Wednesday, April 4, 2018

Hand-held Media

I suspect that, given the topic for this week, you probably weren't expecting to see .. a "transistor radio." It was the latest in hand-held media technology when it d├ębuted in 1954, in an era when a "radio" was a piece of furniture only slightly smaller than the sofa. It was co-produced by Texas Instruments, who would later be a pioneer the field of computing; four years later, its laboratory would be the birthplace of the integrated circuit, and it would produce the first hand-held calculator in 1967 -- for the low low price of $2,500! It was probably around that year that I first got my own transistor radio, complete with a single monaural ear-bud, and saw one of the TI calculators my dad had brought back from the lab at General Electric (he actually had to sign it out, since it was such an expensive piece of hardware).

Of course no one foresaw in these early days that there would come a slow, Frankenstein-like convergence which would create a new device that would serve not only as a radio and a calculator, but also as a camera, video camera, music player, and telephone. The sheer weight and size of all the devices and media that an iPhone or Android smartphone replaces would easily top a hundred pounds, and take up an entire living-room wall. Weighing in at an average of 140g (about 5 ounces), the LP's that would be needed to equal a 32 GB iPhone loaded with music (400) stacks up to 125 pounds, not counting the weight of the sleeves and covers!

The milestones along the way are worth remembering, even as they fade from our sight: the Walkman (1978), the Discman (1984), and the first iPod (October 2001, scarcely fifteen years ago, if that's possible), and the first smartphone (IBM's Simon in 1992). One could very well ask, what could possibly be next? Or will the hand-held be supplanted by the strapped-on-the-head, the wearable, or even the implanted?

1 comment:

  1. I definitely think implanting will become more acceptable. One of the unique differences between the technology of the last decade vs all other preceding hand held tech is the battery operation and longevity. I remember having to use rechargeable batteries (AA's, AAA's etc.) for most of my devices. I had to frequently switch them up. Whereas I've only changed the battery on my Ipod classic once in the 8 years I've had it. I think the future might bring about long lasting battery energy (I read there is one laptop that can go for 4 days straight without being recharged - digital legend?). As we mentioned in class, there could be a way to harness body movement, solar, or some other ambient energy to use on small devices, even laptops.