An Attitude Of Gratitude

Thursday, November 27th is Thanksgiving in the United States. So rather than do my normal weekly column, I thought I’d take a moment to talk about some of the things I am grateful for.

There’s a tendency in technology — in all things, really — to be more than a little unappreciative for the all the wonderful things we have around us. This is not a new phenomenon.

All right, but apart from the sanitation, the medicine, education, wine, public order, irrigation, roads, a fresh water system, and public health, what have the Romans ever done for us? ~ John Cleese as Reg, in Monty Python’s Life of Brian

By almost every objective measure, things are getting better. We don’t notice because we don’t know history well so we don’t recognize how much better the now and here is than the then and yesteryear was. Further, it’s our nature to focus on the bad and accept the good as our due.

Human beings have an almost infinite capacity for taking things for granted. ~ Aldous Huxley

This is why a day of Thanksgiving — a day to remember how truly good we have it — is worth having.

Mobile And Personal Computing

In our own little corner of the world, mobile and personal computing has dramatically improved people’s lives.

(H)umans are distinguished from other species by our abilities to work miracles. We call these miracles technology. ~ Peter Thiel

In 1995 there were 16 million people connected to the internet. In 2005 that number had grown to one billion. Already in 2014, that number has surpassed three billion — 40% of the world’s population.


In 1995, there were 250 million PCs. By 2020, 90 percent of the world’s population over six years old will have a mobile phone.


Sometimes this new technology does not come in the exact form we expected or desired so we deride, dismiss or ignore its significance. Chris Dixon, below, gently chides us for our tendency to let what we forever want blind us to the wonder of what already is.

We asked for flying cars and all we got was the entire planet communicating instantly via pocket supercomputers. ~ Chris Dixon

Everyone Gets A Pocket Supercomputer

The implications of a supercomputer in every pocket will be enormous for everyone, but it will be disproportionately greater for the poor.

Mobile in emerging markets solves problems much further down Maslow’s Hierarchy. ~ Benedict Evans (@BenedictEvans) 8/24/14

Most tech innovation is attacked as ‘rich people’s toys’, but ends up giving the poor things that previously only the rich could have. ~ Benedict Evans (@BenedictEvans)

It’s still a common mistake to see smartphones (and even phones) as a luxury. In fact, their value is inversely proportionate to income. ~ Benedict Evans (@BenedictEvans) 8/15/14

I have been fortunate to have lived my life in the age of computing. But I’ve got a feeling we ain’t seen nothing yet. In the past, computing was available to those few of us who lived in developed countries and who had the wherewithal necessary to buy the devices we desired. That’s about to change and, I believe, change for the better. The impact on the world will be truly profound.

Thanksgiving in the palm of your hand

Mea Culpa

Gratitude is not only the greatest of virtues, but the parent of all the others. ~ Cicero

All too often, I am less grateful than I ought to be.

Silent gratitude isn’t very much to anyone. ~ Gertrude Stein

And all too often, even when I am grateful, I fail to express my gratitude. So let me conclude this short article by expressing my thanks to the creators of, and the contributors to, Tech.pinions, and most especially to you, the readers and commentators of Tech.pinions. I am truly grateful for you all.

Some Tech Critics Are Like Eunuchs In A Harem

Some Tech critics are like eunuchs in a harem. They see it done, they see how it should be done, but they can’t do it themselves or derive any pleasure from it, so they conclude that it’s a waste of time and effort. ((Inspired by: “Critics are like eunuchs in a harem. They’re there every night, they see it done every night, they see how it should be done every night, but they can’t do it themselves. Brendan Behan, quoted in M. Sullivan, Brendan Behan: A Life (1997)”))

The Premise

Christopher Mims, writing for Quartz:

2013 was a lost year for tech

All in, 2013 was an embarrassment for the entire tech industry

[pullquote]Oh, look! A dead horse! Where’s my stick?[/pullquote]

Mim’s article has already been critiqued, in detail, by the likes of John Gruber, Apple 2.0, and Daniel Eran Dilger. But never let it be said that I’m above piling on. To paraphrase Dorothy Parker: “This is not an article to be tossed aside lightly. Rather, it should be thrown with great force.”

For that reason, I present to you (some of) what’s wrong with Christopher Mims’ critique of tech in 2013.


2013 was the year smartphones became commodities…

Prices for good tablets have similarly collapsed.

What Mims claims is fine and all except for one thing — it just ain’t true.

A commodity is a class of goods for which there is demand, but which is supplied without qualitative differentiation across a market. A commodity has full or partial fungibility; that is, the market treats its instances as equivalent or nearly so with no regard to who produced them.

Phones and tablets are anything but commodities. I could prove that in some detail, but I don’t need to. One can tell that phones and tablets are not a commodity simply by looking at the wide disparity in their prices.

