Category Archives: Misc.

When movies predicted the future in tech

A Trip to the Moon” was released in 1902 and was one of the first if not the first science fiction movies. In it a group of scientists are shot out of a cannon the size of World War II railway gun “Schwerer Gustav” right into the eye of the moon. The scientists explore the moon and even have an encounter with the moon’s inhabitants. It wasn’t until 1969 that Neal Armstrong would actually step foot on the moon. I’m sure that in 1902 a trip to the moon in the literal sense was an incomprehensible journey. It took 67 years for the movie to become a reality when Armstrong took his first step—and that giant leap for mankind.

Let’s take a look back at what other movie tech was far-fetched for the time but has become a reality today.

Although the 1980’s television series “Knight Rider” only lasted four seasons, KITT—the crime-fighting talking car—has since become a pop culture icon. It’s said that KITT contained a cybernetic processor that was created by the U.S. government but was then used in the iconic Pontiac Trans Am. Comparable to KITT’s capabilities is Apple’s CarPlay, which allows drivers to interact with Siri. Because of cloud computing, the processor can reside in a data center far away and isn’t required in the car. With the introduction of self-driving cars and the great strides that AI has made, look for a real KITT in the near future.

And let’s not forget about the Batmobile! If I had a bank account similar to Bruce Wayne’s (aka Batman), I would definitely fund the research for a few of those cool toys that he relies on, especially the Batmobile. Think of the convenience of having a car pick you up at the airport terminal rather than trying to remember where you parked it in the acres and acres of parking lot. That idea may not be so far-fetched. The Audi A7 is a prototype that is essentially waiting to go through a few legal hurdles before it can be released. Using sensors, cameras and GPS, the car can navigate itself through your daily commute and can even pick you up. Right off the bat you may need a few bucks from your rich Uncle Bruce, but as with all new technology, such a car should be affordable in a few short years.

Although Alderaan—the fictional “Star Wars” planet—wouldn’t be excited for this new advancement in technology, the U.S. Navy has developed a “directed-energy weapon,” otherwise known as LaWS. LaWS is a defense system that the Navy uses to shoot down unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs)—otherwise known as drones—and small boats. It’s less expensive and faster than using guns or missile systems and minimizes collateral damage. The system focuses six high-energy lasers on the target—much like the Death Star did in “Star Wars” to blow up Alderaan.

I am Iron Man!!! Or at least I wish I could be. Although Iron Man is a fictional superhero, the U.S. military has been working on a usable, non-clunky, exoskeleton for its soldiers during combat. Tony Stark would be impressed by the recent advancements in exoskeleton technology, which has allowed these exo suits to become a reality, even if only in experimental form. In 2010, defense contractor Raytheon demonstrated XOS 2, which is essentially a robot guided by the human brain. This suit allowed the user to lift two to three times as much weight than what the user could have without the suit. Exo suits can also be used to protect soldiers from shrapnel and bullets. These suits will not only help us feel more super-heroish, they will also allow people with spine injuries or muscle-deteriorating diseases to get around easier.

The future is exciting and the sky is the limit when it comes to advancements in technology. Send us your thoughts on what you would like to see down the road.

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This week in tech history – April 26th – May 2nd

April 26, 1970 World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) is formally created with the goal to promote creative intellectual activity and for facilitating the transfer of technology.

April 27, 1965 Disposable diapers “Pampers” are patented by R.C. Duncan, bringing joy to anyone who had to clean a soiled cloth diaper.

April 28, 1932 Vaccine for a viral disease that wiped out 9% of the U.S. population in 1793 is released. The disease is Yellow Fever.

April 29, 1953 The first experimental 3D TV broadcast is shown on a Los Angeles station.

April 30, 1993 CERN (the European Organization for Nuclear Research) announces that the World Wide Web will be free to anyone, starting the .com boom.

May 1, 1981 Radio Shack releases TRS-DOS 1.3, which replaces cassette tapes with disk files with a capacity of an astounding 89 kilobytes each.

Mzy 2, 2000 GPS, once authorized for military use only, is made available to everyone by authorization of U.S. President Bill Clinton.

