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Entries in Technology (26)


Steve Wozniak

Tech Visionaries Wozniak & Jobs

He is an unlikely cult legend, his hulking frame and salt and pepper beard hardly reminiscent of the dangling, shiny carrots normally in the crosshairs of the paparazzi. Which in itself is ironic, as the parade of waifish, chemically destructive starlets is unending; there can only be one man who invented the PC, one man who developed the means upon which we rubberneck the self destruction of fleeting pseudo-celebs. He might be King Nerd and that is complimentary; the geek has inherited the Earth and this very planet would be quite insufferable without his innovations. If anyone deserves to have microphones shoved in his face as he exits a gas station restroom, it’s Steve Wozniak.

Again, calling him a nerd is suitable. This is a man who had a Ham Radio license in the sixth grade. This is a man who was placed on probation for “computer abuse” after developing a device that enabled him to place illegal toll free calls. He is a Freemason who plays on a Segway polo team. “The Woz” had a cameo on The Big Bang Theory as a man-God, and it was not done tongue-in-cheek.

Then again, more suitable than the nerd label is American Icon.

It was in high school that Woz was introduced to Steve Jobs, where the two spent a summer developing a mainframe at Hewlett-Packard. After dropping out of Cal-Berkeley after a year, Woz singlehandedly developed the Apple I (something he and Jobs did to impress members of the Homebrew Computer Club, a very local outlet for home electronics hobbyists). With a revelation deserving of more than inner-circle prestige, Woz and Jobs sold their belongings and used their combined wealth of $1,300 (as well as Jobs’ garage and Woz’s apartment for storage) and Apple Computers was born. Armed with 256 bytes of ROM, 8k bytes of RAM and a price tag of $666.66 (Woz has insisted upon his love of repeating digits, not the conspiratorial Satanism, regarding Apple I’s pricing), the road towards the matrix had been paved. If listening to tunes on an iPod while scrolling this article on a Mac or iPhone, pay homage to the HP scientific calculator that Woz had to pawn to allow this to happen.

Since Wozniak’s days at Apple, the pedigreed savant has been through a plane wreck (a crash in 1981 has left him with anterograde amnesia), a train wreck (Dancing with the Stars), and a whole lot of time to spread his massive wings. At last count, Woz holds nine or more degrees, some labored, some honorary. He has been known to receive prestigious awards-and accept with the same enthusiasm he brings when teaching grade school children in science classrooms. A chief member of the Inventor’s Hall of Fame, Woz has earned equal acclaim for his philanthropic contributions, which would take several issues of this magazine to list.

As for the future, perhaps we are fortunate that Wozniak suffers from amnesia. Because most men with such an esteemed resume would rest on their laurels and sip cocktails on a private beach. But with a brilliant mind and no dial-up speed in his makeup, Woz continues his wifi siege on technology through many ventures. He has already taken the computer from The Flintstones to The Jetsons. The next upload to this story should be an interesting ride.

And perhaps the existence of The Woz will have an effect on society, as well. Football players beware: the prom queen has been seen loitering around the AV Club.


Fisker Automotive 

If honest, most people applaud the idea of green sensibilities in automobiles, but the applause is reserved for others; hybrids have simply never been sexy.

Fisker Automotive is giving us a reason to give ourselves a standing ovation. Sex sells.

It began with a blank sheet of paper and a half century of refinement. Henrik Fisker co-founded the company in 2007 with business partner Bernhard Koehler upon securing a few relatively small investments. A plug-in car was not their invention, but their take on the concept very well may have been. We do know this-it is changing the industry. Henrik Fisker, the man charged with designing such legendary high end cars as the Aston Martin DB9 and the BMW Z8, saw no reason the revolution towards the future could not be merged with his artisan four wheeled mastery. Fisker Automotive was established on this premise.

The Anaheim based fabricators of ingenuity have turned the possibilities of a lithium ion battery upside down. Refined, polished and sleek, passion projects such as the Karma, Atlantic, Surf and Sunset have undertaken their aggressive and futuristic venture into automotive history with an appreciation of Mother Earth. Translation: the only place to see Arlo Guthrie, Henry Ford and George Jetson simultaneously is in the driver seat of a Fisker.

If this is sustainability in the modern era, we call shotgun.


Detroit People Mover

In 1987, amid the backdrop of precipitous economic decline since the 1970’s Detroit established the People Mover. This automated, elevated heavy rail line encircled the spoke like hub of Detroit’s downtown streets, in a one direction serpentine loop. Riders hiss along the route, viewing a menagerie of architecture, and turn of the 20th Century prowess. The compact downtown area, a veritable canyon of functional structures of commerce and culture, strangely mixed with vacant double digit storied skyscrapers – bearing shattered windows overhead – vertical tombs, telling tales of Detroit’s former glory. The rider sees this. The People Mover becomes a sort of ride in a grand exhibit chronicling America’s industrial and automobile manufacturing history. Juxtaposed with the bold cylindrical sheen of the Renaissance Center, the People Mover allowed Detroit to fully embrace the futuristic, dystopic pall conveyed in the RoboCop series.