To miss something that obvious isn’t easy to do, but Mims — in this article, at least — seems to be up to the challenge.


If you don’t know the proper definition of a term, don’t use that term to support your argument.

Creative Destruction

Mims cites all of the following as signs that ‘2013 Was a Lost Year for Tech’:

Microsoft lost nearly a billion dollars on the Surface RT tablet…

Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer will be pushed out…

Microsoft bought Nokia‘s devices business….

The outlook wasn’t much better for Intel…

BlackBerry…proved to be a near-total loss.

(T)he best that can be said so far (of Hewlett-Packard) is that it’s gracefully managing its own decline.

[pullquote](E)very wrong attempt discarded is a step forward. ~ Thomas Edison[/pullquote]

In viewing the above, any student of economics would come to the exact opposite conclusion that Mims did. 2013 was not a lost year. Far from it. It was a year of turmoil and turnover — the very embodiment of creative destruction.

“Creative destruction is a process through which something new brings about the demise of whatever existed before it. The term is used in a variety of areas including economics, corporate governance, product development, technology and marketing. In product development, for example, creative destruction is roughly synonymous with disruptive technology.” ~ Wikipedia


If you don’t know the proper economic theory, don’t use it to support your argument.

Planned Obsolescence

(Apple) crippled many older iPhones and led to complaints of planned obsolescence.

John Gruber refutes this argument, in detail, here.

[pullquote]People everywhere confuse what they read … with news. ~ A. J. Liebli[/pullquote]

Mims’ naked assertion that iOS7 crippled older iPhones is particularly grating. If you’re going to build an argument, you have to build it on a firm foundation. And if you’re going to make an extraordinary claim, then you have to provide extraordinary proof to support it. Instead, people like Mims simply make spurious claims and then build elaborate arguments on top of virtually nothing. It’s the equivalent of building a skyscraper on quicksand.


If you can’t support your facts, don’t use them to support your arguments.

Making Us Sick

(Apple introduced) animate(d) 3D effects that make some users feel ill…



[pullquote]Little things affect little minds. ~ Disraeli[/pullquote]

This is one of the buttresses Mims uses to support his contention that 2013 was a lost year in tech? Would he have similarly claimed that the Model-T, and every car that succeeded it, was a failure because it made some people car sick?

This is a textbook display of the cognitive distortion known as all-or-nothing thinking:

“All-or-nothing thinking: seeing things in black or white as opposed to shades of gray; thinking in terms of false dilemmas. Involves using terms like “always”, “every” or “never” when this is neither true, nor equivalent to the truth.”

Yes, some very few users of iOS 7 did suffer from motion sickness. Yes, Apple immediately released an update to remove the offending motion, if desired. Talk about throwing out the baby with the bath water. Mims discards all that is good in iOS 7 because he detects one trivial, easily correctable, flaw.

If Mims believes that progress comes without problems — and that any problem, no matter how trivial, outweighs all of progresses’ benefits — then he’d better get used to disappointment. And he’d better stop writing about tech.


One should never make a mountain out of a molehill.


If it’s in the nature of progress to move in leaps, there are necessarily lulls in between. …2013 was a great big dud for technology as a whole.

[pullquote] We always overestimate the change that will occur in the next two years and underestimate the change that will occur in the next ten. ~ Bill Gates[/pullquote]

Lull? Lull? Does Mim even know what a lull is?

Geez, get some perspective man. 2013 was anything but a “lull”. Rather, it was a rapid acceleration of some important trends — like a car accelerating from 30 mph to 60 mph. Technology moved so fast in 2013, it was like trying to read Playboy magazine with your wife turning the pages.

Millions upon millions of people who never before had access to cellular or WiFi data connected in 2013. Millions upon millions of people who never before owned a computer bought one in 2013. Millions upon millions of feature phones were converted into smartphones in 2013.

More smartphones – which is A COMPUTER THAT FITS IN YOUR POCKET – were sold in a single quarter of 2013 than PCs were sold all year.

Perhaps Mims’ world wasn’t rocked in 2013 — but the worlds of tens of millions of ordinary folk was, and the world, as a whole, was changed forever.


If you don’t know the difference between gliding and accelerating, then stop criticizing the racers and stay safely on the sidelines.

No Breakthrough Products

Not a single breakthrough product was unveiled…

Apple’s new iOS7 mobile operating system…felt “more like a Microsoft release”…

(A) faster processor in the iPhone 5S…

(A) fingerprint sensor that solved a problem that wasn’t exactly pressing.

[pullquote]What? No unicorns in 2013? All of 2013? Shame. ~ Horace Dediu (@asymco)[/pullquote]

Mim’s whining that there were no tech breakthroughs in 2013 comes off as childish, impatient, petulant. He’s the worst kind of critic — having accomplished nothing himself, he demands annual miracles from others.

But that’s not the worst of it. Mim’s true sin is that he exposes his embarrassing lack of competence for all to see.

