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What you need to know before buying a computer

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At last the secret of what you need to know before buying a computer is revealed, there is no one size fits all answer. But you don’t need to be a world class geek to learn computer buzzwords and understand some basic concepts before you shop for your next computer.

I usually try to stay out of the Apple versus Microsoft debates. Since I am updating some content on desktop operating systems on Computerguru.net I thought I would use this blog post to address the often asked question of "what computer should I buy" and add this perspective. I will also  introduce a few new articles to answer some frequently asked questions relevant to someone shopping for a computer.

Recently on an online forum the question of "what computer should I buy" was asked based on the idea that a MacBook Pro is inherently the best laptop out there. The person asking the question was looking for reasons to buy a MacBook Pro, but gave no clues on how they are going to use it. That is a very important factor in answering the question! I never answer any questions on "what computer should I buy" for friends and family until I ask several questions.

I laughed as I read one of the answers that stated, "If all you are going to do is web surfing, social media, and email you don’t need a MacBook Pro." Yea, that's right. There are Chromebooks as well as cheap Windows notebooks that could do that for a lot less money!

My best advice to anyone looking to buy a computer, think long and hard about how you are going to use it, and find other people with the same wants and needs, and ask them what they own, what they like and not like about it.

I am not a graphics designer or an artist, those are the type of users who are typically the Apple fans. I have been working in enterprise computer networking for more than 20 years, started working on desktop computers in the 1980s. I look at the computer as a tool, and I look at what is the best tool for the task at hand. I have no loyalties to any specific brands.

Many answers comparing Microsoft to Apple often use various luxury car to cheap foreign comparisons, implying if you could afford the expensive luxury car, but choose otherwise, you must be a fool. So let me run with that analogy.

Take a step back and look at the history of Apple versus Microsoft.  In the 1990s when Windows 95 dominated the desktop, Microsoft was the Ford F-150 pick up truck.  Not many people would describe the Ford F-150 pick up truck as a sexy luxury vehicle, but many would describe it as the work horse vehicle that gets the job done.  There's a good case to be made that the folks marketing to the pick up truck users have a different plan than those looking to sell the sexy luxury vehicle.

A computer is a tool I use for work, as well as recreation. I work in a business world that is Microsoft based. We are required to purchase a specific brand of Windows based computers, not my favorite brand, but that's my environment. My problems are no so much with Windows as it is the vendors that support our users create applications that run on old Microsoft operating systems. I have to deal with home cooked applications that are designed for last generation Windows computers. That's my world.

I have had iPads and various other Apple products in my home, and they never got used. Even if the interface is slightly different, I don't have time to deal with it. I have had access to Kindles and Nooks, and they never got used. I can put an application on my Windows notebook that reads the books, so why do I need to learn a new interface? It's called being lazy, I know it is, but I have no personal reason to care about Apple products. It's nothing personal.

If one of my family members wants to buy a luxury car, I will be happy to ride in it. If money were no object, tomorrow I would go out and buy a new Ford F-150 pick up truck that best suited my needs.

I don't get emotionally attached to my computers or automobiles. They are tools. Nothing more.

You too can understand computer buzzwords

Since 1998, ComputerGuru.net has attempted to provide self help and tutorials for learning basic computer and networking technology concepts, maintaining the theme, "Geek Speak Made Simple." Recently I updated the Drupal content management software for Computerguru and updated a few pages.

Based on commonly asked questions, I have added several new pages to the section Common technology questions and basic computer concepts. On computer operating systems we have added an article that explains the major differences between desktop computer operating systems and one on installing Linux and understanding all the different Linux distributions.

I get a lot a questions on computer cables and finally finished up this article on Ethernet computer network cable frequently asked questions answered and an article explaining computer network modular connectors and telephone registered jacks.

And based on many questions on printers, we had some fun coming up with this article, the ugly truth about computer printers.

Yes, I know that sounds like a lot of geek speak, but we do our best to break it all down into small bite sized chunks, so it is easy to digest.  Please take a few minutes to check out the new content, and please share it with your geek friends on social media.

Any topics need covered? Any questions missing?

Are there any buzzwords bothering you?  Something else you would like us to cover here at the Guru 42 Universe?  Let us know: Guru 42 on Twitter -|- Guru 42 on Facebook -|- Guru 42 on Google+ -|- Tom Peracchio on Google  

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Buzzwords from the world wide web to deep web and dark net

Guru 42 Front Door -

There are a lot of definitions that get thrown around about “the deep web” and “the dark web.” It is frustrating how people use the terms without a clue as to what they mean. The deep web and dark web are NOT synonyms!

Starting with defining "The Internet," think of all the wires and connections as a highway system. When I talk about the general term of the internet, I am speaking about the technologies that move packets of information along wires from one destination to another, specifically the family of protocols known as TCP/IP (transmission control protocol - internet protocol).

The "World Wide Web” represents the many destinations that are connected together using the public highway system of the internet. When I talk about the general term of the World Wide Web, I am speaking about the technologies that create websites and webservers such as HTTP (hypertext transfer protocol) and HTML (hypertext markup language).

Where it gets confusing is how you apply the usage of the terms. Sometimes when people say "the internet" they are not describing just the highway system, but they are using the term to represent all the websites in existence. Likewise, often when people say “The World Wide Web” they use it to mean all the websites in existence.

The technology that the internet uses on the public highway, things like the internet protocols like TCP/IP and World Wide Web components HTTP and HTML, can also be used to take us to private destinations as well. This collection of private destinations is known as the "Deep Web." Computer scientist Michael Bergman, founder of search indexing specialist company Bright Planet is credited with coining the term deep web in 2001 as part of a research study.

In 2014, a Forbes article, "Insider Trading On The Dark Web"(1), completely confuses the terms and misquotes the definitions of BrightPlanet CEO Michael Bergman and incorrectly describes Bright Planet as "a firm that harvests data from the Dark Web." In response to confusion about the terms Deep Web versus Dark Web BrightPlanet published the article, "Clearing Up Confusion – Deep Web vs. Dark Web." (2)

The link to the BrightPlanet article is listed at the end of this article, but here are a few points from that article which define the main points.

- "The Surface Web is anything that can be indexed by a typical search engine like Google, Bing or Yahoo."
- "...the Deep Web is anything that a search engine can’t find."
- "The Dark Web then is classified as a small portion of the Deep Web that has been intentionally hidden and is inaccessible through standard web browsers."
- "The key thing to keep in mind is the Dark Web is a small portion of the Deep Web."



Why does the "deep web" have much more content than the "regular web" since it's used by far fewer people?

Here's an analogy that might help you understand why there is so much more information "below the surface" on private networks, than above the surface on public networks.

Go to the downtown of an average city where you can find a variety of commercial office buildings. Some of the buildings have a lobby, where you can go inside and walk around. Some buildings might actually have a common area where the general public can walk around freely and access various bits of information, like the lobby of a bank or insurance company. But on the floors above the lobby are offices which require special privileges to access, you must have a need to get into these rooms.

Likewise, you might have a government building where the first floor might contain a post office or some other public service agency that anyone can access. But the floors above it could contain other types of offices where admission is restricted, or accessed by invitation only.

In your downtown area, how many of the buildings can you walk around freely, and how many have controlled access? Are there buildings that you can not walk around in at all because they are privately owned and don't allow access to the general public?

I could expand the analogy further, but hopefully you start to see that in the "real world" of your downtown area there will places that are open to the public, and other areas with various degrees of access limitations. Likewise in the virtual world of the web, there there will places that are open to the public, and other areas with various degrees of access limitations.

The deep web does not mean some dark and mysterious place of evil, it is simply a term describing an area of controlled access rather than free and open access.

What is the dark web and how do you access it?

Going back to the analogy that the deep web represents the buildings in your town that don't allow access to the general public, the dark web represents all the back alley doorways that are not clearly marked and are accessed by knowing what to say to the doorman to gain access to what is inside.

The worldwide network known as “the dark web”uses specially configured servers designed to work with custom configured web browsers with the purpose of hiding your identity. You will see the term Tor servers and web browers to describe this private network. Tor originally stood for "The Onion Router."