The two car trains trundle, in a clockwise rotation, from the Renaissance Center, to Cobo Hall and Joe Louis Arena, up to Michigan Ave, and Grand River, swooping around the Grand Circus Park – the veritable hub of Detroit geography – where riders can hop off, destined for Comerica Park, or Ford Field, or enjoy a show in the city’s theater district. Further stops include Greektown, where the clamoring promise of a casino allures riders, and Bricktown, before arriving again at the Renaissance Center, completing the 2.9 mile loop. Each station: an artistic installation, as murals, mosaics, and sculptures by various artists meld into the complete state of affairs.

The cars themselves are evocative of the familiar heavy rail trains of New York, Chicago, and elsewhere, with two windows in the front and rear on either side of a door for movement from one car to the next. The functionality of the People Mover peaks on weekends, and during major events such as The Detroit Auto Expo, and high profile games. The People Mover has given, for better or worse, the womb of the automobile industry a functioning rail transit system, tying the major attractions in Downtown Detroit together in a comprehensive circuit.


Internet Trolls 

Lurking in the cyber dungeons of postmodernity, around America and abroad exists the Internet Troll. An odd species, shrouded in a strange admixture of anonymity and egalitarianism, the Internet Troll knows things. Writing, for instance. Internet forums of various ilks are the natural habitat of the Troll, as message boards, and comment threads turn into what are known as “flame wars.” This conflation of the “public sphere” described by German theorist Jurgen Habermas gets warbled to a new thing unto itself.

Battles ensue, as these gargantuan intellects lock horns. Requoting previous postings fosters a direct indirect attack of ideas buried in verbiage. Delimiting terms, meant to be insulting, such as “noob” and “moonbat” are applied, and bandied about. Ad hominem fallacies become fine oil paints slathered around, and smeared. Signature lines of a post, concordant with the persona’s avatar and, indeed, online personality, speaks to personal tastes, and become a sort of costumed presentation. A link might be provided to a website, or the Troll’s personal blog, on which great political manifestos are to be had. Maybe a picture or an animated gif of a superhero. Or a supermodel. Bold lines might quote a great leader. Or an author. Or even a philosopher. The Internet Troll forges a virtual allegiance with those great minds that might have gone before him. This pseudo public sphere suits the Troll, as these important debates dirge onward. Friedrich Nietzsche’s postmodern curse: that “mobile army of metaphors, metonyms, and anthropomorphisms” as a means of “will to power” takes on a context even he could not fathom.

The Troll knows, with great acumen, how to compose, under clever aliases and personas, reviews for books, films, video games, and even restaurants. These assertions are to be taken seriously. A scathing pan of an article or critique of a film has been leveled upon some mortal creator. The Troll, a great destroyer. If only in his mind.

An eBay site, under the Troll’s direction, might sell various gimcracks, and trinkets. Maybe some silver coins. The great collapse may just happen, you know. The Troll will no doubt post photos of such exploits, on their personal blog, describing how some “noob” was more or less hoodwinked. Amazing things happen in basements of mothers across America.


Where's George ? 

Since the late 1990’s, Where's George has been tracking locations of dollar bills. This intrinsically participatory website allows the user to plug in the serial number of a bill, log his or her location, and see where that bill has been since tracking began. Far flung positions within the United States and abroad provide a framework of narrative surrounding the circulation of basic currency. Bills rubber stamped with a “” moniker prompt potential participants.

The untold millions of bills passed tell a loose story of fortunes bought and sold, and speak of the pedestrian power of the basic dollar bill. A truncated answer to the timeless question of where the money goes is provided. The project gives a glimpse into the bowels of actual commerce as locations and dates are revealed, and provide insight into the inherently communicable nature of a free market society. Perhaps the invisible hand has become somewhat more visible.

Open Source Ecology

Founded in 2003 by Marcin Jakubowski, then a doctoral student in physics at the University of Wisconsin, Open Source Ecology strives to provide a comprehensive set of blueprints for the tools needed to build and in many cases, rebuild, self sustaining agrarian communities. Buzz words such as “green,” and “sustainable,” and “permaculture” batter the post modern consciousness like guilt laden asteroids; OSE focuses more on action than pathos infused rhetoric. The reality of economic contraction, and the dwindling availability resources, has garnered the attention of many talented developers now involved in the project.

Fully downloadable schematics for things as varied as front end loaders, brick presses, saw mills, and even functional robotic arms, fashioned from steel bars and hydraulic lines, vault any participant into a realm seemingly on par with science fiction. The OSE, through their development of the Global Village Construction Set, with input from scientists and engineers across the United States, and testing facilities on “Factor e Farm” in rural Missouri, is, indeed, fact.


Acela Express 

Along the megalopolis trunk from Boston to Washington D.C., the reality of high speed rail has been in place for over a decade. Designed with banking turns, car tilting technology, and a sleek, almost trademark tapered engine car, the Acela boasts a travel time between Boston and DC as a seven hour trip.