The role of the critic is to learn more, know more, understand more about their chosen field and to expose the unseen and explain the misunderstood to his audience. Even more, excellent critiquing consists of seeing what everybody else has seen and noticing what nobody else has noticed.

Does Mims do that? On the contrary.

Big things start small. The gardner sees the giant oak tree in the smallest acorn. Mims, on the other hand, expects the oak tree to appear fully grown.

LESSON #6: The great thing in this world is not so much where you stand, as in what direction you are moving. ~ Oliver Wendell Holmes


[pullquote]You are not superior just because you see the world in an odious light. ~ Vicomte de Chateaubriand[/pullquote]

If one looks for the bad in tech, one will surely find it. But is that the proper goal of tech journalism?

It seems to me that our job is to illuminate the fog. And while some use the light to illuminate, others use it to obscure.

Some people seem to think that innovation means change. And some think that change means innovation. But innovation doesn’t just mean change, it means making things better. And if you measure 2013 by that standard, then 2013 wasn’t a lost year, it was a year of change and change for the better.

And that’s worth writing about.

Tech Thanksgiving

In the United States, today is the holiday known as Thanksgiving. So rather than write my normal column, I thought I’d devote today’s article to some of those things that I’m most thankful for — but with a tech slant.

We must find time to stop and thank the people who make a difference in our lives. ~ John F. Kennedy

True enough. And not just on Thanksgiving, but the year around too.

I am thankful for Tim and Ben Bajarin ((By working faithfully eight hours a day you may eventually get to be a boss and work twelve hours a day. ~ Robert Frost)), who run Tech.Pinions, and for all the writers and contributors at Tech.Pinions. I am honored to call them my colleagues and even more honored to call them my friends.

Thanks for bringing the smart.

I’m oh-so-very-thankful for the readers of Tech.Pinions, and even more thankful for those who take the time to comment on our articles. I LOVE reading and responding to your comments — so Bring It On!

Some people are always grumbling because roses have thorns. I am thankful that thorns have roses. ~ Alphonse Karr

I am thankful for the great technology we have today. As for myself, when it comes to modern technology, I see far more roses than I do thorns.

Let us rise up and be thankful, for if we didn’t learn a lot today, at least we learned a little. ~ Buddha

I am thankful that my research and my writing allow me explore the world of tech and to learn something new and wondrous each and every day. I hope to learn a lot every day — but I’ll settle for learning just a little.

At times our own light goes out and is rekindled by a spark from another person. Each of us has cause to think with deep gratitude of those who have lighted the flame within us. ~ Albert Schweitzer

I am thankful for the Blogasphere — and thankful to be a part of the Blogasphere. Only in today’s age and with today’s technology would I be able to read and interact with some of the finest minds on the planet. I often find my spirit rekindled by a spark from another and, it is my sincere hope, that I may, on occasion, do the same for one of them.

Silent gratitude isn’t very much to anyone. ~ Gertrude Stein

I am thankful that I get this opportunity to express my thanks.

And two final thoughts.

First, Thanksgiving is a day of feasting and watching (American) football. But I implore you to take the sage advice of the one-and-only, Miss Piggy:

Never eat more than you can lift.

Second, a wise word of warning from the ever insightful Erma Bombeck:

If a man watches three football games in a row, he should be declared legally dead.

Take a break, now and then, to thank those around you. It’s good for their mental health…and yours.

Happy Thanksgiving!

Tech Intolerance (Part 1)

There’s something I don’t understand… there is this thing that people do – a lot of people – that I just do not understand and I will likely never understand…it’s been going on for years, almost a decade now, and it just doesn’t make a lick of sense… It didn’t back then… It doesn’t now:

Why do people buy Apple products? (((A)t the end of the day, I just don’t get it… there are droves and droves of otherwise really intelligent and competent human beings out there that will line up for a tablet with a half-eaten fruit on the back… There is no amount of smoothness nor simplicity that is worth opening my wallet twice as wide… This has been called the “Apple tax” for as long as I can remember… It’s absolutely mind-blowing to me that anyone on this Earth and in this economy would buy an iPad mini and pay the Apple tax simply because it’s Apple…At the end of the day, I can’t stop folks from burning money.

If you think the opinions expressed in this article are an aberration, feel free to read the 255-plus comments.))

This is but one example of intolerance. It could easily be reversed and applied to the Apple fan who disparaged Android or to any one of an infinite number of intolerant assertions.

The Twisted Path Of Intolerance

In literature as in love, we are astonished at what is chosen by others.” ~ Andre Maurois

In tech, too, we are astonished at what is chosen by others.

PREMISE: It doesn’t make sense (to me);
THEREFORE: If doesn’t make sense (for anyone).

PREMISE: There is no reason (apparent to me);
THEREFORE: There can be no possible reason.