Tor receives funding from the American government but operates as an independent nonprofit organization. The dark web is an interesting place as described in a Washington Post article that explains how the NSA is working around the clock to undermine Tor's anonymity while other branches of the federal government are helping fund it.(3)

A Wired article explains how WikiLeaks was launched with documents intercepted from Tor.(4) You can follow this link to an interview with former government contractor Edward Snowden (5) explaining how Tor is used to create private communications channel.

What can you find on the dark net?

The mysterious dark web, sometimes called the dark net, is the fuel for spy movies. it helped to create WikiLeaks run by the super spy Julian Assange and it allows cyber snitches like Edward Snowden share secret information.

Because the dark net is hidden, and the people that are hiding are doing their best not to be found, knowing the what goes on in the dark can be as mysterious as the name implies. For example one study that claims that nearly half of the sites on the dark net are not doing anything illegal.(6) But a different study that claims that 80% of dark net traffic is related to child abuse and porn sites.(7)

Various names have been used to describe the dark net such as the black internet, to suggest it is the home of online black markets. And the claims of the black internet are supported when a well know online drug black market gets busted. (8)

But does anyone really know what we could find on the dark net? What could you find in your city if you started knocking on doors in dark alleys? Would you want to guess?

References:

(1) Insider Trading On The Dark Web https://www.forbes.com/sites/realspin/2014/03/25/insider-trading-on-the-dark-web/

(2) Clearing Up Confusion – Deep Web vs. Dark Web. https://brightplanet.com/2014/03/clearing-confusion-deep-web-vs-dark-web/

(3) The NSA is trying to crack Tor. The State Department is helping pay for it.
https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/the-switch/wp/2013/10/05/the-nsa-is-trying-to-crack-tor-the-state-department-is-helping-pay-for-it/

(4) WikiLeaks Was Launched With Documents Intercepted From Tor
https://www.wired.com/2010/06/wikileaks-documents/

(5) This is What a Tor Supporter Looks Like: Edward Snowden
https://blog.torproject.org/blog/what-tor-supporter-looks-edward-snowden

(6) Research suggests the dark web is not as dark as we think
http://www.htxt.co.za/2016/11/02/research-suggests-the-dark-web-is-not-as-dark-as-we-think/

(7) Study claims more than 80% of 'dark net' traffic is to child abuse sites
https://www.theguardian.com/technology/2014/dec/31/dark-web-traffic-child-abuse-sites

(8) "End Of The Silk Road: FBI Says It's Busted The Web's Biggest Anonymous Drug Black Market"
https://www.forbes.com/sites/andygreenberg/2013/10/02/end-of-the-silk-road-fbi-busts-the-webs-biggest-anonymous-drug-black-market/

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Everything you need to know about Ethernet and computer cabling

Guru 42 Front Door -

The concepts of Ethernet and computer network cabling are so full of buzzwords and geek speak. We wanted to break down the jargon into bite sized chunks to help you understand the concepts. 

Everything in computer networking starts at the physical layer, that's where the wires plug into the boxes with blinking lights. Because Ethernet deals with wires at the physical layer, at times Ethernet becomes a generic word for any type of wire associated with a computer network.

We created this section of business success beyond the technology buzzwords at the Guru 42 Universe based on conversations we had with business professionals as well as technology professionals. In discussing technology from the perspective of a business owner or business manager we realize you don't have time to become a network engineer, but we also understand your frustration in understanding all the buzzwords. With those thoughts in mind we created this introductory page on defining the term Ethernet and explaining computer network cabling.

In designing ComputerGuru we break down the topics from the perspective audience of the person asking the questions. At our ComputerGuru site we have the section, Common technology questions and basic computer concepts, which is aimed at the typical home computer user.  

Even a non technical casual user of a personal computer has probably heard of the term Ethernet from time to time.  Likewise, the typical computer user has probably misplaced a piece of wire used to connect their computer and went off in search of a network cable.  As an introduction to Ethernet and computer network cabling we have created the following pages: Ethernet computer network cable frequently asked questions answered and Computer network modular connectors and telephone registered jacks.

The strict technical definition of Ethernet is a physical and data link layer technology for local area networks (LANs). If you want to dig deeper into the technology, in our section targeted to learning computer networking technology we have the section, Basic network concepts and the OSI model explained in simple terms.  In that section The Physical Layer of the OSI model discusses the more technical terms of data communications.  The concept of Ethernet is more than just defining wires and connections, and that is discussed as part of the The Data Link Layer of the OSI model.

Any topics need covered? Any questions missing?

Are there any buzzwords bothering you?  Something else you would like us to cover here at the Guru 42 Universe?  Let us know: Guru 42 on Twitter -|- Guru 42 on Facebook -|- Guru 42 on Google+ -|- Tom Peracchio on Google  

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Singularity futurist predicts when humans and machines merge

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As we study Geek History we explore the visionaries who have an idea and see what is possible, often before the technology exists to make it real. Ray Kurzweil has been a technology visionary since the 1970s when he invented a reading machine for the blind with a text-to-speech synthesizer. In the 1980s Kurzweil created the first electronic musical instrument which produced sound derived from sampled sounds burned onto integrated circuits.

Inventor and futurist Ray Kurzweil believes the day that artificial intelligence becomes infinitely more powerful than all human intelligence combined is not that far off in the future. In his book, "The Singularity Is Near: When Humans Transcend Biology" written in 2006, Kurzweil predicts when this new phase of artificial super intelligence takes place. "I set the date for the Singularity—representing a profound and disruptive transformation in human capability—as 2045"

Is singularity a destination?

So how far is it from here to infinity? How long will it take us to get to eternity?

I often say that the more I learn, the more I realize how little I know. The phrase "You don't know what you don't know" has been said many ways. It is a play on a well-known saying that is derived from Plato's account of the Greek philosopher Socrates, "I know one thing; that I know nothing."

Maybe I am looking at this from my simple minded human perspective, but three decades is a pretty short time period in the evolution of humans and technology. I have the experience of having worked in the field of technology for more than four decades.

I sound like a real old fart when I talk about using radios with tubes in the 1970s and working as various forms of technology as it transitioned to solid state electronics. I remember back in the 1980s when I tried to explain to people how they would be using personal computers as tools in their business plugging them into phone lines. The concept of the internet was not widely known back then.

No one can predict the future with any certainty. Of course, if you want to debate, there were always those visionaries ahead of their time. Leonardo da Vinci is perhaps the greatest visionary to have ever lived. Leonardo saw the possibilities of flying machines in the 1500s, and designed in theory many examples of flying machines, centuries before the Wright Brothers launched their plane at Kitty Hawk. Relatively few of his designs were constructed or even feasible during his lifetime, the scope and depth of his interests were without precedent in recorded history.

There were many people who could look into the future and see what was possible, such as a true visionary Jules Verne, who was quoted in 1865 as saying, "In spite of the opinions of certain narrow-minded people who would shut up the human race upon this globe, we shall one day travel to the moon, the planets, and the stars with the same facility, rapidity and certainty as we now make the ocean voyage from Liverpool to New York."

One of my favorite science fiction authors I read growing up was Isaac Asimov who told amazing stories of robotics and artificial intelligence. The technology of the 1940s and 1950s could not create the robots in the stories of Asimov. Today the stories of intelligent robots are no longer fiction.

Maybe I've read too many science fiction novels about the utopias and the dystopias? When I say, "You don't know what you don't know," I look at the examples given here. With every generation we are amazed with how far we have come as we look back to the past. But we also see the long journey ahead and are equally amazed as we look towards the future.

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When the internet is down my radio still works

Guru 42 Blog -

From time to time events in the world remind us that modern technology has limits, as we recently saw with the problems with Amazon Web Services, that took down many major web sites. People were having panic attacks because they were having issues getting to their favorite website.

Theoretically the internet was created to be a better more fault tolerant communications system. As the internet has exploded commercially it has become the exactly the opposite of the original goal. It has created the biggest single point of failure in our world. People forget there are other ways of doing things without using the internet, like using traditional broadcast radio for news and entertainment.

