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Category: Technobabble

We all accept that technology is developing at an exponential rate and we’re certainly all feeling the benefits.  But while we’ve been busying ourselves with the boundless array of interactive games and social media – a significant gap has appeared under our noses. We don’t know how to create the amazing functionality that we can’t live without.

We’ve become so enamoured with the aesthetics of technology (thanks Apple) and the things it can do for us, that we’ve overlooked the importance of technological know-how – the very understanding of how things work and how to create them.  That’s why the brainchild of a group of tech guys from the University of Cambridge is just so impressive.

They’ve launched an initiative that looks set to create a new generation of inspired computer programmers.  Their idea is the raspberry pi – a cost effective way to put computers into the hands of kids.   The raspberry pi is a credit-card sized computer that plugs into your TV and a keyboard. It’s a capable little PC which can type documents, play games, create spreadsheets and view HD video and all for the cost of $25.

Their idea was born out of the need to get past the IT skills deficit that followed the dot-com bubble bursting, increasingly poor IT education and the development of new games consoles which took away the home-programming capability of earlier models like the Commodore 64. The result is a small piece of kit which gives kids the tools to get started with programming.  They’re not evangelists claiming to have the problem wrapped up – instead they’ve found a fun and effective way to make computers accessible and inspirational for any child, anywhere in the world. Seems to me that the real technological revolution is still to come.

The world wide web, the brainchild of Tim Berners-Lee is 20 years old today.  The worldwide web isn’t to be confused with the Internet, even though they’re commonly considered the same thing.  The Internet, which is the physical infrastructure of servers and the protocols that enable them to interconnect has been around for much longer.  The worldwide web (commonly known as WWW or W3) is a set of protocols for displaying and sharing documents across the Internet.

Tim Berners-Lee created a system of “hyperlinking” documents that could then be viewed in a “browser”.  Berners-Lee successfully married the Internet to his new hypertext in way that made it simple for people around the world to create and share documents and images. 

Berners-Lee himself was born in 1955 and is a British physicist and computer scientist.  He still oversees the worldwide web today as the director of the world wide web consortium (W3C).  He grew up in London and studied at Queens College, Oxford.  It was while working at the physics laboratory CERN that he proposed the world wide web.  He was knighted in 2003.

There have been some definite downsides to the Web such as a reduction in privacy and Internet predation, but the good has far outweighed the bad. Online agencies have created millions of jobs across the globe, opened people up to different cultures and ideas and created a transparency in terms of politics that has never quite been achieved in the past. Through social, economic and political actions online the world has become entirely different, news travels faster than ever, every single person with access to the Internet has a voice and our social interactions have become more varied and far reaching.

So a big thank you from those of us who enjoy using the Web, it has changed the way people think and revolutionized the world as we know in a short twenty years, the only question is how far will it continue to evolve in the next twenty years?

The least surprising survey results of the month come from a market research firm called uSamp. It claims that the technology we use to make us more productive is in fact holding us back, at the annual cost to the UK of some £58 billion. The results of the survey show that the average UK employee loses at least an hour a day on email, social networks and text messages.

Unsurprisingly email is the biggest culprit, accounting for as many as a quarter of all daily distractions with personal use of the internet, especially on social media, making up nearly one in ten. Around 45 per cent of workers claim they can only usually go for 15 minutes without any kind of distraction, a quarter say they have no time at all for creative thinking and ten per cent have missed deadlines due to constant interruptions.

While it would be wrong to characterise all of these interruptions as a waste of time – many will be to share information or carry out important tasks – there is obviously an issue of time management and not least in the way each day is structured. The survey reflects the steps some people have taken to deal with the effects of technology on productivity. According to uSamp, the majority of employees already have their own ways of dealing with distractions, although you have to question how effective they have been in light of the other results of the research.


During an average week, I’m guaranteed to get at least one sales call trying to sell disaster recovery plans and off site backup. This is something that should be taken very seriously as you never know what’s round the corner.

However I’m constantly bombarded with the ‘facts’

80% of businesses affected by a major incident close within 18 months” or

70% of businesses that experience a major data loss go out of business

However looking into these sales claims I have been unable to establish the origin of the figures, as far as I can prove they appear to have just been made up, asking several companies that use these figures as a sales scare where this figure comes from, non-one actually new they all just seem to use them.  There is no way of validating these figures, how many business were surveyed, how many would have gone out of business without the data loss, what are they classing as major data loss… the list goes on. I’m not the only one to try and look into this a good article can be found here.

There are many examples of this kind of statement being taken as granted, one of the more famous ones I can find out about is the 5 a Day rule. We all know the importance of eating healthily and getting out 5 fruit or veg a day, but where did 5 a day come from.

Again the origin is hard to track down but it appears to come from Canada, not based around experiment results but by Heath officials and the fruit and veg industry just looking for a strap line to sell more fruit and veg and get people to eat healthier. The 5 a day program was sponsored by the ‘National cancer institute’ and they have more about it here

Anything that promotes healthier eating has to be a good thing, but just don’t believe everything on face value unless the facts and figures and fully in the public domain.