PREMISE: You are not using (the) reason (I would use);
THEREFORE: You are unreasonable.

PREMISE: Any intelligent person would think and act the way I do;
FACT: You are not thinking and acting the way I do;
THEREFORE: You are not intelligent.

There are two types of people. People like me. And people who want to be like me. ~ The Intolerant Credo


Contradictions do not exist. Whenever you think you are facing a contradiction, check your premises. You will find that one of them is wrong. ~ Ayn Rand

  1. Just because we don’t know, doesn’t mean it can’t be known.
  2. Just because we don’t understand, doesn’t mean that it can’t be understood.
  3. Just because we don’t have proof of its existence, doesn’t mean that it doesn’t exist.
  4. Just because we can’t see it, doesn’t mean that it can’t be seen.
  5. Just because we can’t fathom it, does not mean that it is unfathomable.
  6. Just because we don’t get it, doesn’t mean that it can’t be got.
  7. Just because it’s not right for us, doesn’t mean that it’s not right for anyone else.

Frantic orthodoxy is never rooted in faith but in doubt. It is when we are unsure that we are doubly sure. ~ Reinhold Niebuhr


The fundamental contradiction contained in intolerance is one of locus. We don’t understand others. But we can’t be at fault because we are smart. So we employ a form of mental Jujitsu. If we can’t understand you and if we are smart then you must be dumb.

To arrive at a contradiction is to confess an error in one’s thinking; to maintain a contradiction is to abdicate one’s mind and to evict oneself from the realm of reality. ~ Ayn Rand

We do not hear a persuasive argument; we cannot articulate a reason that explains the actions of others; we don’t see sufficient proof to overcome our convictions, so we conclude that OTHERS, not ourselves, are deaf, dumb and blind.

get-a-brain-moransIt is the equivalent of concluding that if we do not understand the theory of relativity, that Einstein must have been a moron. Oh, pardon me — I mean, a ‘moran’.

Money demands that you sell, not your weakness to men’s stupidity, but your talent to their reason. ~ Ayn Rand

THEIR reason, not OUR reason.


For my grandfather, there were two kinds of people in the world:  Those who agreed with him, and those who hadn’t yet agreed with him.” ~ B. Spira

It’s the usual thing of tech obsessives mistaking their tastes for that of wider public. ~ Charles Arthur (@charlesarthur)

Whenever something gets easier for the masses, there will always be a neckbeard there to complain about it. ~ H.C. Marks (@HCMarks)

Intolerance is not about living as we wish to live. It is about asking others to live as we wish to live. ((Inspired by Oscar Wilde))

Think for yourselves and let others enjoy the privilege to do so, too. ~ Voltaire

The intolerant refuse to grant others the right to think and decide for themselves. And perhaps more importantly, the intolerant refuse to grant others the right to be mistaken.

Freedom is not worth having if it does not connote freedom to err. It passes my comprehension how human beings, be they ever so experienced and able, can delight in depriving other human beings of that precious right. ~ Mohandas Gandhi

The intolerant ask the wrong questions. They ask: “What is right and what is wrong.” But when it comes to personal taste, there is no one single answer to those questions. There are as many answers as there are individuals residing on the planet. It’s not a question of what’s right, it’s a question of what’s right for us.

There are no right answers to wrong questions. ~ Ursula K. Le Guin

— The intolerant place the onus on others.
— The tolerant place the onus on themselves.

— The intolerant ask: Why do you not understand?
— The tolerant ask: Why do I not understand you?

When I don’t understand, I have an unbearable itch to know why. – Robert Heinlein


You can lead a horse to water, but you can’t make him drink.
You can lead a man to knowledge, but you can’t make him think.

You cannot overcome ignorance with knowledge.

The voice of reason is inaudible to irrational people. ~ Dr. Mardy’s Aphorisms

It has been my experience that the less we know, the more certain we become.

The truth is not for all men, but only for those who seek it. ~ Ayn Rand

It’s hard enough to acquire knowledge when we’re actively seeking it. It’s all but impossible to acquire knowledge when we’re actively resisting it.

There is nothing you can’t prove if your outlook is only sufficiently limited.” ~ Dorothy Sayers

Our ability to learn and change is, perhaps, only surpassed by our refusal to do either.

Human beings, who are almost unique in having the ability to learn from the experience of others, are also remarkable for their apparent disinclination to do so. ~ Douglas Adams


Men will always be mad, and those who think they can cure them are the maddest of all. ~ Voltaire

Why bother to counter the Trolls if we know that they are impervious to reason?

I can think of at least two reasons, one noble, one practical. First the noble.

The phrases that men hear or repeat continually, end by becoming convictions and ossify the organs of intelligence. ~ Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

It may sound overdramatic, but I truly do fear the memes of this world. There is reality and perception and in the world of nature, reality is the only thing that matters and perception is merely its shadow. But in the minds of men (and women), the laws of nature can be reversed: the shadow can engulf the substance, and perception can become reality.