It scares me that some people think that we should use the internet for everything. Instead of making any more comments based on my subjective opinion, I felt inspired to do a little research.

It would appear that traditional radio is still alive and well.

Here are some snippets from Pew Research on radio broadcasting:

"... terrestrial radio continues to reach the overwhelming majority of the public."

As far as using radio for a source of news and information:

"Pew Research Center’s own survey work adds insight here, finding radio to be a common source of news among adults in the U.S. In research asking about how people are learning about the U.S. presidential election, 44% of adults said they learned about it from radio in the past week. "

Source: Pew Research Center Audio: Fact Sheet

To those who say terrestrial radio (traditional broadcast radio) is dead, might be surprised to see that the Pew research numbers show that the percentage of Americans ages 12 or older who listen to terrestrial radio weekly has remained pretty steady at over 90% for the years 2009 through 2015.

Source: Audio: Weekly radio listenership (terrestrial)

Why not always use the internet?

You use the simplest tool you need to solve a problem, why make things more complicated than they need to be?

I want to kick back after dinner, and unwind watching some mindless entertainment. I watch television. The internet can be a pain at times. Connections are slow, websites are take too long to load. Sometimes the alternatives to using the internet are more efficient.

I want to sit on the porch, enjoy a beverage, and relax. I listen to the radio. It is quick and simple. Why would I use anything else?

I am driving in the car, I want some background music to pass the time. I listen to the radio. Why do I need the internet?

What if the power goes out? What happens then? Will my wi-fi work? Or I just could listen to my battery powered radio to connect to the world.

Need any more examples?

Why it makes sense to receive FM Radio on your cell phone

Does it makes sense to eliminate FM radio in favor of digital?
 

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Net Neutrality and the myth that the internet is free

Guru 42 Blog -

One argument over net neutrality is the fear that the large Cable TV providers like Comcast controlling internet access as ISPs could charge for various levels of service on the internet in tiers, like they do with Cable TV services. Some people object to that because they believe "the internet should be free."

Entertainment such as radio and television started out as broadcast media, in that you had a receiver in your home to receive the signals broadcast by the local stations. Television grew out of radio. In the early days of television, the 1930s and 1940s, the successful television networks were the ones that started with radio networks.

There are still "free" televisions stations in that you can find many local stations that broadcast a signal through the air that you can receive. Cable TV was initially created to provide television service to areas that did not receive a good broadcast signal. As cable TV expanded in the 1960s and 1970s the Cable TV operators began to add extra channels to their systems that were not derived from broadcast signals.

The internet of today is the next step in the evolution of entertainment. The internet is new way to deliver various content to your homes through wires provided by your Cable TV company that were once used just to deliver television service. Satellite services once developed to compete with cable TV services now also deliver internet access. Radio has also expanded beyond the traditional through the air broadcasting to satellite radio and internet radio.

Broadcast radio is only free in the sense that you do not pay an ongoing fee to listen to the radio. But you pay for in the sense that you listen to advertising that is paid for by someone else. With cable television you are paying for the convenience of having a clear television signal delivered to your home through a wire. The programming is paid for in various ways, sometimes strictly by advertising, just like in the days of broadcasting. Sometimes the programming is paid for by fees through the cable services provider for carrying the channel. In the case of premium services like HBO or Showtime, you get to watch them commercial free, but you pay a premium, as in a charge to view them, that offsets the revenue that the commercials would raise.

Right now internet service providers are providing you with a connection to the services and you are paying for the access just like in the early days of cable TV. There are also premium services on the internet like NetFlix, where you pay a premium to access content, just like you would with premium services like HBO or Showtime.

Gratis versus libre free speech not the same as free beer

I stumbled upon an article about American software freedom activist and programmer Richard Stallman drawing attention to the concept of gratis versus libre and had a massive "ah-huh" moment regarding how this concept of "free" gets twisted in the net neutrality debate.

Richard Stallman is considered the father of the Open Source software movement. Stallman explains that Open Source refers to the preservation of the freedoms to use, study, distribute and modify that software not zero-cost. In illustrating the concept of Gratis versus Libre, Stallman is famous for using the sentence, "free as in free speech not as in free beer."

This dual definition of free can cause issues where the distinction is important, as it often is in dealing with laws concerning the use of information, such as copyright and patents.

There's no such thing as a free lunch but you are free to eat your lunch anywhere you want.

The use of the English adjective free often gets twisted because it can be used in one of two meanings. When you say there's no such thing as a free lunch you are using the word free meaning "for zero price" (gratis). When you say you are free to eat your lunch anywhere you want you are using the word free to mean "with little or no restriction" (libre).

The myth that the internet is free

Some people don't like the possibility of the large cable TV providers like Comcast controlling internet access as ISPs where they could charge for various levels of service on the internet in tiers, like they do with Cable TV services. That is part of the battle over net neutrality. Nothing is free.

Traditional radio and television are evolving and expanding and becoming a part of the big picture of media and the internet. If you don't pay an upfront fee to use something, you will pay for it in having to tolerate some form of advertising. If you want a better quality signal someone needs to pay to build up the highway to provide the services, and you will pay for that in service fees. If you want to watch programming or listen to music without commercials, there needs to be a way to license it and collect fees in the form of subscriptions so the content providers get paid for their work.

Part of the debate on a "free" internet is that the concept of free is two fold. You may be free to choose what services you want to use on the internet, but access to use those services is not free from cost or payment.

Graphic: American software freedom activist and programmer Richard Stallman (right) illustrating his famous sentence "free as in free speech not as in free beer", with a beer glass. Brussels, RMLL, 9 July 2013

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Why it makes sense to receive FM Radio on your cell phone

Guru 42 Blog -

Most smartphones come with FM radio receivers already built in, and the new chairman of the Federal Communications Commission wants you to know that your wireless carrier may be keeping you from using the technology.

Why should you care about using FM Radio on your cell phone?

Emergency management professionals will tell you that traditional radio is a great source for news during times of emergency.

There are people in the cell phone industry that would call the public safety argument for using cell phone FM radio just a marketing ploy by traditional radio, but I would disagree. I know from first hand experience how fickle cell phone service can be.

During an earthquake on the east coast a few years ago everyone picked up their cellphones and began calling everyone they know to see what had happened. The cell phone circuits were overloaded. Thankfully the earthquake was just some rumbling and no major damage was done. But we all saw how vulnerable we are if we rely on cellular phone circuits for information during a time of emergency.

It happened again with Hurricane Sandy, and the problem was compounded by actual damage to cell towers and power outages in addition to increased phone volume. Cell phone users experienced various communications issues.

What is the issue with using FM Radio on your cell phone?

This article from Wired back in July pretty much sums up the issue…("Your Phone Has an FM Chip. So Why Can’t You Listen to the Radio?")

"Broadcasters and public safety officials have long urged handset manufacturers and wireless carriers to universally activate the FM chip, and recently brought the campaign to Canada. Carriers have little financial incentive to do so because they profit from streaming data, says Barry Rooke of the National Campus and Community Radio Association."

It's funny that the question being discussed from a Apple leaning publication such as MacRumors (FCC Chairman Encourages Activation of the FM Radio Receiver Built Into Your iPhone) states, "Apple's stance on the activation of FM receivers in iPhones is uncertain."

Other articles such as this one from The Verge ( FCC chief wants smartphones’ hidden FM radios turned on, but won’t do anything about it ) have a different slant on why, "Giving consumers the chance to pick free FM radio also means fewer track sales on iTunes and fewer new subscribers to services like Apple Music. ... That’d be a major downside for Apple, which is probably why it hasn’t embraced FM radio on the iPhone yet."

FM radio alive and well

We recently asked the question, "Does it makes sense to eliminate FM radio in favor of digital?" because in 2017 Norway will become the first country in the world to start shutting down its national FM radio network in favor of digital radio.

