Gadget Flashback: 1983 Sony Walkman

Screenshot 1983 Sony Walkman from commercial

Watching this Sony Walkman commercial from 1983 gives us a glimpse of the most popular and influential gadgets from the 80s. Forty years ago we lived in the analog age. Things we take for granted today just weren’t possible, though that didn’t stop some brilliant innovations that gave us beloved devices like the Walkman.

Before the Walkman, we did have portable music, but that involved transistor radios. It’s hard for young people now to appreciate just how important the radio was back then. That’s how you got most of your music, and certainly your portable music.

But of course you had little control over what you heard, beyond selecting your favorite radio station. The Walkman changed all that, as suddenly you could create your favorite mix tape (we call them playlists now) and listen wherever you wanted with your Walkman.

How was the Sony Walkman invented?

The Sony Walkman, the world’s first personal stereo, was born in 1979 thanks to the creativity of one man: Akio Morita. He was inspired by a simple idea—to make it easier for people to listen to music wherever they went.

Morita took existing technology and put it in a small, portable case about the size of a pocketbook. It included two headphone jacks so that you could share your jams with your friends! The original Walkman even had an option to record from the radio or cassette deck on cassettes that were specially designed for it. You can see in the commercial above that by 1983 the Walkman was shrunk to the size of a cassette case.

It wasn’t long before everyone wanted their own “personal soundtrack” and soon enough, thousands of people around the world were walking around with their own mini stereo systems. The Sony Walkman became an instant classic, and it forever changed the way we listen to music.

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GoDaddy Becomes Just Another Anonymous Victim

Today, became the latest victim of the hacking group Anoymous.

The damage to the popular webhost is not necessarily long term, but it did force millions of websites that the site supports to go down as a result. The attacks themselves seem to be the works of the hacking group, of whom a sole member has claimed responsibility for the attacks via their Twitter handle AnonymousOwn3r, and said it was done in an effort to expose the security weaknesses of the site. Currently, GoDaddy has announced they are aware of the problem, and are working to resolve it as quickly as possible.

While the scope of this attack (again, millions of websites went down as a result) makes this event certainly newsworthy, it’s inevitably but another notch in the post in a long run of Anonymous attacks. The workings and power structure of the group (if one does in fact exist in the classic sense) are certainly ambiguous, and it often becomes difficult to properly tell exactly what events can be truly attributed to the group, and which ones are done in their name.

Also of ambiguous nature is the exact motivation and intentions of the organization.  In one moment they appear as anarchists, yet a swift glance away yields their image to that of political heroes. Even still, turn your back on them, and the next you hear, you in fact  found yourself face to face with one of their more popular monikers, that of cyber terrorists.

The reason for these profile inconsistencies has to do with the variety of actions performed, or supposedly performed, by the group. While the volume, and nature, of these actions are alarmingly astounding, there are a few that stand out above the rest for one reason or the other. The following are among them:

The Chris Forcand Bust

In one of the most early and public instances of “Anonymous justice”, Chris Forcand was arrested for attempted molestation of a minor, exposure, and weapons charges after members of Anonymous set up an online sting by posing as underage children, and providing the evidence (which included photos of Forcand exposing himself) to the police. When Anonymous would later claim responsibility for the actions, the event would eventually become cited as one of the first known cases of internet vigilantism.

The No Cussing Club

In one of the more petty acts of supposed Anonymous action, California teenager McKay Hatch thought it might be a good idea to start the No Cussing Club with the goal of making people aware of the overuse of profanity. Hackers shut the site down, and got a hold of McKay’s information and leaked his phone number and address to the public resulting in a barrage of hate mail, prank calls, and porn and pizza deliveries made to his residence.

It’s an incident that would prove that no target was too big or small for the considerable capabilities of the group.

Operation Payback

A multi-tiered and ambitious campaign, Operation Payback started a retaliation against the companies supporting anti-piracy campaigns.

The attacks done in the name of this campaign are almost too numerous to list here. They’ve included shutting down the Playstation Network in retaliation against Sony, shutting down a law firm website and releasing private documents they found within, shutting down the website for the Associação do Comércio Audiovisual de Portugal (ACAPOR) which pledged to keep the people of Potruguese from accessing The Pirate Bay (and then redirecting the site directly to Pirate Bay), and attacks against numerous government institutions and politicians.

Operation Payback would later result in Operation Avenge Assange, which was in response to the infamous WikiLeaks shutdown, that also resulted in numerous attacks against a variety of big names including PayPal, Amazon, and large Credit Card companies. Under any name, these operations represent some of the largest and most focused online attacks ever seen against high profile organizations.