It is therefore, in my opinion, crucial that we contest nonsense and falsehoods lest they be perceived as truths merely because they are repeated over and over again.

Who controls the past controls the future. Who controls the present controls the past. ~ George Orwell

Falsehoods must not be sanctioned either in word or in deed, but most insidiously, by one’s silence.

Evil requires the sanction of the victim. ~ Ayn Rand

Next Week

Next week I shift the focus to how we treat our customers — how our intolerance for the very people we are supposed to be serving undermines their satisfaction and sabotages our success. Further, I will attempt to introduce a time-tested method used to counter our all-too-human tendency to disparage our customers.

Schools and Tech: A Long-Running Tragedy

Classroom photo (© Tom Wang -

Last year, the Los Angeles Unified School District had a great idea: Provide all 640,000 students in the system with iPads equipped with custom software from Pearson Education at a cost of $1 billion. Today after 47,000 tablets have been distributed, the project is looking shaky. According to the Los Angeles Times, The LAUSD has ordered students at two of the pilot high schools to turn their iPads in. The problem:  The students, entirely predictably, have figured out how to load apps, play games, and get to Facebook, circumventing the school district’s controls.

The LA iPad fiasco is the latest act in the never-ending drama of technology in K-12 education. A quarter-century after forward looking schools got their first Apple ][s, Commodore PETs, and Ohio Scientifics, educators are still trying to figure out how to use them as something other than glorified typewriters and calculators and as a substitute for spending money on real libraries.

The use of computers in schools has been hobbled by risk-averse educators who apply a particularly repressive version of the precautionary principle: The top priority in any technology deployment is making certain that it is not misused (i.e., used in ways other than what is officially sanctioned) even if that means it cannot be used effectively. The result is a heavy emphasis on potential risks, while little thought is given to potential benefits, especially those that might arise serendipitously–say, by students figuring out something clever that teachers and administrators hadn’t thought of. Hence, LAUSD was ready to go back to square one at the first sign of trouble although it is far from clear to me there much danger of real harm. (The problem with students using Facebook or Twitter on their school iPads while at home is?)

My local district, the Montgomery County Public Schools, in the prosperous and tech-savvy Maryland suburbs of Washington, is a depressing example. Six years after the introduction of the iPhone and three years after the release of the iPad,  MCPS policy states:

High school and middle school students may have cell phones or other portable communication devices on school property and at school-sponsored activities, but may not turn them on or use the devices during class time. These devices must be kept out of sight. Students should be reminded that setting the device to “vibrate” is not the same as turning the device off. ((Although the policy statement was last updated this year, there is no mention of either tablets or laptops. This replaced an earlier policy that ineffectually banned students from bringing mobile phones or pagers to school, period.))

This was probably a sensible policy in 2005, when there was no benefit to students having phones in class. That was before the proliferation of apps, many of them potentially useful in class. How many times have you been in an adult conversation where someone added a useful insight gained by looking something up on a smartphone or tablet? Any chance that might happen in school, too? Students might even learn some useful research skills along the way.

MCPS is spending millions of dollars to finally set up wireless networking in schools. But students are theoretically prohibited from using their own devices on the school Wi-Fi (of course, access is controlled by WPA passwords it took them maybe 30 seconds to find the key.) Of course, wireless networking is useful to teachers and administrators, but it would be at least as beneficial to students.[pullquote]The top priority in any technology deployment is making certain that it is not misused (i.e., used in ways other than what is officially sanctioned) even if that means it cannot be used effectively.[/pullquote]

Allowing students to use personal wireless devices in schools does raise a variety of problems. Phones and tablets are powerful distractors and you don’t want students sitting in the back of the room tweeting. But students have found ways to be distracted in class since the Neanderthals set up the first cave schools. And good teachers can be as effective as catching the tweeters and texters as they were at catching note-passers in my day.

The use of the devices as aids to cheating is a more serious issue. But again, they are simply the latest tool for which cheaters have found ingenious uses. One solution is more effective  proctoring; a teacher who would let a student get away with looking something up on the internet in the middle of a test probably shouldn’t be in a classroom. Another is swift, certain, and effective punishment for students who get caught (something schools are all too reluctant to do today with students caught at more prosaic forms of cheating.) In some cases, teaching approaches and evaluations will have to be modified to cope with students having wireless access. But an obsessive focus on potential harms, such as cheating, must be measured against the potential benefits.

Higher education has far fewer qualms about the use of technology and seems to be reaping greater benefits. At Hood College in Frederick, Md., introductory calculus is taught entirely on iPads (video). Students complete worksheets inking in their answers using Notability (entering math from a keyboard on any sort of computer remains daunting) and turning in their work and sharing materials through Dropbox. It can be done.