The Acela’s top speed is listed at 150 miles per hour, though unofficial clockings have been rumored at upwards of 180 mph. Staring out the window, feeling almost no motion beneath one’s feet, yet seeing trees blur into inhuman smears of browns and greens – streaks twice as amorphous as the fastest car trip one may have witnessed from the backseat of a station wagon, or riding shotgun in a teenage friend’s uncle’s Viper – is sure to evoke some level of cognitive dissonance. Just maybe, time has been warped; perhaps the Acela is so fast, that arrival time is in the past? Ostensibly, the Acela significantly reduces travel time, especially in a region nearly asphyxiated by traffic, but a mosaic of shared right of ways with freight, commuter, and regular speed Amtrak trains, and community speed restrictions turn an otherwise seamless alternative to air travel into a series of whooshing sprints and turgid, albeit smooth slowdowns.

The Acela cars follow the airline coach model, with ample seating; include multiple ports for the recharging of various accoutrements, have wifi, a café car for light snacking, and even what is referred to as the Quiet car. Perhaps what an airplane might have if it were four times longer.


Powell Crosley: An American Original 

Crosley at WLW control panel

American ingenuity.

Often it stems from the gap between desire and the weight of one’s pocketbook. With a grimacing pain on our face, we might remember the outlandish cost of our first computer or flat screen television as compared to the affordability of these items today. In such scenarios, a visionary sought to take the toys off of Millionaire’s Row and onto Main Street.

Never has this been truer than the case of Powel Crosley.

1950 Crosley Super Roadster

The Steve Jobs of his era, it was 1920 when Powel Crosley founded the pioneering radio broadcasting company that would change the world. But long before he went on to create the behemoth 700 WLW station, long before he introduced the universe to revolutionary television and refrigeration appliances, or spearheaded the first television NBC affiliate or created the car radio, still long before he altered the future of Major League Baseball and mass media…there was the issue of $130. Having promised to purchase a radio receiver for his son’s birthday, Crosley, shocked at the appalling $130 asking price (in 1920, nonetheless) sought to make his own. Realizing a functioning set could be crafted for only $35, the market potential was not lost on Crosley. Manic detail and precision at an affordable tag was Powel Crosley’s insanely simplistic vision; and it was this vision that exalted him as a legendary forefather of media as it breathes today.

1953 Crosley " Dashboard Radio"

These days the Crosley name is synonymous with classic inspiration. The company has continued its futuristic drive with a nod to the past. With pristinely detailed replicas and reintroductions of vintage radios and turntables, married with the technology of today, the Crosley Collection surges forth. Their collection includes mobile suitcase - styled record players and turntables, record changers, multi- functional audio cassette/compact disc players, jukeboxes, music boxes, telephones, and just about anything else that might come to mind. All created, of course, in the ageless styling that only a Crosley product can bring.

As for Steve Jobs, one can only imagine the conversation between the Apple guru and Powel Crosley, the man who made mass media possible. To be a fly on the wall at a MENSA meeting would seem tediously sophomoric by comparison.


Nintendo Entertainment System ( NES )

Remember When ?

Though released in 1985, it was actually 1986 when a little plumber named Mario burst onto the scene and forever changed the landscape of culture.

Atari had set the stage with its revolutionary (if not archaic) block style gaming. Then the Nintendo NES happened. Armed with a basic controller and a zapper light gun, the NES had what its contemporaries did not-a robot that worked on a then space- age command system. With a complimentary Mario/Duck Hunt game thrown in, family dinners soon became as extinct as outdoors play. Kids across America were addicted to conquering levels of such now- basic titles as Excitebike, Kung Fu, and Hogan’s Alley.

Nintendo NES is a dinosaur these days, with inter-coastal trash talk and uncannily real graphics rampant amongst the feverish gaming community. But in 1986, when an interrupted game meant not that an internet connection was broken, but that a cartridge simply needed to be blown into … Mario jumped his way into our hearts.



In the era of FPS or “first-person-shooter” video games, military scenarios reign supreme. Atop the charts are the franchise titles of Modern Warfare and Battlefield—each to publish new versions this coming winter. Console and PC based gaming enthusiasts are near frenzy with anticipation for their next global conflict. There are some, waiting silently on standby for an unknown military FPS that has the potential to change the way we approach the genre altogether.

WARCO is a military FPS that embeds the gamer in full military combat and interaction as a war correspondent capturing photojournalistic news in conflict hot zones. Rather than being armed with a weapon, WARCO players are equipped with video cameras used to “see through the lens”, composing shots, capturing images and editing/publishing a news story.

In the moral gray area where military action often exists, decisions made by WARCO gamers will dictate and influence how the world perceives the conflict presented. In a society where media presentation influences global truths, WARCO could be an education regarding the impact and reality of first world entitlement. With a yet unpublished release date, WARCO could prove to be a bona fide game changer.

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