2009 Iranian Election Protests

Many of the actions of anonymous are done in support of those they considered to be the “disenfranchised.” In 2009 the people of Iran joined these ranks when the controversial results of the presidential election were announced leading to national protests. In a coalition with the Pirate Bay, Anonymous launched the website Anonymous Iran. The purposes of the site was to get around the restrictions set up by the Iranian government that outlawed news updates about the protests, and provide free information to the citizens.

It was one of the more official acts of the group and emphasized their particular balance of political contributions, and wide scale personal attacks.

Barr, Aaron Barr

One of the more infamous cases of Anonymous attacks, Aaron Barr was CEO of the internet security firm HBGary Federal.  Barr launched a one man campaign of sorts where he infiltrated online hotspots for Anonymous member gatherings, and started collecting data. At one point, he felt he had supposedly acquired knowledge of the majority of the Anonymous leadership and planned on exposing them to the FBI.

Unfortunately in what the kids call a “bad move bro” he also decided to publish his investigation in the Financial Times. When members of Anonymous found out, their vengeance was thorough as they shut down Barr’s company website (an internet security company mind you), altered all of the passwords used internally on the site, wiped out significant amounts of the company’s database information, and published over 50,000 of the companies e-mails for public viewing. As a finale, and in the ultimate show of one-upsmanship, they also erased Barr’s personal iPad.

In order to get them to stop, Barr had to issue a public apology for his actions and also resign as CEO. HBGary would also never recover completely from the incident, as their name is still associate with the incident to this day.

Anonymous vs Scientology

Batman has the Joker, the Hatfields had the McCoys, Maggie Simpson had that baby with the one eye-brow, and for a rival, Anonymous has the Church of Scientology.

It began when Anonymous released a video that showed Tom Cruise spouting a slew of somewhat maniacal “facts” about the church of scientology. As a result, the church put their full legal force into getting the video removed from public, and as a general protest to everything the church represents, the hacking group went into overdrive in the name of revenge.

One of the most significant actions of this campaign was the organizing of physical protests across the world outside of various scientology institutions, where many protestors could be seen wearing Guy Fawkes masks, made popular by the “V for Vendetta” story, in show of their support to Anonymous. The sheer number of worldwide protesters that showed up were astounding, and their methods of protest, while peaceful, were notable in their organization and enthusiasm. Of course, the usual Anonymous methods of protest, including hacking, prank calls, and rigging Google so that the search “dangerous cult” lead to the Scientology website as the top result, were also employed.

To this day the war against Scientology wages on for Anonymous, and has become their signature movement, known as Project Chanology. Along with providing some of their most notable manifestos and iconic images, it’s a movement against just about everything the group considers wrong. While many aspects of the group Anonymous are debatable, there is no denying the social impact of this movement regardless of any personal feelings towards it.


Is Sony’s New TV the Worst Use of Money Since Setting it on Fire?

At this point I thought we’d actually hit something of a peak in modern television performance. I mean there’s always the concepts out there for ultra-realistic 3D models or virtual reality type systems, but strictly speaking about traditional displays, and improving current technology, I look at my HDTV and think, “This is about as good as it gets, and I don’t think I need anything more.”

Sony’s hoping there aren’t too many people in the world like me, as they are aiming to put a TV on the market by the holidays that can only be described as excessive. Specifically, it’s an 80 inch LED TV that makes use of the new, better than 1080p, 4K Resolution that will serve as the flag bearer to Sony’s new XBR line. There’s no way to sugarcoat the price, as it will retail for a clean $30,000.

Now understand this. This TV cannot make you a sandwich, wisely invest your money (quite the opposite), take care of your pets while your away, or anything like that. In fact, the only thing that we know it can do so far is display a really pretty picture on a really big screen, that we can’t really comprehend because the only thing that can display a picture as clear as itself, is itself. Not only that, but Sharp is already working on an 8K TV that could debut even cheaper than this model.

Some have already pointed out that this model is actually cheaper than a previously announced 36 inch model by Eizo Nanao, and have gone back in time to remind us that the first plasma TVs debuted in 1997 for $35,000 and weren’t even capable of true HD. While that’s all very interesting, I hate to say that I don’t think the argument exists yet that will justify the purchase of a $30,000  TV that will be outdated by this time next year. Plus, I’m fairly certain that there isn’t much technology out there that can actually properly make use of this kind of display.