How Technology Has Touched My Life

Last week, Ben Bajarin shared the top 5 technologies that changed his life. Yesterday, Steve Wildstrom talkied about how computers had changed his life. Today, I thought I’d share a few of my old technology war stories.


When I was in college, if you missed a TV program, you missed it forever. As a result, we used to schedule our week around the programs that we wanted to watch. On Tuesday nights, everything stopped so we could watch Happy Days. My friend, Jim, never got to watch an entire episode of Charlie’s Angels because his girlfriend would just happen to call him during the show. Odd coincidence, no? On Sundays in the Fall, we would debate whether to watch football or play football. It was either or because we couldn’t do both.

Then in the summer of 1975, my brother bought what we would later call a VCR (Video Cassette Recorder). It cost him over a thousand dollars and it could only tape one show and only for a total of one hour. I was dazzled. Yet when I described the device to my college dorm mates, they were singularly unimpressed. They just couldn’t see what it was good for. Boy were they wrong.

The VCR changed my life because it freed me from the tyranny of the TV schedule. VCRs have morphed into DVRs and now I watch television on my schedule, not the network’s schedule. I hardly ever watch commercials. I never miss my favorite programs or sporting events. And I schedule my life around my needs and the needs of my family – my television programs never interfere because they are always patiently waiting in a cue for my viewing pleasure.


I was intrigued with computers from the very start. My brother owned an Apple II and I experiemented with all sorts of computers before I finally bought one. In 1984, Apple introduced the Mac. I wanted one so badly…but I couldn’t afford it. I waited until Apple introduced the “Fat Mac” – a whole 512-k of memory – in 1985 and then bought the 1984 model which only had 128 kilobytes of memory – total. There were no hard drives. The system, program and data all had to fit on a single 128-k disk. How very far we’ve come.

I won’t go into a discussion of the wonders of the mouse, the graphical user interface and the menus. Let me just say that before the Mac, I worked at understanding computers. The Mac was the first computer that tried to understand how I worked. And that has made all the difference.

Word Processing

When I was a kid, I remember writing my papers by hand. After I was done, I would often have to re-write the whole thing to make it legible. When I was in 8th grade, I learned to touch type. It was like a small miracle. I could type so much faster than I could write and it was legible too! But I still remember re-wrting my papers long into the night. And I well remember using white-out to correct my many, many typing errors.

When I encountered word processing, it was love at first sight. On-screen editing, spell and grammar checking, cut and paste. We take these all for granted now, but they were literally life changing technological breakthroughs to me. Word processing truly works the way I work. I throw my ideas onto the screen and then I go back over them again and again, editing and re-writing as I go. And it is not at all unusual for me to cut and paste large blocks of text as I arrange and re-arrange my thoughts

You may take the word processor for granted but I never will. I well know that I could never go back to writing my drafts by hand or even writing them on a typewriter. The word processor does not just help me to write my thoughts. It helps me to shape and create those thoughts too.


I am geographically challenged…which is a nice way of saying that I have no sense of direction. GPS has literally changed my life and what I would not have given to have had it available earlier in my life.

Heck, I thought it was a miracle when Mapquest came out. I would sit at my desk and print out maps to any location that I wished to visit. It showed me the way even if I’d never been there before. But if I went off route, the jig was up. I’d never find my way back on course.

I bought in-car GPS units just as soon as I could afford them. Their greatest asset was the ability to re-route. Make a wrong turn? No problem. The GPS would sort it all out and tell me how to get back on course.

Today, GPS is almost all the way there. Last night I told my phone to “Drive me to such and such” and without missing a beat, it found the desired location and gave me turn-by-turn directions on how to get there. GPS isn’t quite there yet. But it is oh so very close. And for someone like me, that’s like a tiny miracle happening every single day.


The iPhone changed everything for me because it is not really a phone at all. It is a small computer that you can put in your pocket. It ties everything else I’ve talked about together. I can watch Youtube or Netflix or download a movie or TV show to be watched at my pleasure and at my leisure. I can type out short text messages or long emails. I can use it for GPS. And I can do everything I did on my Mac and so very much more.

My journey in computing started with the Mac. But today I have the power of yesterday’s mainframe and all the knowledge of the internet in my pocket at all times.


When I was a kid, we thought that we’d have laser beams that would cut down trees and computers that would be as big as buildings. It seems to me that we expected technology to get bigger but instead it has gotten smaller. Lasers are powerful but not because they do big things but because they do small things like laser surgery. Computers are powerful but not because they are bigger but because they are smaller and more personal.

Technology has freed my time, helped me to get where I want to go, helped me to create, shape and express my thoughts and placed the power of computing and the internet in my hand. What has technology done for you? Please share your thoughts and experiences on how technology has touched your life in the comments, below.