Our conclusion was that it makes no sense at all because broadcast radio is alive and well in the United States. There are currently over 6700 commercial FM stations. Not only is traditional FM radio alive and well, traditional FM radio provides a valuable service in time of emergency.
 

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The myths and legends of evil villains Steve Jobs and Thomas Edison

GeekHistory -

The myths and legends run rampant in the stories of both Steve Jobs and Thomas Edison. They have become legendary, and along with that the mythology gets bigger.

Steve Jobs and Thomas Edison have become the geeks that the world loves to hate. But why all the hate?

A common theme among so called successful people is an obsessive compulsion to succeed. Both were known for being hard driving over bearing bosses, which means they made some enemies and acquired some haters along the road to success. Some people say the success of people like Jobs and Edison came at the expense of their former associates.

The evil Jobs versus mild mannered geek Woz

As much as you want to blame Steve Jobs for the departure of Stephen Gary "Steve" Wozniak, aka Woz, from Apple, Woz has said in many interviews that he enjoyed the technology side of creating Apple but not the business side. He left because he felt the need to move on.

Even though Woz quit working for Apple in 1985, he stayed on the Apple payroll and remained a stock holder for many years. I would say he has done pretty well for himself as Woz has been involved in numerous technology companies over the years since leaving Apple.

The evil Edison versus well meaning inventor Tesla

I've spent many years researching the Edison versus Tesla mythology. The story of Edison offering Tesla $50,000 if he could improve something is told so many different ways, you really have to wonder what is the truth. The story that Edison once electrocuted an elephant stirs up a reason to hate Edison, but if you research it, the facts dispute the story.

I really get frustrated when people say the War of Currents was a battle between Edison and Tesla. George Westinghouse was working on AC power distribution before he met Tesla. When he heard of Tesla's experiments, George Westinghouse not only paid Tesla for his patents, but offered him a job working with him.

Tesla and Westinghouse had a life long respect for each other. When Edison died, Tesla had sharp criticism of Edison. When Westinghouse died, Tesla's comments showed a deep respect for Westinghouse.

Tesla died broke because of Edison?

The mythology tells the story that Tesla died a broken down old man because of Edison, but the truth is that Tesla lived more than 40 years after the War of Currents and his battle against Edison.

Tesla fought a lot with Westinghouse engineers, he had a hard time working on a team. Tesla decided to go back out on his own rather than stay with Westinghouse. Tesla walked away from his association with Westinghouse in the 1890s with a few hundred thousand dollars, the equivalent of millions in today's money.

Tesla received large investments for his experiments in Colorado Springs and Wardencliffe, New York. In both cases Tesla misrepresented his true intent. The wealthy John Jacob Astor IV gave Tesla the money he used to build the Colorado Springs lab in 1899, under the assumption that Telsa was going to develop and produce a new lighting system. Tesla instead, used the money to fund his lab to experiment with high voltage, high frequency electricity, and the wireless transmission of power.

J.P. Morgan thought he was investing in wireless communications when he gave Tesla money to build his dream lab in Wardenclyffe New York in 1901. Tesla failed to mention the lab included his ideas of wireless power transmission. Morgan did not "cut off" Tesla as told by many stories, he simply refused to give Tesla more money when Tesla went way over budget on the project.

In the PBS documentary "Tesla Master of Lightning" Tesla's grand-nephew William Terbo explains the downfall of Nikola Tesla. "He was totally disinterested in business. He did not make the relationship between the importance of business and the importance of his invention and discovery."

Set aside the myths and legends

The tales of the evil Steve Jobs versus the mild mannered geek Woz and the powerful Thomas Edison versus the well meaning inventor Tesla make for good mythology, but every story of success is not an epic battle of good versus evil. Geek History helps you understand and appreciate great inventors and technology innovators and get to the truth behind the myths and legends..

There are lessons to be learned from the stories of Steve Jobs and Thomas Edison, set aside the myths and legends, and learn the reasons for success and failure.

Nikola Tesla versus Thomas Edison and the search for the truth

George Westinghouse used Tesla power to defeat Edison in Currents War

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Will new FCC chairman get rid of Net Neutrality?

Guru 42 Blog -

The mainstream news introduces new Federal Communications Commission chairman Ajit Pai as "Net Neutrality Foe." (1) The "Net Neutrality is dead" chant is being stirred up as technology sites like wired are already predicting "Net Neutrality No More." (2)

From many online debates I read in recent months, as well as questions I have been asked, it is obvious that there are many interpretations to the term Net Neutrality. My reaction to the appointment of Ajit Pai as the new FCC chairman is to simply say that since the topic is not clearly defined in the minds of many, the debate over any changes will be ongoing.

As far as technology sites like Wired predicting "Net Neutrality No More," I take that for what its worth. I'll read Wired for what's new in the world of gadgets. I wouldn't read Wired to try to make sense of FCC regulations and pending changes in internet law.

It also becomes a matter of opinions, which are like certain human body parts, everyone has one, and they all stink.

For some opinions that tell a different story...

This article from Forbes written after the appointment of New FCC Chair Ajit Pai backs the opinion that Net Neutrality won't change much. "Why Is The Media Smearing New FCC Chair Ajit Pai As The Enemy Of Net Neutrality?"(3) ...

"The net neutrality misinformation bandwagon has opened an ugly new front."

"For technology companies here in Silicon Valley and across the Internet ecosystem, Pai’s appointment is very good news. He favors a return to the bi-partisan policy of light-touch regulation established in the early days of the commercial Internet—policies that have made possible the convergence of networks, media and technologies on the single open Internet standard. His FCC is likely to be consistent, professional, and predictable."

This article from Forbes written right after Trump was elected backs the opinion that Net Neutrality won't change much. "The True Fate Of Net Neutrality In A Trump FCC" (4)...

"The basic net neutrality principles—that broadband providers can’t block access to lawful content, can’t intentionally slow network traffic for anti-competitive purposes, or otherwise discriminate against some content providers for non-technical reasons--are perfectly safe, regardless of what policies the Trump Administration ultimately adopts, or who the new President appoints to Chair the FCC."

This is article from IEEE, a technology professional association, does not jump on the net neutrality is dead bandwagon either. " Is Net Neutrality Good or Bad for Innovation?" (5)...

IEEE describes themselves as, "A not-for-profit organization, IEEE is the world's largest technical professional organization dedicated to advancing technology for the benefit of humanity."

"Unfortunately, there is no clear answer. Economists have done plenty of modeling on net neutrality over the past eight years, but there isn’t a strong consensus about whether keeping it or throwing it out would be best for consumers, innovation, or the economy."

"... anyone who tries to reverse U.S. policy on net neutrality will likely have a difficult road ahead. Public sentiment will not be on their side—when the FCC solicited public comments on the issue in 2014, they received a record 3.7 million comments, with the vast majority in favor of net neutrality."

I am more concerned about mergers and acquisitions that reduce competition than I am about changes in Net Neutrality laws.  Comcast recently announced it will roll out a mobile phone service in 2017 using Verizon’s network infrastructure, stirring up speculation of a Comcast and Verizon merger in the future. "Are Wedding Bells On Horizon As Comcast Launches Wireless Service On Verizon Network?" (6)

That is a lot more frightening thought than any net neutrality legislation. The 800 pound gorilla of cable, partners with the giant of wireless. Holy monopoly Batman!

For those who fear new changes in net neutrality will create a new wave of internet censorship, they must have short memories because there have been many proposed laws in recent years to control what content is allowed on the internet, and these laws have been for the most part, independent of the net neutrality debate.

Stay tuned as we continue to follow on ongoing debate over Net Neutrality.

Learn more:

Internet censorship and net neutrality is not a simple matter

Internet equality and net neutrality explained in simple terms
 

Links to news articles:

(1) Report: 'Net Neutrality' Foe Ajit Pai Is New FCC Head
http://abcnews.go.com/Technology/wireStory/report-net-neutrality-foe-aji...

(2) Trump’s FCC Pick Doesn’t Bode Well For Net Neutrality
https://www.wired.com/2017/01/trumps-fcc-pick-signals-end-net-neutrality...