Want to see more?  Check out our tech history infographic

References

http://www.on-this-day.com/onthisday/thedays/alldays/apr28.htm

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Yellow_fever

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/CERN

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/TRS-DOS

http://www.spacedaily.com/news/gps-00d.html

This week in history – April 12 – 18

Week 3 of our “This Week in tech History” covers new animals and allows us to see better.  See what happened in tech history between April 12 – 18

April 12, 1988 First patent for a new animal life form is issued for a genetically altered mouse. (like we need more species of mice)

April 13, 1743  Thomas Jefferson the third president of the United States and the inventor of  the pedometer, polygraph and the spherical sundial, is born.

April 14, 1956 Mark IV, the first videotape, is demonstrated.  The Mark IV replayed William Lodge’s speech moments after he finished astonishing the crowd.

April 15, 1924 Rand McNally publishes its first road atlas, a precursor to the modern-day GPS.

April 16, 1867 Wilbur Wright of the Wright brother’s fame is born near Millville, Indiana.

April 17, 1790 Benjamin Franklin, the inventor of bifocals and the lightning rod, passes away in his home in Philadelphia.

April 18, 1986 IBM becomes the first computer manufacturer to use a megabit chip, leveling the playing field between American computer makers and the Japanese electronics industry.

Want to see more?  Check out our tech history infographic

References:

http://www.historyorb.com/day/april/15

http://www.computerhistory.org/tdih/April/18/

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Benjamin_Franklin#Death_and_legacy

http://www.biography.com/people/wilbur-wright-20672839#synopsis

This week in tech history (April 5 – April 11)

See what happened in tech history on our second week of “This Week in Tech History”

April 5, 1964 - First driverless trains run on London Underground.

April 6, 1980 Post-it Notes are introduced.

April 7,  1896 Tolbert Lanston is issued a patent for the Monotype printing press.

April 9,1919 - John Presper Eckert, co-inventor of the first electronic computer-(ENIAC), is born.

April 10, 1930 - Synthetic rubber is first produced.

April 11, 1893 Frederic Ives patents the process for half-tone printing press.

Want to see more?  Check out our tech history infographic

References:

http://www.historyorb.com/day/april/5

http://inventors.about.com/od/todayinhistory/a/april.htm

http://www.historyorb.com/day/april/9

http://senselist.com/2006/10/27/12-things-thomas-jefferson-invented/

http://www.historyorb.com/day/april/10

http://inventors.about.com/od/todayinhistory/a/april.htm

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Quadruplex_videotape

This week in Tech history (April 1-April 4)

For the month of April we will be taking a look at a significant events that happened on each day. See what happened this week below.

April 1, 1927 – First automatic record changer introduced by His Master’s Voice.

April 2, 1889 – Charles Martin Hall patents an inexpensive method for the production of aluminum, which brought the metal into wide commercial use.

April 3, 1973 – Martin Cooper, an employee at Motorola, makes the first call using a cell phone.  “Can you hear me now?”

April 4, 1975 – Microsoft is founded by Bill Gates and Paul Allen and would soon revolutionize the computer industry.

 

http://inventors.about.com/od/todayinhistory/a/april.htm

https://www.google.com/search?q=first+call+on+a+cell+phone&oq=first+call+on+a+cell+phone&aqs=chrome..69i57.4326j0j7&sourceid=chrome&es_sm=119&ie=UTF-8

http://hereisthecity.com/en-gb/2012/04/04/11-things-that-happened-this-day-in-history-4th-april/

http://www.historyorb.com/day/april/1

Want more tech history?  Check out our infographic “The Most Influential Tech Inventions and Discoveries from Each Month of the Year.

 

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Technology does more than meets the eye

There is a lot of fun “toys” out there when it comes to the world of technology. Most things are designed, built, and used for a specific purpose. In many situations though, people use something for a purpose much different than it was originally intended. Here are just a few standout examples:

Xbox Kinect

Original use: “With Kinect for Xbox One, command your Xbox and TV with your voice and gestures, play games where you are the controller, and make Skype calls in HD.” (from manufacturer’s website)

Another use: Kinect Fusion offers the ability to utilize the sensors in the Kinect camera to create a 3-D model of a real-life thing. For example, you can stand still, let the camera check you out, and VOILA! A digital, 3-D image of you appears on the screen.

