Thoughts about this past year
Dec. 28, 2015
by Mark Ollig

Someone once told me, “As you get older, time will seem to go by faster.”

They were right.

This will be the last Bits and Bytes column for 2015.

I sincerely hope you’ve enjoyed reading them, as much as I have writing them.

Every week, your humble columnist opens his Microsoft Word program, and sees the familiar, blank white page staring back at me, devoid of sentences.

I think of it as a new artist’s canvas, just waiting to be splattered with words.

So, for the 52nd time this year, let’s pick up the word brush and paint some paragraphs.

Looking at today’s technological landscape, a growing number of people seemingly take announcements of new or improved technology for granted.

Is society’s interest in new tech becoming so lackluster, that whenever it sees a new or improved device or technology, they’ll just nod, and then go back to their routine lives, or re-immerse themselves inside their virtual entertainment and social media networks?

Of course, not everyone’s lives are routine, or immersed.

My point is, there appears to be none of the great excitement or fanfare whenever a new technology revelation bursts onto the scene as in years past.

Remember how you felt when the very first iPhone was revealed eight years ago?

“An iPod, a phone, an Internet mobile communicator. An iPod, a phone, an Internet mobile communicator . . .these are not three separate devices!” Apple’s Steve Jobs repeated while onstage, before an awestruck audience inside the Moscone Convention Center, in San Francisco.

Jobs emphasized all these features were inside one small, thin device a person could easily operate touching a glass surface.

Audience members began to understand what Jobs was trying to impart to them.

Their applause increased; cheers began cascading throughout the auditorium towards a smiling Steve Jobs.

As of late, we have not experienced these kinds of breath-taking, technological breakthroughs like we did in 2007.

Recently, it seems most announcements are about “enhancements” to existing technology and electronic devices.

Perhaps we have become so lulled with new technology announcements, we’re finding them monotonous.

Some of my readers will recall life 40 years ago, when it was much less “technologically hectic.”

In late 1975, the first Sony Betamax tape cassette cartridges and video recording machines were being sold in the US.

Yours truly lived and worked in Winsted for many years; however, I attended my junior and senior years of high school in Brainerd.

For a time, my family and I lived in the wondrous “Brainerd Lakes Area.”

During my junior year at Brainerd High School, I enrolled in the AV (Audio/Visual) class.

The AV class had ways of earning extra credit, one of which was to come in during the evening and record public service educational programs broadcast over-the-air.

We would then catalog, and add the new video recordings to the school’s Betamax videotape library.

Yours truly operated the videotape recording, and considered the Betamax videotape recording machine as a high-tech device – hey, it was the ‘70s.

I remember spending hours operating the Sony Betamax recording machine in the school’s small AV room.

The quality of those Betamax videotape recordings as actually pretty good.

A year later, a new video-cassette tape recording format by JVC (Victor Company of Japan) came out. It was called Video Home System (VHS).

And so began the late-great 1970s “videotape war” between Betamax and VHS.

To my millennial readers: This would be comparable to when the Blu-Ray Disc came out in 2003, and competed with the DVD (Digital Versatile Disc), which had been around since 1997.

Even though the Betamax was a smaller-sized cassette cartridge, and had superior video quality, the public ended up embracing VHS tapes used with VCR’s (Video Cassette Recorder).

I do recall one advantage VHS had over Betamax: their tapes could rewind much faster.

People began VHS videotaping everything on TV, causing some very interesting copyright issues.

This year, we have heard a lot of talk about the benefits of the IoT (Internet of Things), AI (Artificial Intelligence), self-driving cars, 3D printing, robotics, and the involvement of students with Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math (STEM) programs.

Most of my readers know I enjoy writing columns about the space program – past and present.

“Thanks Snoopy - are you still out there?” was one of my favorite columns from this year.

“Snoopy” was the name of the crew cabin (ascent stage) of the Apollo 10 lunar module used during the May 1969 dress-rehearsal for the landing on the moon, which would happen in July.

And yes, Snoopy is “still out there.”

In fact, Snoopy is the only surviving Apollo lunar module ascent stage still voyaging through space lo these many years.

You can read the May 25 “Thanks Snoopy - are you still out there?” column here: http://tinyurl.com/SnoopyLEM.

Will technology in 2016 change the way we live in the future?

Hang on folks; I have a feeling next year will be filled with some interesting surprises.

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