(3) Why Is The Media Smearing New FCC Chair Ajit Pai As The Enemy Of Net Neutrality?
http://www.forbes.com/sites/larrydownes/2017/01/24/why-is-the-media-smea...

(4) The True Fate Of Net Neutrality In A Trump FCC
http://www.forbes.com/sites/larrydownes/2016/11/15/the-true-fate-of-net-...
 
(5) Is Net Neutrality Good or Bad for Innovation?
http://spectrum.ieee.org/tech-talk/telecom/internet/does-net-neutrality-...

(6) Are Wedding Bells On Horizon As Comcast Launches Wireless Service On Verizon Network?
http://www.forbes.com/sites/nelsongranados/2016/09/21/comcast-announces-...
 

Federal Communications Commission Photo: FCC Chairman Genachowski swears in Ajit Pai as a new Commissioner at the FCC headquarters in Washington, DC. May 14, 2012.

 

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Automotive dependability ratings skewed by modern technology

Guru 42 Blog -

I am geek who loves to get to the bottom of myths and legends, as well as claims by auto makers in commercials. After watching several television commercials by a certain automaker bragging about earning more J.D. Power Initial Quality awards than any other brand, I decided to do a little research.  Should I really be impressed by all these awards? What exactly do they measure?

The first point is the numbers game. Claiming that your brand has more J.D. Power Initial Quality awards than any other brand has do with the number of models that you sell. Chevy has the most models on the J.D. Power Initial Quality awards list, but Chevy also produces a large number of models when you look at their line of cars and trucks. On the long list of 2016 Initial Quality Ratings I was surprised to see models such as the Hyundai Accent, Kia Sportage, Hyundai Azera, and Kia Soul on the list, all made by the Hyundai Motor Company.

The other issue with the automaker bragging is the value of measuring initial quality. The definition of initial quality is defined as problems experienced by vehicle owners during the first 90 days of ownership.  The first 90 days, that's not a long period of time.  I am pretty happy with my 2008 Mercury Milan, 9 years and 185,000 miles later, and I have never had a major problem. Seems like quality should be measured in larger increments than 90 days.

Studies skewed by modern technology

J.D. Power has two major areas for automobiles, the annual Vehicle Dependability Study (VDS) and Initial Quality Study (IQS). I thought I would dig deeper and look for the longer term dependability ratings.  Instead of finding more answers, my search raised many questions of the value of their dependability ratings.

In the world today people see an automotive as more than an transportation vehicle, they see the automobile as a collection of gadgets and gizmos attached to a vehicle on wheels.  Because of this infatuation with technology, issues with entertainment systems and Bluetooth connections can skew automotive dependability ratings.

An article on Autoblog, "J.D. Power needs to rethink its Vehicle Dependability Study," makes the statement, "A poor Bluetooth pairing procedure is not the same as a blown engine."

The Autoblog article explains how the ratings are skewed by modern technology.

"If an owner can't get his or her phone to connect via Bluetooth to the audio system, that's a problem. If an owner's audible command isn't properly deciphered by that annoying synthesized voice all infotainment systems seem plagued by, that's a problem. But are either of those problems as serious as a transmission that won't shift, or an engine that won't start? Not by my standards. But by J.D. Power's, the answer is yes."

An article in Forbes, "Inside The 'Real' J.D. Power Vehicle Dependability Ratings"  also explains how the ratings are skewed by modern technology.

"Apparently the notion of what qualifies as an unreliable car no longer means one that leaves its owner stranded at the side of the road or otherwise requires frequent repairs. Today it’s stretched to encompass what some of us might consider minor inconveniences, particularly balky voice control systems and difficulty with Bluetooth mobile phone pairing and connectivity. Issues with electronics now account for 20% of all consumer-reported car problems in J.D. Power’s survey."

Remember when a car was just a car?

If you dig into some of these studies on dependability you will find brands of vehicles where there are better engines and drivetrains with fewer problems, but the overall brands rate lower because of issues with Bluetooth connections or voice activated entertainment systems. Going back to quote the Autoblog article, "A poor Bluetooth pairing procedure is not the same as a blown engine."

I've owned quite a few cars in my lifetime, and a few had major engine problems. I am pretty happy with a car that is 9 years and has 185,000 miles on it. Yea, the voice activated audio system sometimes doesn't understand what I am saying and I sometimes swear at it when the Bluetooth gets temperamental and decides not to connect to my phone.  But it is the most reliable car I have ever owned.

There was a time when someone talked about the dependability of a car, they were primarily talking about the engine and drivetrain, the major components of a car.  Issues with electronics in a car meant static on your radio. If your car radio gave you fits, you ripped it out and through in a new one.  Maybe an upgrade with a tape deck!

After reading several articles explaining these vehicle dependability studies and initial quality studies, I am reminded of a quote by Mark Twain, "There are three kinds of lies: lies, damned lies and statistics."

Image: Screenshot from 1970 Mercury commercial

Explore automotive innovation and invention at Altered Automotive (link is external).  Learn more about the great automotive inventors like Ford and Olds as we explore the Ford Piquette Avenue Plant in Detroit (link is external) and the R.E. Olds Transportation Museum in Lansing, Michigan. (link is external)

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Early television technology frequently asked questions

GeekHistory -

As we look at the history of television, I wanted to tackle some of the frequently asked questions about the origins of the technology, as well as share some cool resources on movies and television.

One commonly asked question is why the early televisions had round screens. The television picture tube was a vacuum tube that contains one or more electron guns and a phosphorescent screen used to display images known as a cathode ray tubes (CRT).  When the original cathode ray tube was invented it was an experimental device, television was not yet developed. The natural shape of the cathode ray tube was round, as shown here in the diagram. The cheapest and easiest way to manufacture a CRT was to make it round.

The television picture is created on the surface of the cathode ray tube by drawing it rapidly line by line. The entire front area of the CRT is scanned repetitively and systematically in a fixed pattern. Before 1940 there was no standard in the United States for how the picture was created electronically using the cathode ray tube.

In 1940 the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) established The National Television System Committee (NTSC) to resolve the conflicts that were made between companies over the introduction of a nation wide analog television system in the United States.  The NTSC standard selected 525 scan lines, an aspect ratio of 4:3, and frequency modulation (FM) for the sound signal. The number of 525 lines was chosen as a because of the limitations of the vacuum-tube-based technologies of the day.

Why an aspect ratio of 4:3?

The term aspect ratio is used in many fields to describe the proportional relationship between width and height, expressed as two numbers separated by a colon. For example when we say that the early televisions had an aspect ratio of 4:3, that means they are 4 units wide and 3 units high.  The early television standard of the 4:3 aspect ratio was chosen because movies in that era were filmed in a 4:3 aspect ratio. Movies originally photographed on 35 mm film could be satisfactorily viewed on early televisions.

Motion pictures, a series of still images which, when shown on a screen, creates the illusion of moving images, or as we sometimes call them, movies, are a different field from television.  But the early days of motion pictures actually set the standard for the concept of aspect ratio, the relationship of height to width of an image. For many years the standard movie screen, as well as the standard analog television, had an aspect ratio of 4:3.  

The evolution of round screens to rectangular

The cheapest and easiest way to manufacture a CRT was to make it round. But the aspect ration of 4:3 lends itself to a more rectangular design. The CRT slowly evolved to being essentially rectangular in shape but it had rounded edges because it was a glass tube. You could not create a perfect rectangle using the process that created the glass cathode ray tubes in the early days of television.

If you look at the photo of various televisions you see a variety of screen sizes as well as shapes, and you can see the evolution of round screens to rectangular. The attached photograph was taken at the National Capital Radio and Television Museum, a cool little geek history museum located in Bowie, Maryland. It is a small house jam-packed with displays on the history of radio and television. The extremely knowledgeable staff was full of stories about everything on display and ready to answer any question. The museum does a great job of preserving technology history.