One more use: The Kinect, mixed with a projector, can turn any surface into a touch-screen computer. Check it out.

Graphing Calculator

Original use: These behemoth of calculators are used for solving complicated mathematical problems. Probably the best-known maker of these these devices is Texas Instruments. Many of us have used their calculators during those long hours of math class. Little did we know that these puppies easily could have supplied us with hours of fun.

Another use: Play games. Yes, you heard correctly. Someone out there cleverly designed some games we all know and love to run on the processor of these machines. Games such as Tetris, Doom, Super Mario Brothers 3, Pokemon Stadium, and even counter strike. Obviously, the controls will be a little clunkier than our trusty console, PC or handheld device, but it passes the time in Calc. 2020.

Post-it Notes

Original use: Post-it Notes came to be by accident. In 1968, a scientist at 3M in the United States, Dr. Spencer Silver, was attempting to develop a super-strong adhesive. Instead, he accidentally created a “low-tack,” reusable, pressure-sensitive adhesive. For five years, Silver promoted his “solution without a problem” within 3M both informally and through seminars, but it failed to gain acceptance. In 1974, Art Fry, a colleague who had attended one of Silver’s seminars, came up with the idea of using the adhesive to anchor his bookmark in his hymnbook. Fry then utilized 3M’s officially sanctioned “permitted bootlegging” policy to develop the idea. The original Notes’ yellow color was chosen by accident, as the lab next-door to the Post-it team had only yellow scrap paper to use, and thus was born the Post-it.

Another use: Self-stick notes are not just used for taking notes or marking a book. There is a type of self-stick note art that is very impressive. Check out this exhibit and just simply google “sticky note art” and you will get a myriad of awesome things.

Technology, whether it’s used for its original purpose or not, is never boring! Think about how you might be able to expand the use of one of your favorite technologies. You never know what kind of new technology you might come up with!

 

image source https://www.flickr.com/photos/artimageslibrary/4865440372/

Three ways the world is harnessing technology for the greater good

Recent advancements in technology have provided us with convenient ways to improve the quality of life. We no longer have to bum a quarter off of our parents or a stranger to make a call. We have remotes to nearly every electronic device in our house. But did you know that the same technology that is making our lives more convenient is saving literally thousands if not millions of lives in developing countries? Let’s take a look at three ways that technology is making life easier throughout the world.

Omniprocessor

If you’re a bit squeamish, this idea is one that may take a little while to get used to. One of the most recognizable faces in the tech industry, Bill Gates, recognized that urban sanitation is neglected and under-invested. He has a point. Nearly 1.5 million children die from contaminated food and water in developing countries. Gates and his foundation saw potential in a concept that would take raw sewage and turn it into potable water along with other benefits such as ash and electricity. The Omniprocessor addresses that issue by producing water that meets or beats the water standards of the supermarket brands through a profit-creating process.

Along with being able to harvest potable water from raw sewage, the Omniprocessor also creates electricity. The electricity that is created powers the processor and will even create extra power that the community can use or sell. Through the process of extracting potable water from the sewage, the waste is burned down to an ash that can be used or sold to benefit the community as well. All processes meet strict EPA standards, so there is no harm to the community.

Empower Playgrounds

Empower Playgrounds harnesses the energy of children (wouldn’t we all like to have the energy of a child!) in rural third-world countries to further their education. By providing a high tech merry-go-round, the kids essentially create energy for their village. To better visualize this, just think of a windmill lying on the ground. The kids act as the wind that propels the windmill, but in this case it’s a merry-go-round. The merry-go-round is connected to a gearbox that acts as a speed increaser, which powers a shaft that runs a generator, which sends a charge to a deep cycle battery. The battery can then power up rechargeable lanterns, which the school children use at night to be able to study what they learned at school that day. This allows the children to stay in school and complete their education.