The Greatest Show In Tech

You can’t tell the players without a program

It’s like the circus has come to the world of tech. Over the next 30 days or so everybody and his brother is going to be announcing a spanking new tech product. And like the circus, there will be a wide variety of acts. Some will be strongmen, some will be clowns. There will be metaphorical elephants in the room. There will be high-wire acts, balancing acts, jugglers, contortionists, snake charmers and freak shows. There will be illusionists and magic acts. And if some of these product introductions go wrong, a couple of tech company CEOs may play the role of human cannonballs as well.

It’s going to be quite a fall for tech. And for some unfortunate devices, it’s going to be quite a fall from tech too.

I’m no prophet, but I like to play one the internets

“The groundhog is like most other prophets; it delivers its prediction and then disappears.” – Bill Vaughan

Since we know so little about these products, there’s not much point in analyzing any of them – but I’m going to do it anyway. Rather than take a deep dive into the bewildering array of new product offereings, I thought we’d go on a shallow swim instead. So get ready for a fact-free, thought-free, light-on-analysis, heavy-on-snark romp through the circus of tech.

“A little snark, properly directed, can change the world.” – Shannon Hale

Grab your popcorn, and pull up a chair, the show’s about to begin.

“I prefer to make up my own quotes and attribute them to very smart people, so that I can use them to win arguments” – Albert Einstein

1.0) MP3

It’s hard to believe, but Apple introduced the iPod just 11 short years ago in 2001. The iPod rocketed Apple to relevance but now the category itself is rapidly moving towards irrelevance.

However, the category is not dead quite yet. Apple continues to make a boatload of money from the dwindling MP3 space. And the iPod Touch remains Apple’s stealth iOS device. So what is Apple going to do to its iPods in the coming days?

Who knows? Who cares? Apple controls that market. They can do what they damn well please.


2.1) Windows Phone 8

“Four or five frigates will do the business without any military force.” -– British prime minister Lord North, on dealing with the rebellious American colonies, 1774

Talk about a slow motion disaster.

In 2006, Microsoft’s Windows Mobile was one of THE premiere players in smartphones. In 2007, Steve Balmer was laughing at the iPhone. In 2008, Microsoft realized their mistake, reversed course and started work on Windows Phone 7. In 2012, Microsoft abandoned Windows Phone 7 and prepared the debut of Windows Phone 8.

My perilous prediction? iOS is Coke, Android is Pepsi (except that they have way more market share) and Windows Phone “whatever” is destined to remain the un-cola of smartphones.

2.2) Nokia Lumia

“If you board the wrong train, it is no use running along the corridor in the other direction.” – Dietrich Bonhoeffer

A year and a half ago, Nokia CEO Stephan Elop announced that Nokia was, metaphorically, jumping off a burning platform into the frozen North sea. And now people are surprised that Nokia is drowning?

People don’t seem to get this. Nokia has a problem. They’re not in control of their fate. It doesn’t matter how good their product is. If the Windows Phone 8 platform that they’re standing on fails, they fail.

2.3) Samsung Windows 8 Phones

A very, very big fish in a very teeny, tiny, Windows 8 Phone pond.

2.4) HTC Phones

1% of the sector’s sales. Maybe less.

How the mighty have fallen…

…and how they’ve fallen mighty rapidly.

2.5) Motorola RAZR

So, Google owns Motorola but they still can’t put out a phone that runs the most current version of Android. Unbelievable.

Google Motorola is not yet a threat to anyone…but themselves.

2.6) Amazon Phone

Just one question:


2.7) iPhone Whatever

Before a Tsunami makes landfall, it gives warning by causing the waters to recede from the shore. This is called a “drawback”. Drawbacks have been known to last for 10 minutes or more. The longer the drawback, the larger the impending wave.

The drawback for the iPhone Whatever has lasted for some three months.

You’ve been warned.

2.8) RIM

Never saw off the branch you are on, unless you are being hanged from it. – Stanislaw Lec

RIM has nothing to announce…

…and that’s all you need to know about RIM’s prospects.


3.1) Amazon Kindle

Not everyone sees the need for the Amazon Kindle. I think the Amazon Kindle is a unique and uniquely useful product. It fills a niche. People love it. I’ve got nothing snarky to add.

3.2) Barnes & Noble Nook

A few months ago, Microsoft was suing the Barnes & Noble Nook product. Then Microsoft turned around and announced an agreement to work on a joint Nook product instead. Keep an eye on this space. Could be interesting.

3.3) Sony

Is Sony still even in electronics? It’s just sad to see how far this once great company has fallen.


“Economists give their predictions to a digit after the decimal point to show that they have a sense of humor” – Anonymous

4.1) Nexus 7

When you lose, don’t lose the lesson. – Author Unknown

The Google Nexus 7 stole a march on the industry by arriving in mid-summer. The Nexus 7 has fine hardware and excellent software but it’s about to get a lesson in the importance of ecosystem.