Increasing the number of channels

During the 1940s and the 1950s broadcast television stations in the United States were primarily transmitted on the VHF band, channels 2-13.  If you live in a large city you will notice the long established stations usually are lower numbered.  Television manufacturers like RCA, ran their own networks, such as NBC. Since the major TV networks were well-established on VHF, many smaller stations on the UHF band, channels 14 to 83, were struggling for survival. Fourth-network operators such as the DuMont Television Network were forced to expand using UHF channels due to a lack of available VHF channels.

In 1961 the United States Congress passed the All-Channel Receiver Act (ACRA) to allow the Federal Communications Commission to require that all television set manufacturers must include UHF tuners. All new TV sets sold after 1964 had built-in UHF tuners.  The All-Channel Receiver Act allowed the UHF TV stations to grow and eventually would outnumber the long established VHF stations.

What happened to Channel 1?

When I was young, and the television had a rotary dial that took me from channels 2 through 13, I always wondered, what happened to channel 1? In 1948, Channel 1 frequencies were deleted from those allocated to television use and given over completely to radio services. The FCC decided not to renumber the channels since many televisions were being made using the existing channel numbers.

History of Television resources

If you want to learn more about television, from the perspective of the appliance that sits in your living room, rather than from the broadcasting side, there is a great pair of videos by RCA.  Reasons Why, The (Part I) (1959) and Reasons Why, The (Part II) (1959) are two videos that can be watched online or downloaded for later viewing. 

Reasons Why, The (Part I)  https://archive.org/details/reasons_why_1

Reasons Why, The (Part II)  https://archive.org/details/reasons_why_2

Classic scenes of geeks from the 1950s showing various facets of television set design, engineering, and quality control. The RCA manufacturing videos are part of a section of the Internet Archive known as the Prelinger Archives, a collection of over 60,000 advertising, educational, industrial, and amateur films.

Created in 1992 primarily to document the history of the Cathode Ray Tube it does a nice job of illustrating the basic concept of the CRT. It also includes a bit of television history showing the evolution of the CRT.

Cathode Ray Tube https://archive.org/details/KF.BraunCathodeRayTube

A propaganda infomercial by RCA to brag about what they have done in the world of television. Not the most historically accurate account of television, but still a very interesting bit of geek history.

Story of Television  Published 1956 https://archive.org/details/Story_of_Television_The

Free online movies great digital library

Spending a Saturday morning at the Internet Archives (archive.org) is like going to the library or your favorite museum, and the best part about it is that you don't need to leave the comfort of your home computer desk.

All of the video files can be viewed for free online, and many are available to be downloaded and viewed offline. The Internet Archive does a decent job of making sure copyrights are not violated.  Most of the files are public domain, but some may occasionally have some restrictions for use and are marked as to how they may be used.  Because copyright laws have changed from time to time over the years, many of the files are considered public domain, or copyright free, for a variety of reasons.

The Internet Archive does a decent job of making sure copyrights are not violated.  Most of the files are public domain, but some may occasionally have some restrictions for use and are marked as to how they may be used.  Because copyright laws have changed from time to time over the years, many of the files are considered public domain, or copyright free, for a variety of reasons.  All of the video files can be viewed for free online, and many are available to be downloaded and viewed offline.

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The Lost and Forgotten DuMont Television Network

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There is a lot of entertainment and television broadcasting history found in the often lost and forgotten fourth television network created by scientist and inventor Allen B. DuMont.

DuMont was an American electronics engineer, scientist and inventor best known for improvements to the cathode ray tube for use in television receivers.  DuMont Laboratories was the primary manufacturer of cathode-ray tubes in the United States in the 1930s and was fairly successful in the manufacturing of TV receivers.

To sell televisions, DuMont started the DuMont Television Network in 1946.  The television broadcasting division of DuMont separated from the manufacturing division in 1955. The DuMont Television Network ceased operations in 1956. The DuMont consumer products manufacturing division would be purchased by Emerson Electric Company in 1958.

The DuMont Television Network had a difficult time competing for big name stars and talent of the day. The big three networks were all spin offs from radio networks which provided financial support for their television divisions. Some folks attribute the failure of the DuMont Television Network on the lack of backing from a radio network.

Growing up, like many baby boomers in the United States, I remember the big three television networks in the 1960s were NBC, ABC, and CBS. Any reference to a fourth network might make me think of PBS.

When making the statement the forgotten fourth network, some people may think that is meant to be a joke about the current fourth television network the Fox Broadcasting Company, rather than a reference to the DuMont Television Network, a functional on the air television network from 1946 to 1956.



Other Fourth Television Networks

Not long after the DuMont Television Network dissolved a part-time television network, NTA Film Network, was created. The NTA Film Network had over 100 affiliate stations and operated from 1956 until 1961.

Interesting that the NTA Film Network had the financial support of Twentieth Century-Fox, the sibling of current fourth television network the Fox Broadcasting Company. The NTA Film Network broadcast television shows as well as movies, showing many Twentieth Century-Fox films of the late 1950s. The company name Twentieth Century-Fox comes from motion picture executive William Fox who founded the Fox Film Corporation in 1915.

There were many other failed fourth television networks over the decades that followed. It wound not be until the launch of the Fox Broadcasting Company in 1986 that a fourth television network in the United States would challenge the the big three television networks as an equal in terms of power and market share.

The forgotten fourth network lives on

Although DuMont pre-dated videotape many programs were saved on kinescope films. The television show archives were stored in a warehouse until the 1970s when the stored kinescopes were loaded into three trucks and dumped into Upper New York Bay.

 A 1996 Hearing Before the Panel of the Library of Congress describes the details of the dumped archives that were destroyed during a legal dispute over who would store and control the recordings.
 
The forgotten DuMont Television Network lives on with many memories of Jackie Gleason and a sketch called "The Honeymooners." 

Jackie Gleason on Cavalcade of Stars

Cavalcade of Stars would become one of the most popular shows on The DuMont Television Network. The show would produce the most famous star of the DuMont Television Network with Jackie Gleason as host and performer.

The Cavalcade of Stars would also be responsible for birth of a well know classic TV show, as a sketch called "The Honeymooners" was first performed on the show. It would later be picked up by the CBS Network as part of the Jackie Gleason Show and become a television classic.

As a history lover, and someone always digging to learn more about the history of technology, I discovered the DuMont Television Network while doing some research on the Internet Archive. If you do a search on the DuMont Television Network at the Internet Archive you will find quite a bit of old videos of station IDs, commercials, and shows from this long lost network.  It is worth the watching and downloading just to see a treasure of television history videos. 

The video of Jackie Gleason on "Cavalcade of Stars" (1951) is a rare find for any history of television fan. The well known sitcom called "The Honeymooners" was based on a sketch first performed on Cavalcade of Stars.

Cavalcade of Stars http://www.archive.org/details/Cavalcade_Of_Stars

One other notable show was Captain Video and His Video Rangers as it was the first science fiction show on television. While by today's standards the series looks pretty primitive, it was quite groundbreaking for the time.

1949 episode of the TV series "Captain Video"  https://archive.org/details/captainvideo

Additional resources to learn more

The Internet Archive is a non-profit organization on a mission to build a digital library. Just like a visit to your favorite museum or traditional paper library, they provide free access to researchers, historians, scholars, and the general public to digital files on a wide variety of topics.

The way of finding things on the Internet Archive can be more like exploring a museum, that searching a catalog at the library.  For example, I was looking for the link to my very groovy 1969 Pontiac GTO Commercial starring 1960s rock band Paul Revere And The Raiders. I searched on Pontiac, and I searched on GTO, and I could not find it.  It was only by going to the link for Car Commercials 1966-1970 that I found the file I was looking for on a long list of files of car commercials.

Most of the files of commercials I found  simply by searching the site rather than using the indexes.  Once you find one type of file you like, you can see how it is tagged and search for similar files. I love cars of the 1950s and 1960s, so I searched and found commercials for the 1957 Edsel, the 1958 push button transmission Dodge, the 1960 Ford Thunderbird, and a very groovy 1969 Pontiac GTO Commercial.

