They are not the million decent people from every background who marched in London last Saturday, or the five million who have petitioned to revoke Article 50, but those whose lies, zealotry, and political recklessness have all but broken Britain. For posterity’s sake, those self-styled “patriots” who have so grievously betrayed their country should be named and shamed… More here.

It’s all so sad.

When Life’s Noises Drive You Mad

“My heart starts to pound. I go one of two ways. I either start to cry or I just get really intensely angry. It’s really intense. I mean, it’s as if you’re going to die,” she says.

Rapp has been experiencing this reaction to certain noises since she was a toddler. She recalls a ride home from preschool when her mother turned on the radio and started singing, which caused Rapp to scream and cry hysterically.

“That’s my first memory ever,” Rapp says… More here.

Scary, but fascinating.

What It’s Like to Grow Up With More Money Than You’ll Ever Spend

You know, I’m not. I’m 59, and now that I’ve been living in the world on my own and managing my own money for a while, I have developed the opposite view of almost everything that my parents did. I started giving money away in my 20s, and my parents thought that was crazy. But it was mine to give. Luckily, my grandfather gave us money directly, which was great because I never had to go to my parents and ask for anything. I was totally independent at 21. So I started giving money away. Within a couple of years I was giving away more money than my parents, who had much more money that I had, which they told me was embarrassing to them… More here.

A very good, and surprising, read.