Mosquito-zapping lasers

Malaria was eradicated in the United States in the 1950s. Other developing countries aren’t as lucky to have such a deadly disease contained. Nathan Myhrvold and his team set out to find a way to lower the risk of malaria by eliminating malaria-carrying mosquitos with lasers. Using a combination of store bought electronics his team developed a device that can blow mosquitos right out of the air. It’s pretty fascinating. Watch the Ted Talks video. The laser can target a moving mosquito and then zap it with a laser. The contraption is even smart enough to discern whether or not the insect is a mosquito rather than a beneficial honeybee or butterfly by the beat frequency of the insect’s wings. A perimeter could be set up to protect a hospital or a home from malaria-carrying mosquitos and could save as many as to 627,000 lives per year.

We look forward to seeing how the next generation will harness the power of technology to benefit the world for the greater good.

 

 

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I did it my way

After I got home from work yesterday I popped in one of my favorite Frank Sinatra CDs and listened to it on my stereo. Call me old fashioned, but I still like listening to CDs through a two-speaker system.

This morning when I got to work I was reminded of an infographic that we published a couple of years ago, 50 Things We Don’t Do Anymore Due to Technology. The blog generated more comments than our blogs usually do, in part because although many of the things on the infographic are things that many of us don’t do anymore, others still do. So we thought we’d visit the topic again, in part to see which habits of yours have changed during the last two years and which ones have remained the same.

To get us started, let me share with you a few of the so-called old fashioned habits I’ve willingly carried into the 21st century. You already know that I buy and listen to CDs. And as much as I love reading on my Kindle, I still enjoy a good book in hardback. And a good story is often worth re-reading more than once. For example, I knew the movie “Unbroken” was opening at the end of the year, so before I saw it, I reread the bestseller by Laura Hillenbrand.

Since I’m pretty sure that my wife doesn’t read this blog, I can reveal one of her habits that is, well, pretty old-fashioned (even though she is not old). She doesn’t like using the clothes dryer much because she says it causes clothes to wear out too fast. So she hangs just about everything to dry on lines in our basement. (She felt pretty good about her clotheslines when a few years ago she came across a book by Patagonia founder Yvon Chouinard, who mentioned the benefits of not using the clothes dryer to dry clothes.)

Other things I do or sometimes do that might be considered old fashioned:

  • Subscribe to a local newspaper
  • Subscribe to a weekly news magazine
  • Write a letter (with pen on paper!) to a family member
  • Send Christmas cards every year
  • Try on shoes at the mall and buy the same shoes at the mall
  • Heat up leftovers on the stove

How about you? What things are you still doing in an old fashioned kind of way even though it might make more sense to do them with the assistance of modern technology? Come on, let us know—there’s nothing to be embarrassed about. Do you listen to vinyl records? Do you make your own yogurt? Do you open a can with a hand-crank can opener? Do you shave with a straight edge razor? Do you prefer to bake your own bread?

When we’ve logged sufficient responses from our readers, we’ll create an infographic with our findings.

And since this is the Mozy blog, I might add that I do back up my home computer with Mozy. So I am not as old fashioned as some of my habits might indicate.

I don’t always have a good reason for doing something the way I do it, other than I just like to do it that way. As I like to say—and as Frank was so fond of singing—I did it my way.

 

*We would like to hear from you. Really! Let us know what things you still do in an old-fashioned kind of way (give us the details if you want to share) even though technology would let you do it easier or faster.

The new year is the right time to try out a new gadget or two

Someday it would be great to attend the Consumer Electronics Show (better known as CES) in person. The world-renowned electronics and technology trade show attracts thousands of companies and industry experts to Las Vegas from all over the world. But until I get that invitation, I’ll just enjoy reading and watching snippets online of the different products being demoed. This year I saw everything from super strollers that have phone chargers to amazing cars that can do things once only seen in science fiction movies to smart home gadgets for just about anything you can think of to dog collar cameras. The creativity and innovation displayed at CES is exciting.

Even with all of the incredible technology at CES, I think most of the gadgets on display at the conference are things that the average person isn’t going to purchase, in part because they are a little out there. In other words, most of us don’t have a practical application for the gadget. Yeah, some of these gadgets are cool, but I’d never really use them.