Car Commercials 1966-1970  https://archive.org/details/Car_Commericals_1966-1970

From the Animation and  Cartoons section I have download numerous files of shows I watched on television back in my youth.  Of course my kids think it is all pretty silly, but I get a kick out of cartoon classics like Woody Woodpecker and Betty Boop. There are also some of the classic super hero cartoons like Superman. The quality of the files vary, but I enjoy downloading a bunch and creating my own mix of cartoon classics that I burn to DVD. 

Animation & Cartoons  http://www.archive.org/details/animationandcartoons

Great digital library for fun and researching television history 

The Internet Archive is a great online library of video files. Thousands of files are available to be downloaded and viewed offline. Much like your favorite museum or traditional paper library,  If you love the history of technology, or the history of entertainment, what could be more fun than a vault full of old black and white movies, free for you to download or watch at your leisure.

 

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Who invented Television Philo Farnsworth versus Sarnoff and Zworykin

GeekHistory -

The invention of television was the work of many inventors over several decades, as we discussed in our previous article. Turning the vision of the television as an invention into a real commercial product that occupied American homes was the work of business visionary David Sarnoff with the help of Russian American scientist Vladimir Zworykin.

Scientist and inventor Vladimir Zworykin

As a young engineering student, Vladimir Zworykin worked for Russian scientist and inventor Boris Rosing and assisted him in some of his laboratory work at the St. Petersburg Institute of Technology in Russia. Following the Russian Revolution, Zworykin moved to the United States in 1919. Zworykin found work with Westinghouse Electric Corporation in Pittsburgh. Based on their pioneering efforts in radio, he tried to convince them to do research in television. His work on television resulted in two patent applications. The first, entitled "Television Systems" was filed on December 29, 1923, and was followed by a second application in 1925 that was awarded in 1928.

Zworykin applied to the physics department at the University of Pittsburgh in 1924. Due to his previous credited work Zworykin received his Ph.D. only two years later upon completion of his dissertation on the improvement of photoelectric cells.

Zworykin demonstrated his invention for television to Westinghouse executives in 1925. According to Zworykin himself his demonstration, was “scarcely impressive.” The Westinghouse executives suggested that Zworykin should spend his time on more practical endeavors.

Business visionary David Sarnoff

In 1917, General Electric purchased the American branch of the Marconi Company and combined its radio patents to form a new company called the Radio Corporation of America (RCA). Russian born David Sarnoff was promoted to General Manager of RCA in 1921 and was given full authority to run the company. In the 1920s David Sarnoff of RCA had the vision of developing television.

In 1929, Zworykin invented the all electric camera tube. Zworykin called his tube the Iconoscope "a viewer of icons". He demonstrated both the iconoscope and kinescope to the Institute of Radio Engineers. The Iconoscope tube could produce good pictures with a reasonable amount of light. In attendance at the demonstration was David Sarnoff of RCA. Sarnoff recruited Zworykin to develop television for RCA, and put Zworykin in charge of television development for RCA at their laboratories in Camden, New Jersey.

Even though many others worked to invent television, and working models were demonstrated before RCA, Sarnoff used the 1939 World's Fair to introduce commercial television to the world, and began regularly scheduled broadcasting at the same time. David Sarnoff realized the potential of television, and poured huge resources into its development, even during the lean years of the depression.  Sarnoff had the drive, and the resources to turn his vision into a reality.

Philo T. Farnsworth fights the war over television

When I was young my encyclopedia told me that Vladimir Zworykin was the inventor of television. For many years I took it as a fact that Zworykin invented television. Thanks to the commercialization of the internet, years later I found a whole new world of information, and discovered that the invention of television was not a simple question to answer, and learned of a battle by the followers of Philo T Farnsworth to promote his cause as the inventor of television.

Philo T. Farnsworth was a Mormon farmer who lived in Utah, not exactly the place for the hot bed of technology. In 1922, a young Farnsworth filled several blackboards in his chemistry class with sketches and diagrams showing his high school science teacher his idea for an electronic television system. Farnsworth received a patent for his television system raised money from friends to build his invention. Many years later that high school teacher would testify in court what he saw on the blackboards of the school, in support of Farnsworth's claims.

David Sarnoff offered to buy Farnsworth's patents in 1931, with the condition that Farnsworth become an employee of RCA. Farnsworth refused Sarnoff's offer, and spend much of the next several years fighting David Sarnoff and RCA in the court room over television patents.

When other developers and their patents got in Sarnoff’s way, he fought them hard. Philo T. Farnsworth was one of the few who stood up to Sarnoff and won. Farnsworth eventually prevailed as RCA finally conceded to a multi-year licensing agreement with Farnsworth. But Sarnoff and RCA would grab the spotlight as RCA introduced electronic television to the world at New York World's Fair 1939.

Who knows of Farnsworth?

Even though Farnsworth won the battle, defeating RCA in court to uphold his patent claims, he lost the war as the Farnsworth Television and Radio Corporation never took off. Farnsworth sold his company to International Telephone and Telegraph (ITT) in 1951. Most people have heard of RCA (Radio Corporation of America), they went on to be a large and profitable company. Farnsworth's family continues to promote his name, and his claim to the invention of television.

Zworykin always the scientist.

Decades before NASA landed a man of the moon Vladimir Zworykin talked about the scientific discoveries that could be shared on television, stating that “You can see the opposite side of the moon if someone sends a rocket there with a television camera. " In a 1975 interview Zworykin said he was disappointed with the outcome of television. "Yes. I am not presently satisfied with the programs.... Our programs are commercial, and therefore the income from broadcasting depends upon the number of people viewing. By taking surveys of this, right or wrong, they conclude that lower quality programs appeal to more people."

In their roles at RCA, it was clear that Sarnoff was the visionary businessman and Zworykin was always the scientist. Compared to Microsoft as the 800 pound gorilla of technology of the 1990s, RCA was the 800 pound gorilla of technology of the 1930s. There have been comparisons made to David Sarnoff of RCA as a driving force to establish the dominance of his company in the development of television to that of Bill Gates of Microsoft and his obsession to have Internet Explorer win the browser wars.

Although many people have called Vladimir Zworykin the Father of Television, Zworykin himself always said that television was the creation of hundreds of inventors and researchers. Zworykin seemed not only to be uncomfortable with being called the Father of Television, he also seemed to be unhappy with what became of his work.

 


Top right photo shows Vladimir Zworykin (left) and RCA Chairman David Sarnoff (right) recount early research. Screen capture and cropped by Tom Peracchio from 1956 RCA promotional film about television tracing scientific development of electronic television systems from 1920s to 1950s.

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Why do some people never fail?

Guru 42 Front Door -

The great inventor Thomas Edison is one of the best examples of a successful state of mind. According many popular stories Thomas Edison was asked after several thousand attempts to invent the electric light bulb without success, how he would handle his failure. Edison stated that he had not failed, but rather had produced several thousand outcomes which would lead to success. Several thousand outcomes later Edison successfully produced the electric light bulb, whether consciously or unconsciously, Edison had to program his mind and body to channel his energy into a successful outcome.

A popular myth or a true story?

There are actually two documented variations of a quote by Edison where he downplayed his failures, but focused on his success.

According to Rutgers, Myth Buster: Edison's 10,000 attempts, "The source of the story about Edison trying thousands of experiments or materials is probably an 1890 interview in Harper's Monthly Magazine."

The exact quote by Edison:

"I speak without exaggeration when I say that I have constructed three thousand different theories in connection with the electric light, each one of them reasonable and apparently to be true. Yet only in two cases did my experiments prove the truth of my theory. My chief difficulty, as perhaps you know, was in constructing the carbon filament, the incandescence of which is the source of the light."

The Rutgers article also describes another quote by Edison in a 1910 biography as it relates to Edison's later work on storage batteries.

The book quotes Edison's friend and associate Walter S. Mallory:

"I said: 'Isn't it a shame that with the tremendous amount of work you have done you haven't been able to get any results?' Edison turned on me like a flash, and with a smile replied: 'Results! Why, man, I have gotten lots of results! I know several thousand things that won't work!'"

