A needlessly sardonic view on what's been happening in the technology world over the last few days, and more importantly, who's been screwing up...


The last few weeks has seen the first solid iWatch rumours bubble to the surface following the application of a number of patents by Apple. What makes this one more interesting is that It's the first major new product launch since Steve Jobs died, but it seems that someone didn't tell Apple the two golden rules of technology that I didn't just come up with this moment when I saw a guy in Tesco wearing a Bluetooth headset.:

  • 1. Thou shalt not wear technology
  • 2. Thou shalt not create what's been already invented by television

Now I know that wearable technology is seeing mass investment from Google to Microsoft and back to Apple, but I remain unconvinced. Let's use the aforementioned Bluetooth as the case in point.

Firstly, few mind owning the same phone, or the same video game console, because they're generally tucked away or at home. But something like Bluetooth exploded and compounded barely within a year because everyone looked well... nuts. But another thing that Bluetooth struggled with was that it was largely conceived via television and as such it was already in the same league as the sliding doors in Star Trek, the stars in Sliding Doors, food in pill form, and space colonies: they're now obsolete.

It's the poison of popular culture - by the time technology that was born through TV comes to fruition it's already been drilled so deep inside the brain of the population that they're already ready to move on from it, or see it as naff (much like using the word naff). It's no longer new and exciting because it's already been around for years.

If you didn't love Back to the Future so much we'd probably have that hoverboard by now.

Now, one (of the) gaping hole(s) in this ridiculous theory is that it's at odds with the frustratingly inaccurate and ridiculous claim of a jpeg that persists thanks to blind social sharing:

It suggests that the various technologies' appearances on television actually helped them come to fruition. But this is incorrect - these weren't conceived solely by television and were already in hivemind of the public, in slow development over a years.

Did Star Trek invent the mobile phone? Here's some key dates:

  • 1918: tests of wireless telephony on military trains between Berlin and Zossen
  • 1924: first public trials on trains between Berlin and Hamburg started
  • 1946: first mobile telephone calls made from automobiles.

These early phones were composed of vacuum tubes and relays, and weighed around 36kg, but we're talking technology here not aesthetics.

Did Star Trek invent tablet computers? Apparently the concept can be traced to somewhere in the late 19th century. But it's a little loose. Even so, we have evidence elsewhere that someone came up with it before Star Trek, even if it still was in visual media. Either way, it's surprising that this one was neglected, or conveniently forgotten. 

  • The Newspad in 2001: Space Odyssey? Come on guys - that was 1968! Almost two decades before it appeared in Star Trek.

Side note: Microsoft started the modern tablet-train in the early 2000s, not Apple in 2010, though this oversight is far more understandable.

And did Star Trek create video conferencing? Nein. It's actually been around since 1936, when Dr. Georg Schubert developed the world's first public video telephone service with the German Reichspost (post office) between Berlin and Leipzig.

Despite this early and often uncredited beginning, it's actually been in boardrooms and available since the 1960s, in various guises produced by the likes of AT&T to varying levels of success.

And finally... did Star Trek predict Google Glass, or at least a wearable headset in 1998? This is the hardest one to consciously subscribe too - not merely because of all the instances that AR headsets and scenarios have appeared across 20th century cinema, but because they types of technologies actually did exist, commercially, before 1998. Here's the Sony Glasstron, released in 1997,  which I like to think only failed because it's name was too awesome.

So there you have it (kind of), wearable technology has another precedent for failure, and Star Trek is full of arrogance. In the battle of me vs. the internet... well, I still lost. Because it's the internet.

Moving on...

Elsewhere this week:

Music syncing app plays music simultaneously on multiple devices - have you ever wanted to play the same song at the same time on your phone, tablet and computer? No, me neither. But these guys did. Because the song they wanted to listen to wasn't loud enough on just one of their phones... but FIVE phones?! It all sounds a bit regressive in a just throw shit at it til it works kind of way, but apparently this is Very Important Invention because Doctor Who just gave them $50k for making it, or something. And the technology is so powerful that the song can actually be played simultaneously on an infinite number of devices. They know this because they've tested it on 75 devices.

Bad news for PCs as shipments fall 10% year on year - it looks like the time is up for PCs, various commentators and bloggers are clamouring over each other to write up the industry's obituary. In reality, it's simply a rebalancing of the market. In developing countries, PCs are simply being bypassed by cheaper tablet computers, which are taking a chunk from the PC market. It's likely to even out to a certain extent, and offices will continue using PCs for much longer - particularly in the public sector where they still haven't found anyone with the rights skills to get to grips with the plastic spirograph machine in the corner.

Finally, there's been a resurgence in vacuum travel - people have started talking about revolutionising transport - this time, it's Elon Musk, who has recently been trying to shoot people into space commercially with his SpaceX company. However, now he's talking about 'space travel on earth'. It's not a new idea, but it's never quite taken off - around since the early 1900s, it's based on the same pneumatic tube technology that bank tellers use. But whether Musk's great idea will come to fruition is hard to predict. When technology is just so damn cool, it's easy to sell, but hard to manufacture. This is how he describes it:

"A cross between a Concorde, a railgun and an air hockey table."

SOLD.

"But how do you make it happen?"

Hell if I know.

By Andy Price (Andyy_P)