Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Voices of People...Who Died Over 100 Years Ago

This is an amazing article!  Imagine being able to hear the actual recorded voices of people who died over a hundred years ago.  That is exactly what a cache of wax cylinders recorded by Thomas Edison and associates in the late 19th century enables us to do...thanks to some modern technology.

The voice of Otto Von Bismarck, who died in 1898.  The first known recording of work by Chopin.  Amazing!

Edison's wax cylinder on which he first recorded sound.  Later, he switched to
the flat disc because it was easier to reporduce copies using a mold.  That's how close
many of us came to being "cylinder jockeys" instead of "disk jockeys."

Now that the missing cylinders have been found, audio engineers used a much more modern device, the Archeophone, to read the squiggly indentations in Edison's wax recording medium without destroying them in the process.

It ain't hi-fi, but it is recorded history.

Don Keith N4KC

Friday, January 27, 2012

Never Say "Never"

I did not necessarily vet any of these, and some may simply be "urban legends," but some I know to have actually been uttered by someone who supposedly knew what he was talking about.  Predictions are always chancy.  These were downright dumb, with the benefit of hindsight (a very strong benefit, by the way!):

"Man will never reach the moon regardless of all future scientific advances."

-- Dr. Lee DeForest, "Father of Radio & Grandfather of Television." 1967

"The (atomic) bomb will never go off. I speak as an expert in explosives."

-- Admiral William Leahy , US Atomic Bomb Project 1943

"There is no likelihood man can ever tap the power of the atom."

-- Robert Millikan, Nobel Prize in Physics, 1923

"Computers in the future may weigh more than 1.5 tons."

-- Popular Mechanics, forecasting the relentless march of science, 1949

"I think there is a world market for maybe five computers."

-- Thomas Watson, chairman of IBM, 1943

"I have traveled the length and breadth of his country and talked with the best people, and I can assure you that data processing is a fad that won't last out the year."

--The editor in charge of business books for Prentice Hall, 1957

"But what is it good for?"

-- Engineer at the Advanced Computing Systems Division of IBM, 1968, commenting on the microchip.

"640K (computer memory) ought to be enough for anybody."

-- Bill Gates, 1981

This 'telephone' has too many shortcomings to be seriously considered as a means of communication. The device is inherently of no value to us,"--

Western Union internal memo, 1876.

"The wireless music box has no imaginable commercial value. Who would pay for a message sent to nobody in particular?"

-- David Sarnoff's associates in response to his urgings for investment in the radio in the 1920s.

"The concept is interesting and well-formed, but in order to earn better than a 'C,' the idea must be feasible,"

-- Yale University management professor in response to Fred Smith's paper proposing reliable overnight delivery service. (Smith went on to found Federal Express Corp.)

"I'm just glad it'll be Clark Gable who's falling on his face and not Gary Cooper,"

--Gary Cooper on his decision not to take the leading role in "Gone With The


"A cookie store is a bad idea. Besides, the market research reports say America likes crispy cookies, not soft and chewy cookies like you make,"

-- Response to Debbi Fields' idea of starting Mrs. Fields' Cookies.

"We don't like their sound, and guitar music is on the way out,"

-- Decca Recording Co. Rejecting the Beatles, 1962.

"Heavier-than-air flying machines are impossible,"

-- Lord Kelvin, president, Royal Society, 1895.

"If I had thought about it, I wouldn't have done the experiment. The literature was full of examples that said you can't do this,"

-- Spencer Silver on the work that led to the unique adhesives for 3-M "Post-It" Notepads.

"Drill for oil? You mean drill into the ground to try and find oil? You're crazy,"

-- Drillers who Edwin L. Drake tried to enlist to his project to drill for oil in 1859.

"Stocks have reached what looks like a permanently high plateau."

-- Irving Fisher, Professor of Economics, Yale University , 1929.

"Airplanes are interesting toys but of no military value,"

-- Marechal Ferdinand Foch, Professor of Strategy, Ecole Superieure de Guerre , France .

"Everything that can be invented has been invented,"

-- Charles H. Duell, Commissioner, US Office of Patents, 1899.

"The super computer is technologically impossible. It would take all of the water that flows over Niagara Falls to cool the heat generated by the number of vacuum tubes required."

-- Professor of Electrical Engineering, New York University

"I don't know what use any one could find for a machine that would make copies of documents. It certainly couldn't be a feasible business by itself."

-- the head of IBM, refusing to back the idea, forcing the inventor to found Xerox.

"Louis Pasteur's theory of germs is ridiculous fiction."

-- Pierre Pachet, Professor of Physiology at Toulouse,1872

"The abdomen, the chest, and the brain will forever be shut from the intrusion of the wise and humane surgeon,"

-- Sir John Eric Ericksen, British surgeon, appointed Surgeon-Extraordinary to Queen Victoria 1873.

Predictions about rapidly changing technology seem especially dangerous.  If it is true that technological knowledge doubles every five years, the chances of ending up with egg on one's face is pretty good.  I think I'll just avoid predictions and spend my time and what few brain cells I have left trying to understand what is happening right damn now!