Edison's legacy was in creating his "invention factory" where Edison used his staff to develop ideas and turn them into patents. Some point to the concept of the invention factory as the reason for his success. Critics say Edison took his invention factory too far, and Edison took credit for any individual creativity by his employees.

How many inventions and innovations made in the name of Apple or Microsoft were not the direct work of Gates or Jobs? How is Edison getting credit for the work of his staff any different that the large number of engineers, designers, and programmers working for Microsoft or Apple, but all we hear about is the success of Bill Gates or Steve Jobs?

Edison was a systems thinker and a project manager. Edison took the image of an inventor as one man tinkering alone in a shop and turned it into an industry. He paid workers to conduct numerous tedious experiments so he did not have to do the boring manual tasks himself. I think that is pretty genius.

In our previous article, Why Do Technology Projects Fail? I state that one of the biggest challenges in information technology success is setting proper expectations. The goal is to focus technology conversations on the question, "What exactly is it that you are trying to do?"

Edison was focused on exactly what he wanted to accomplish, he had a specific destination in mind. Edison was focused on a finding an answer to a problem, and he saw each unsuccessful experiment along the way not as a failure, but as one step closer to success.

Failure is an attitude not an outcome

The reason some people never fail, they realize failure is not an outcome, it is a state mind!

 


The Thomas A. Edison Papers of Rutgers University is probably the most reliable source of information on Thomas Edison. See link for complete story Myth Buster: Edison's 10,000 attempts.

Learn more about Thomas Edison at GeekHistory.com:

Thomas Alva Edison prolific inventor and legendary lunatic

You don't need to be a genius to know why Thomas Edison was popular
 

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Success and failure of former Google geek Yahoo CEO Marissa Mayer

Guru 42 Blog -

According to various news reports Yahoo CEO Marissa Mayer, co-founder David Filo and others plan to resign from the company's board when it completes its $4.8 billion sale to Verizon.

Technology rock star Marissa Mayer

Marissa Mayer was Google's first female engineer. She started with Google in 1999 as employee number 20. Mayer worked at Google for 13 years, rising to the role of senior vice president.

Mayer was appointed president and CEO of Yahoo on July 16, 2012. Mayer led Yahoo! to acquire Tumblr in a $1.1 billion acquisition on May 20, 2013. During the summer of 2013, Mayer was looking more like a rock star that a corporate executive as she appeared in an issue of Vogue magazine. Mayer fueled a lot of debate on her office life, mixed with motherhood.  At the peak of Mayer's success in 2013, Business Insider's Nicholas Carlson released the "unauthorized biography" of the Yahoo executive. The biography tells the story of how the painfully shy teenage from small town Wisconsin went on to be the successful geeky girl at Google.

Mayer delivered the keynote address at the 2014 International Consumer Electronics Show at The Las Vegas Hotel & Casino on January 7, 2014. After a demonstration of the Yahoo News Digest, the keynote went on to pitch several products and services. First a new vision for a series of digital magazines was demonstrated, Yahoo Smart TV that recommends shows for your viewing was illustrated, followed by a discussion of trends for Yahoo owned site Tumblr.  The keynote address ended with a presentation on various Yahoo advertising products.

While Yahoo was delivering the message that that they are a big player in the world of news and entertainment, the Marissa Mayer keynote felt a lot more like an hour long infomercial for Yahoo products, rather than anything engaging or entertaining.

Is Marissa Mayer a failure?

It has been three years since Mayer delivered her keynote address at the 2014 Consumer Electronics Show. Yahoo has slipped in popularity over the last three years. Yahoo never became the news and information portal that Meyer pitched at CES in 2014. Yahoo is in the process of being sold to Verizon, and reports state that Marissa Mayer will resign from the company's board and step down as the CEO. Was Marissa Mayer the wrong person for the job or was saving Yahoo as an internet portal an impossible mission? Those are the questions that now fuel the debate over Marissa Mayer.

The headlines once asked, "Is Marissa Mayer technology's new rock star?"  This week, the headlines read, "Is Marissa Mayer a failure?"

What happens to Yahoo?

Yahoo was founded by Jerry Yang and David Filo in January 1994 and incorporated on March 2, 1995. When the internet went commercial in the mid 1990s millions of people with computers had no idea where to start. They were clueless how to connect to all the information that would start pouring into the internet.  Yahoo was there as the web portal pioneer that connected everyone to the internet world.

The Yahoo of 2017 is different from the Yahoo of 2012 when Mayer stepped in, and very different from the Yahoo internet directory started by Jerry Yang and David Filo of the 1990s that introduced us to the world wide web.  If the Verizon deal goes through as planned, Yahoo as we know it will pretty much be dead. The new company will be known as Altaba, a combination of the words "alternative" and "Alibaba." Yahoo owns about 15% of Alibaba, a Chinese internet company. Altaba will be a holding company of the assets of the current Yahoo. 

Stayed tuned as we will be watching what happens to the remains of Yahoo, and the career of Marissa Mayer.

Links to news articles:

http://www.businessinsider.com/marissa-mayer-biography-2013-8?op=1

http://www.vogue.com/magazine/article/hail-to-the-chief-yahoos-marissa-m...

http://www.usatoday.com/story/tech/news/2017/01/10/marissa-mayer-failure...

http://www.usatoday.com/story/tech/news/2017/01/09/yahoo-still-alive-and...

http://www.ibtimes.com/what-yahoos-new-name-new-chairman-internet-compan...

Photo Credit:  CEO of Yahoo! Marissa Mayer (L) and Zachary Bogue attend the Yahoo News/ABCNews Pre-White House Correspondents' dinner reception pre-party at Washington Hilton on May 3, 2014 in Washington, DC. (Photo by Andrew H. Walker/Getty Images for Yahoo News)

 

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Does it makes sense to eliminate FM radio in favor of digital?

Guru 42 Blog -

During 2017, Norway will become the first country in the world to start shutting down its national FM radio network in favor of digital radio.  Traditional FM radio receivers will not have any local stations to receive. I am not familiar with radio stations and reception in neighboring countries, so I am not sure what the people in Norway might be able to receive on traditional FM radio once their local stations all go digital.

I read an article on the topic a few days ago, and give some thought to the question. It quickly turned to a "who cares" type of issue. I scratched my head a bit, wondering why I should care. Norway is not a leader in technology, so how is this an earth shaking news story?

But in recent days it appears that technology in Norway has people thinking. I am actually surprised how many people have posted or commented about it. I have been asked, does it makes sense to eliminate FM radio in favor of digital broadcasts?

Being the geek that I am, I decided to read a bit more before I reacted. It took me little time to find this article, Digital has not killed the radio frequency in Canada FM radio is old. So why hasn't digital made a dent? which states, "During the late '90s and 2000s, Canada experimented with the digital audio broadcasting (DAB) model that Norway will shift to this week — and it was a flop."

Based on that article, from the CBC Radio Canada, it doesn't sound like Norway is such a pioneer.

I quickly found another article from Reuters, Norway to switch off FM radio in risky, unpopular shift to digital  which states, "There are 2 million cars on Norwegian roads that don't have DAB receivers, and millions of radios in Norwegian homes will stop working when the FM net is switched off."

Does it makes sense to eliminate traditional FM radio in favor of digital broadcasts?

So, to answer the question, does it makes sense to eliminate FM radio in favor of digital broadcasts?  After reading several news articles, I can confirm my initial reaction. Ah, no, it makes no sense at all.

The days of traditional AM and FM radio are definitely declining, but in the United States there are a lot stations still operating.  In fact, according to the FCC the number of broadcast stations licensed as of December 31, 2016, is 4669 AM stations and 6746 commercial FM stations. I know I sound like an advertisement for your local radio, but even with all our access to the internet for news and information, millions of Americans are still depending on traditional AM and FM radio for news and information on the morning drive. 

Someone stated the reason for the change was that the "equipment is outdated and is becoming increasingly difficult to maintain."  Working in technology for more 40 years, I could apply that remark to quite a bit of things we use everyday. When I use that logic people usually tell me to quit complaining.

 

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Learn more: Geekhistory explores who invented radio

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