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World changing technology…

Posted by ken On January - 31 - 2010

When TV began in WA the equipment was primitive by today’s standards. Almost everything was thermionic valve driven, bulky, power hungry and in constant need of adjustment and a higher maintenance risk. Each time TVW took the PYE image orthicon cameras out on an outside broadcast there was a high likelihood of component faults. TVW’s original RCA TRT-IB videotape machines required constant server alignment as did each videotape played.

The smaller, less power hungry germanium transistors were trialed in 1947 with the first silicon transistor produced in 1954. It then took a while before they were in widespread use, replacing valves. The transistor is considered by many to be one of the greatest inventions of the twentieth century and is the key active component in practically all modern electronics. The next advance in miniaturisation was the printed circuit boards followed by integrated circuits… where not only transistors, but other electric components such as resistors, capacitors and diodes could be made by the same process.

Since the 1960’s, the number of transistors per unit area has been doubling about every two years. This fantastic progression of circuit fabrication is known as Moore’s law, after Gordon Moore, who introduced the concept in a 1965 paper. He being one of the early integrated circuit pioneers and founders of Intel Corporation. This has had a profound impact on most walks of life and in particular the entertainment industry. For the capabilities of many digital electronic devices are strongly linked to Moore’s law: processing speed, memory capacity, sensors and even the number and size of pixels in digital cameras.

Everything is being impacted by ever increasingly more powerful equipment and the dramatic cost reductions which result from the high consumption of these products. In the 1960’s a person could comfortably retire on the money it took to purchase the early videotape machines and studio cameras. Now much more superior cameras that record can be purchased by the householder which feature widescreen, high definition and long duration recording capacity in a battery driven, hand held device.

No more visible is this revolution in equipment than in consumer devices such as the recently announced Apple iPad, which has the potential to reshape how we entertain ourselves and how we interact with computers. Much of this will not become apparent until the full range of software and products are available for it.

It has a good chance of success in the market place as it not only feels like the future, but it is sure to appeal to the existing 75 million iPod Touch and iPhone users.

It will open up new opportunities for publishers including books, newspapers and magazines, the entertainment and games industry and software developers.

It is thin, portable, has an excellent screen, intuitive to operate, fast to turn-on and an incredibly speedy device.

It will reinforce the notion of watching TV shows and movies on a device other than a TV set. The Apple iTunes store is filling with all manner of content for the people who want to see a show now, rather than later when it is scheduled. Its expected that the new Apple iBook store will open up another market for publishers and the Apple Apps store will soon offer third party developed software for the iPad, which will fill the many fans with glee and add to the 140,000 apps already available. New applications and new games will also attract eyeballs away from the TV sets.

People can handle the iPad like a book. Just sit in a chair and hold it the same way, except that this thin device can also hold your entire book library.

The content and software shown at the Wednesday January 27, 2010 launch demonstrated how the device can be manipulated with simple hand gestures, rather than mouse and keyboard.

In the early days of computers the user had to learn a wide range of text commands and type them in. Now with the iPad, typing is reserved for actual data entry whilst virtually everything else can be controlled by gestures. Very reminiscent of the futuristic Tom Cruise science fiction drama Minority Report (2002), set in Washington, DC of the 2050s, where hand gestures were the interface to equipment which predicts future crimes, allowing prevention before they happen.

We are probably witnessing the future too, as this form of interface is likely to overtake all previous forms. There will be less need for convoluted software manuals, where in the early days each program had a different feel. Gestures bring added consistency to the interface and can be easily learnt by enthusiasts and the ever curious younger generations. Even the old and ingrained should have little difficulty if they are willing to try.

By release date more software will be available, though the the launch examples gave only a glimpse of the devices full potential.

We were shown web site and email access, viewed photo albums, watched movies and told that it was the best experience, as it felt natural, like a book in your hands, being both fast and fun to operate. A book reader was introduced with an associated online bookstore.

It was pointed out that it will also run all the iPhone applications and it’s anticipated that developers using the new software development kit will expand the scope even more. This includes the extremely low priced iWork productivity applications – Keynote, Pages and Numbers – which will be sold at $US9.99 each. That’s a tiny fraction of the equivalent Microsoft prices for similar functionality, except Microsoft has to catch up on the user friendliness of these products.

So in summary, books, movies, maps, newspapers, television shows and videogames will be distributed through the iPad. Many of the applications that you can download to the iPhone, iPod Touch and now iPad are games, which cost between US$0.99 and $US9.99 ($A11.17). These Apple hand held units have brought a new look to computer games because they have an accelerometer inside that lets people control the action by turning or tilting the device. So it’s a whole new world in many ways and with a starting price of $US499 it’s going to be a better experience than the current crop of Netbooks and more affordable than a Laptop.

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