From A Wooden Apple To…

a useless old computer that started a billion dollar company
Since this is a new blog, I’ve been watching the traffic – mostly in the laughably vain concern that I might begin to approach my throughput limitation (hey, it’s my fantasy, alright) – and this morning discovered a rather interesting visitor had stopped in.

Now before I continue, I should preface this by saying I first read a slew of emails, all RepRap related. Included in one such group email was the confirmation that ABS cylindrical stocks are available and have melt points (~110 C) that make it possible to use this material in that experimental, 4-day-in-the-making, Vik Olliver Meccano effort about which I posted earlier. Having been in the manufacturing side of plastics for years, I can assure you ABS is highly regarded (too often I’ve had to make due with lesser plastics like SAN).

Hence my amusement at a mention by none other than Bruce Sterling on his Wired blog. And while I have nothing to do with the item in question, I do now perhaps have a better understanding of Mr. Sterling – even though I understand the post is intended to poke some fun. Well. Kinda. See, it took four years studying ID before I began to shed my aerospace engineering “blinders” (hey, I got through orbital mechanics mathematics and their painful derivations, but it didn’t make me inventive), and he’s only been at ACCD a few months, I believe. Furthermore, if I recall correctly, he won’t be there much longer. A shame. Hanging around a bunch of students who aren’t polarized into a way of thinking can be liberating… in ways that hanging around experts isn’t. I recall one student in 1992 (now a design firm principal, I believe) having the audacity to suggest handheld cellphone-like devices in ten years! That idiot! If only he’d listened to the impossibility of that development from all the senior instructors and engineers.

Why respond? Maybe because it was all the comments made by people in the late 70’s. “Whut da hell ya need a ‘puter fer? Ah got me a 350 Chevy.” I recall those kinds of comments. I just didn’t expect Bruce Sterling to be the one to pull them from my memory. What a great reminder of how things are. And how I expect them to continue to be, especially in regards to virtual worlds. I was just having this conversation last night with Jerry… in world….

(note: the above image from 8-Bit Nirvana)

I Kinda Remember That Idea


Wired has a cool article on “shake and bake” shelters. I especially like this idea because I volunteered something similar – though not as elegant – during a Rubbermaid R&D conference years ago. And this one is so much better since it’s intended for humanitarian aid and uses natural materials. Excellent example of what ID does best.

The Anti-Sony

C|Net is carrying an interesting article on Samsung. I seem to recall Samsung on a design hiring spree around 1997 – forming a partnership with a well-known design firm (whose name escapes me at the moment) and setting up studios to help them develop the kinds of products needed to…well…kick Sony’s ass. Looks like that effort, doubtlessly part of a much larger strategy, has worked.

This success does, however, pose a problem for me. The speculation is that Sony stumbled in part because they were attempting to protect their entertainment division. Even if someone dreamed up an iPod before Apple, when a company owns content, they’re naturally going to be hesitant to develop products which facilitate its theft. Before they got into the media business, they doubtlessly had little concern about the effects their Walkmans or VCR’s would have on the entertainment industry.

The problem now, for content creators, is that a lesson is being learned in corporate boardrooms everywhere; that lesson being: forget protecting content. For designers looking more and more at creating content as options to the declining job market in the West (as it moves to low-cost Asian countries), this does not bode well. And in the long run, it doesn’t bode well for the public who thinks nothing of stealing music and movies. That is unless Westerners are prepared to watch subtitled movies and listen to foreign-language pop songs.

I can just see redneck Bubba, dressed in his Indian-made Western clothes, listening to Filipino singers covering Hank Williams tunes on his Taiwanese radio driving his Japanese truck to his job at the Chinese buffet. Just hope he likes Tsingtao beer.

Xbox 2

Blue’s News has posted a portion of the features listed in the “Guide” to Microsoft’s upcoming gaming platform: the eagerly anticipated Xbox 2. Among the features of note are:

* Marketplace. Browseable by game, by genre, and in a number of other ways, the Marketplace will provide a one-stop shop for consumers to acquire episodic content, new game levels, maps, weapons, vehicles, skins and new community-created content.
* Micro-transactions. Breaking down barriers of small-ticket online commerce, micro-transactions will allow developers and the gaming community to charge as little as they like for content they create and publish on Marketplace. Imagine players slapping down $.99 to buy a one-of-a-kind, fully tricked-out racing car to be the envy of their buddies.

Some of you out there understand why I initially chose “reBang” as my company name: it referred to the creation of real world product additionally leveraged as virtual content. This makes sense since the modern development of tangible goods almost always now involves the creation of a virtual 3D representation.

I’ve been waiting for the chance to straddle two worlds for some time, and the implementation of Marketplace and Micro-transactions features in MS’s console signals that this may now soon be possible (the first issue, high-rez content, has been resolved with the latest technology as demonstrated in Half-Life 2, Doom3, and the forthcoming Unreal 3 game engine).

Looks like I need to get myself in gear and position myself appropriately now that the time is fast approaching for this to happen. And that may mean less “shotgun” blogging and more focus. It was coming anyway.