On the other hand, there are a number of gadgets and technologies at CES that are practical and would make sense for the average Joe to use. And new and cutting-edge technologies are becoming easier and easier for the average person to use and afford.

One example of a technology that has become easier to use is media servers. It has been a hope of mine to have a media server; however, because it seemed to be too complicated to set up—and it was definitely too expensive to purchase—I was satisfied to simply explore by reading (and dreaming!) about it. But things have changed! After learning about some of the new technology now available, I realized that purchasing and setting up a home media server was something I could afford to do.

So, I got a computer and installed a program called Plex to manage all my personal media collection. After spending a few more bucks on the Plex app, I now can stream my music and movies through my Google Chromecast to my TV. Without any hesitation, I can tell you that I am glad that I did it. It’s simple and awesome.

My point is that today there is a ton of sweet technologies and gadgets out there, and they are becoming easier to use.

CES is a great reminder to us of the new technology that’s out there. I encourage you to investigate a new technology, software, or app. And don’t be afraid to try out something new! It doesn’t have to be complicated. For example, consider going to your local Home Depot and purchasing Belkin WeMo devices to start your journey to home automation. These easy-to-use outlets and switches take advantage of your mobile Internet so that you can control some of the most common devices in your home from your smartphone or tablet.

Here’s my suggestion to you for 2015: Try out a new app, gadget, program or design. It’s never too late to make it your new year’s resolution. You’ll never know just how simple and awesome it can be until you give it a try!

Something Really Scary

Ever since I was a kid I’ve been terrified of water. Fifteen years later I can still remember going to the local water park every summer with my friends. Unfortunately for me, my friends were obsessed with the diving boards; specifically, the highest one. I’d watch them flip, dive, and pose their fearless selves into the deep end of what seemed like sheer terror to me. They would always break the water’s surface with the cheesiest grins. When it was my turn to jump off the diving board all of the fun and grinning came to an abrupt end. Instead, I would tense up and attempt to fight off my nerves by trying not to think about what could be lurking down below.

As a kid, if there’s anything worse than the fear of death, it’s the fear of embarrassment. So I would jump in and Michael Phelps my way towards the nearest ladder, which seemed like an eternity away. The reason for all of this terror goes back to one all-encompassing experience. I saw the movie “Jaws.”  I know that what happened in “Jaws” is not real. There was never a shark named Bruce that terrorized swimmers off the coast of a fictional city called Amity. Whether the movie “Jaws” is real or not doesn’t determine why I’m too scared to go in the ocean, let alone a swimming pool!
It boils down to how I remember feeling and how I feel when I watch a scary movie such as “Jaws.” My 11-year old self and my 26-year old self experience the same psychological and emotional effects whenever I watch a scary movie. My heart rate increases. My hands and my feet begin to sweat. I tense up and feel my anxiety bubbling up. In this state the slightest scare will launch me up out of my wits.

Scary movies are meant to make us feel and think this way. But what sounds scarier: Being involved in a shark attack or having your hard drive crash? Despite all of my fears and still not wanting to go in the water, it was mind boggling to learn that there were a mere 53 shark attacks in the United States in 2013.  On the other hand, 7,280,000 hard drives crash every year! Perhaps I should spend more time trying to prevent an incident that has a 137,358 percent greater chance of happening to me.

Losing all of your data also means losing all of your photos, videos, emails, documents, and more. For some this could feel as bad if not worse than some of the scenarios the characters from scary movies are placed in. A major difference between losing your data and watching a scary movie is the enormous financial and/or personal losses, not to mention the effects from losing your data could end up lasting a lot longer or even be permanent.

Unlike losing your data, all movies come to an end. You might be terrified from the movie you’ve been watching for the past couple of hours, but when the credits roll up you will still be safely scared in your seat. And even when those inevitable feelings of terror and panic return years later, Bruce the shark won’t be inching on your heels in the deep end of that swimming pool.

Securely backing up your data with Mozy is the best guarantee available if you want to keep your fears of losing your data from becoming a reality. True peace of mind really is invaluable. And don’t lose too much sleep worrying about me trying to avoid all bodies of water, swimming pools included. Get that data securely backed up and I’ll see you front row at the movies.