Don Keith N4KC

Friday, January 13, 2012

Hither and yon

Several items recently hit my monitor that are more or less within the realm and scope of this "rapid technology change and especially as it pertains to media" blog.  Among them:

  • Just today, mighty, mighty Clear Channel Radio...the world's largest owner of commercial radio stations and the licensee of almost a thousand radio stations in the USA announced that they are taking the word "radio" out of their name.  HUH?  "As part of the ongoing digital and multimedia makeover of the company, Clear Channel Radio is erasing the word 'radio' from its masthead. It will now be known as Clear Channel Media and Entertainment. The company says the core business will remain its 850 radio stations, but the rebranding signals its continued expansion into new areas such as digital, satellite, dashboards and live events," says the news story at INSIDE RADIO.  This comes right on the heels of...
  • ...a story in USA TODAY that says, " Beginning this month, YouTube is gambling $100 million that by seeding professional production firms such as Young Hollywood — whose slate of YouTube-only programming premieres Monday — it will draw more eyeballs for longer viewing sessions.
    The story goes on to say: Put simply, the word “television” is being redefined. What once was something produced by a network or cable channel for a screen in the living room is fast becoming anything cobbled together by nearly anyone for a range of devices. This is the culturally revolutionary, highly interactive future YouTube is banking on.
    But none of this should surprise us, considering how the consumer nowadays expects to, well, consume media, as per...
  • ...this story on "Marketplace," which ran yesterday on my local NPR affiliate.  It's short, but if you are too busy to listen to it, the gist is that a typical teenager has multiple choices of media in his or her bedroom, and little of it is tied to a radio-frequency transmitter on a mountain...except, of course, that little radio transmitter that offers wifi access from some router somewhere.

We curmudgeons remember when our parents finally relented and allowed us to have a transistor radio in our rooms so we could listen to that evil rock-and-roll.  My kids had TVs and an extension telephone.  Now my grandkids have the world at their fingertips, not just in their rooms but wherever their sweet little selves happen to be.  That transistor in the shirt pocket has become a truly stunning device that not only allows them to experience a wide of range of media easily and cheaply...oftentimes free...but to create it, too. 

Wonder how any homework ever gets done.

Oh, yeah, Wikipedia and Google.  Not "The Book of Knowledge" or "Encyclopedia Brittanica."

And along those lines, did you ever wonder what literary figures from the past would tweet if they had had Twitter accounts and smart phones?  Here is a web site that makes some suggestions.

Enjoy.  And if your kids know who Tom Sawyer or Huck Finn are, they may get a kick out of this, too.  You KNOW they know what Twitter is!

Don Keith N4KC


Saturday, January 7, 2012

Creating Creative Creativity

Those of you who regularly see these diatribes know that one area of technological change that I often consider is the kind that directly relates to media.  More and more, people demand the entertainment, information and companionship previously only available in traditional media like newspapers, radio and TV to be delivered on multiple platforms.  nd that comes at a time when the nature of the business of those traditional media is changing dramatically as well.

And you regulars also know I think traditional media has its head firmly up its arse in response to this technological and basic-business revolution.  It pains me.  I'm a radio guy.  I still think radio--however we define it nowadays, and my definition may not be the same as those guys who hold the licenses and own the towers on the mountains--is the most intimate and potentially powerful medium there is.  It can still be intensely personal, stunningly effective as theater-of-the-mind, and about as portable as any delivery mechanism can be.

A recent blog post by researcher Mark Ramsey deals well with the two stories traditional radio broadcasting is telling these days.  One is reactionary and, if I do say so, pathetic.  The other is far less prevalent but it is what broadcasters need to not only heed themselves but preach.  One sentence from Mark's post sums it up nicely:

The more radio attracts engagement across platforms (including the one called “the real world”), the more we take back the time radio alternatives have stolen from us.

There it is.  As long as radio relies on its legacy by saying, "We are in every car dashboard so no other platform is going to hurt us or our advertisers," then the more certain it is that the medium's days are dwindling and it will never be the factor it once was.  But if those who are in a position to take advantage of all the means of providing something its audiences and advertisers need--and doing it by CREATING CREATIVE CREATIVITY--then the medium we have known as "broadcast radio" can be as big or bigger than ever.

It's not just about the technology, though customers will expect all the things they want from media across all available technology.  Broadcasters need to be leading the way in providing their programming that way.  It is about leveraging what radio has, at times in its history, done best.  Entertain.  Inform.  Provide companionship.  Create "tribes" of listeners who are loyal--to the "stations" (think of "stations" as "brands" and not spots on the radio dial and you will be closer to how today's media users see it).  Those listeners/users will also be even more important to the advertisers who desperately crave the ability to efficiently and effectively reach those "tribes" who are targeted potential customers.

Create creative creativity, across all current and future platforms, and you will win.

Don Keith N4KC