Due to the release of new European technical standards all new Smartphones will have the same charger. The new standard has been agreed with the likes of Apple, Rim (blackberry) and Nokia.

Along with making life easier for users not having different charger for all the phones in the house, it also makes environmental sense. When people change their phone there will be no need to change the charger.

Saatchi & Saatchi has been honoured alongside Toyota with a prestigious Green Award for their “Glass of Water” iPhone application campaign. The award for “Best Green Mixed Media” (Integrated) was announced at a gala ceremony at the Natural History Museum in London last night.

Also shortlisted for Best Green Advertising Award (Print & Outdoor) and Best Green Use of Mobile Apps and Technologies, the “Glass of Water” campaign was commended by judges for its innovative use of technology: “the creative approach was simple, fun and extremely intuitive for drivers to use.”

The campaign was a joint effort between Saatchi & Saatchi Sweden and Toyota aimed to encourage drivers to reduce fuel consumption. The idea developed from a calculation that if all drivers in Sweden drove with a glass of water on their dashboard and completed their journey without spilling it, their driving would be gentler and thus more economical, which could lower carbon dioxide emission by 2 million tons per year.

The iPhone application Saatchi & Saatchi developed in response is designed to look and act like a glass of water, registering the volume spilled during the trip, to act as a visual challenge for the driver to drive carefully enough to avoid spillage and reduce carbon emissions.

“We are thrilled that ‘A Glass of Water’ has been recognised at the Green Awards,” said Hans Sydow, CEO of Saatchi & Saatchi Sweden. “The campaign took on a life of its own as users took up the challenge and shared it with their friends, and brought about a new consciousness of the benefits of mindful driving for both individuals and the planet.”

Desmond Paul Henry (1921-2004) ranks among one of the few early British pioneers of Computer Art/Graphics of the 1960′s. During this period he constructed a total of three mechanical drawing machines (in 1960, ’63 and ’67) based around the components of analogue bombsight computers. Henry’s second drawing machine and its effects were included in the major Art and Technology exhibition of 1968: Cybernetic Serendipity (I.C.A, London). Henry’s life-long passion for all things mechanical inspired him to purchase an army surplus analogue bombsight computer in the early 1950s. For years he would gaze transfixed at the ‘peerless parabolas’ (Henry) of its inner working parts when in motion. Then in the early sixties he decided to try and capture these mechanical motions on paper and so was born the first of a series of three drawing machines based around the components of the bombsight computer itself.

The bombsight computers, from which Henry constructed these machines in his home-based workshop in Manchester, were employed in World War Two Bomber Aircraft to calculate the accurate release of bombs onto their target. He combined these computers with other components to create electronically-operated drawing machines which relied mainly on a ‘mechanics of chance’. This meant the drawing machines could not be pre-programmed or store information as in a conventional computer; nor were they precision instruments.

As a result, Henry had only general overall control but at the same time he could intervene to direct the course of image production at any given moment of his choosing. Today not one drawing machine remains intact.

Using one or more mechanised drawing implements (biros at first and then tube pens with Indian ink) Henry’s drawing machines produced abstract, curvilinear, repetitive line drawings The chance element inherent in the construction and function of each Henry drawing machine ensured the unrepeatable quality of their infinitely varied visual effects. The aesthetic appeal of these ‘mechanical fractals’ (Henry) lies in their unique blend of order and chaos, of regularity and irregularity.

David Hockney’s IPad art exhibition in Paris opened on the 20th October this year and features work done on his IPAD, not photos of his art running through in a slide show but art actually draw on the apple device.

The images are displayed and changed regularly in the art gallery on the IPAD its self. Perhaps digital canvases are becoming more mainstream. The days of the static canvas could be numbered……

We all know how dependant we have become on our electronic communications over the last 10 years. There’s nothing more frustrating than losing your mobile signal part way through a conversation or even worse not getting a signal at all…

Well good news for all, thanks to the people at NCELL you are now able to make a phone call and even surf the internet on Mount Everest. Imagine how disappointing it must have been reach the summit and then not be able to tweet all your friends back home about your achievement.

I do have to ask the question of how can people make a mobile call at 8,000 m in Nepal but I struggle to make a call from my kitchen in Manchester….

I thought I’d hijack Ann’s design classics section and add one of my own. So the first question is what makes a design classic? The answer has to be has it stood the test of time.

My design classic is the QWERTY keyboard which hasn’t changed too much since the 1870’s. So it certainly fits that bill.  it was  designed by Christopher Latham Sholes in 1873 for the Sholes and Glidden typewriter and sold to Remington in the same year.

The problem with this design classic is it’s probably not the most practical layout of keys for modern day computer and typing.

QWERTY was designed for typewriters which historically had the keys laid out in alphabetical order and suffered issues that when certain key combinations were used, the bars would clash and jam.

To get round this Mr Sholes designed the QWERTY keyboard, which stuck and in now standard across most modern keyboards.

As modern keyboard don’t have the issue of jamming bars other alternatives have been suggested. The most notable is the Dvorak layout.

 However this has never been widely adopted and it looks like QWERTY is here to stay.