4.2) Android Tablets

Don’t ever take a fence down until you know why it was put up. – Robert Frost

The Nexus 7 gutted the 7 inch Android tablet market. Rest in peace. Or in pieces. Or whatever.

4.3) Amazon Fire

This category reminds me of an old joke about the two hikers who stumble upon an angry bear. As one hiker turns to run away the other hiker says: “You can’t out run that bear.” The first hiker replies: “I don’t have to out run the bear. I just have to out run you.”

If the rumored 7 inch iPad arrives as predicted, we’re going to find out which one can out run the other – the Nexus 7 or the Amazon Fire.

4.4) Apple iPad Whatever

One should always play fair when one has the winning cards. – Oscar Wilde

The Nexus 7 is a bigger Android phone. The iPad Whatever will be a smaller iPad. And that distinction will make all the difference.

5.0) Full Screen Tablets

5.1) Apple iPad

Nothing to see here, move along, move along.

5.2) Windows RT Tablets

Very nice operating system. Very few Apps. Very difficult road ahead.

5.3) Windows 8 Operating System on a Tablet

“I was not predicting the future, I was trying to prevent it.” – Ray Bradbury

A desktop operating system masquerading as a tablet operating system so that it can pretend that there’s no difference between a desktop and a tablet.

5.4) Windows Surface Tablet

The Windows Surface is a great looking piece of hardware but its focus is on taking a tablet and turning it back into a notebook. That makes no sense unless one simply doesn’t understand what is currently happening in the tablet space.

“The essence of strategy is choosing what not to do. ” – Michael E. Porter

And Microsoft’s creation of its own hardware and its attack on its own licensing business model isn’t a strategy – it’s a sign that they lack a strategy.

5.5) A Gaggle of Windows 8 Hardware Offerings

Wow, we’re seeing a plethora of Windows 8 devices hit the market. Convertibles and hybrids and phablets, oh my!

What we’re really seeing here is the anti-Surface. Every OEM is working around the Surface tablet so that they don’t have to directly compete against it. And no OEM knows exactly what to do – so they’re doing everything.

Throwing things up against the wall in order to see what sticks may work with spaghetti. But it’s awfully tough on hardware.


6.1) Ultrabooks

All of those Windows 8 tablets that want to be a notebook and all of those Ultrabooks that want to be as thin and light as a tablet, are fighting over the same space. And it’s not that big a space.

6.2) Windows 8 Desktop Operating System

A desktop operating system, welded to a tablet interface, just so that Microsoft can pretend that touch inputs and mouse inputs aren’t entirely separate things but that those two divergent input elements can be conflated into one and the same thing.

Good luck with that.

Just remember, there’s a right way and a wrong way to do everything and the wrong way is to keep trying to make everybody else do it the right way. – M*A*S*H, Colonel Potter


“Be careful what you predict. It may come back to haunt you… or laugh at you.” – Annonymous

We’re about to get a lot of questions answered. Or we’re about to get a lot of answers questioned. Or both.

The problem with knee-jerk reactions is that they can make you look like a jerk. – John Kirk

Fasten your seat belts, it’s going to be a bumpy ride.

Marketing to Moms – a Language Barrier

Before attending the recent CES Show in Las Vegas – my 12th consecutive visit to this, the annual tech pilgrimage. I ventured a prediction to my husband: “As much as I hope this is not the case, based on the PR barrage I have received prior to the event this year, I think many of products aimed at women at the Show will STILL be mostly pink”.

Although I can admit this was not entirely the case and the MommyTech section of the Show encompassed almost exclusively fitness gadgets, nail polish machines, and rhinestone accessories for my smart phone and tablet, my disappointment came from a different source.

Tech marketers are still only speaking in speeds and feeds.

With a few notable exceptions – new technologies demonstrated by consumer electronic brands – large and small, highlighted exclusively the power of the processor, the water-resistant casing, the speed of the memory and more – but I seldom heard “and this is what it means to consumers”.

Why is it is so difficult to make that translation? Tech retailers do the same thing. At a recent experience in Best Buy looking to buy an SLR camera, the salesman focused on the quality of the lens, talking about pixels, the number of crystals and even explained how the light is processed inside but he never said: “And all this means that you will confidently take the best, most pristine pictures to capture your most special memories”.

It is 2012 people. Women and moms in particular account for two-thirds of consumer purchases and they are speaking up, engaging brands, sharing their experiences and recommending products they love on Twitter, Facebook and pinning pictures on Pinterest.

Speak to us in plain language; highlight the benefits of speed, durability, and reliability in terms that support our daily life. Such as: “it will be fast and ready when you need to make that call”, or “it will endure the wear and tear of 11 YO triplets at home”.

Even geeks like me, need to hear how your technology will enhance our lives.

Oh and please, drop the “best of breed” – I can’t even translate what that means to me!