But hey, to be fair I’m not an early adopter, socially awkward type with a trust fund who I assume this TV is marketed at.


Could a Realistic Smartphone/Tablet Hybrid be in the Works?

I remember foolishly thinking at the time of the iPad release that Apple had finally gone off the deep end in terms of design. I mean, as far as I could tell they were basically trying to push what appeared to me to be a big iPhone. Of course what I didn’t anticipate was its uses as a superior e-reader, gaming platform, business and education super tool, video player, practical laptop replacement, and…well let’s just say I didn’t give the iPad and the tablet market as a whole a fair chance at first.

Still, I believe that much like that awkward time period where people still carried their MP3 players, portable gaming devices, and their new smartphones before realizing the latter’s amazing all-in-one potential, that the tablet and current smartphone technologies are sill similar enough that one day another all-in-one device is bound to come along that provides the best of both worlds for a price none of us can reasonably afford.

I’m not alone in this way of thinking either. There is even a terrible, must be changed now word for these devices. Phablets (the only word in existence that is scientifically proven to make you roll your eyes upon hearing it). One popular example of a phablet (*roll*) is the Samsung Galaxy Note. While it’s hybrid design of both devices fits the bill, it’s bulky shape doesn’t really seem to fit easily anywhere else, and it ends up coming off as a bulbous smartphone, or an undersized, underpowered tablet, depending on if you’re a glass half empty or glass half full type.

Despite the lack of overtly successful phablets (*roll*) thus far, designers still aren’t giving up on the idea. One of particular note out there is Patrick Eriksson’s flexible OLED concept design.

The idea is so simple it could have been a popular cartoon in the 80’s created to sell toys. The device starts off in its native phone format, but thanks to an ingenious flippable hideaway screen, it can be transformed, if you will, into a tablet size device in an instant. There aren’t many further details about the device at this time, other than Patrick’s partnership with Sony on the model, who would be handling manufacturing and distribution duties should the concept see its way to completion. That’s something they are no doubt hoping for, as the company could use a big win in light of their financial troubles, and weak market share across many divisions

Sony has also released a similar device before in the Tablet P, but that model, along with the similar, Kyocera Echo, suffered from some serious design flaws that made them come off as gimmicky and unpractical. This new model, however, is the first of its kind I’ve ever seen that looks like it could compently complete the bridge that spans the current tech gap between smartphone and tablet. While time and public reaction will of course ultimately tell the tale, there is no doubt that from a strict concept standpoint, this new device does finally bring into the limelight the almost inevitable conclusion that tablets and smartphones will not always co-exist as separate, economically viable entities.

Only please, somebody needs to invent a better name for these devices. Phablets (*roll*) sounds like a fan group name for high school girls who were way into “The Beatles.”

Pictured: The original line of “Phablets”


They Still Haven’t Built a Better Mousetrap, But Logitech Has Built a Better Mouse

I remember my old computer science teacher telling me that the computer mouse is a handicap. Her theory was that since so many features can be accomplished quicker using keyboard hotkeys, relying on a mouse to navigate your digital world was only for technologically illiterate people who don’t have a working knowledge of keyboard shortcuts. Now while she was clearly pretty hardcore in her beliefs, I’ve got to admit that I do find myself thinking back to that theory when I use a computer, as I catch myself more and more often not relying on the mouse as a default.

There is, of course, one notable exception. As well designed as Sony, Microsoft, and Nintendo have made their controllers over the years, there is still no gaming controller that can compete with the mouse and keyboard set up. It’s the perfect marriage. The keyboard’s comfortable and familiar array of buttons allows for a wide range of features literally at your fingertips, while the mouse provides a level of fluidity and pixel perfect accuracy that no console controller could ever hope to match.

Now accessory mainstay Logitech may have made the mouse even more useful to gaming. That’s because their new G600 gaming mouse takes some of the functionality away from the keyboard, and gives it back to the mouse, just where my old teacher always said it belonged. Equipped with 20 buttons (and a “G switch” that can double button functionality) this mouse was specifically designed to allow MMO gamers to easily access hot key features. Generally though, this little gadget is useful for all types of genres, especially RPGs and RTS games that also rely heavily on quick key access. Not to mention it boasts the extreme durability, rapid movement speed, and pinpoint accuracy you would expect from a gaming mouse, as well as vanity features like customizable color LED color schemes for the buttons and tracking.

Now, this mouse hardly breaks new ground in the field of gaming mice, as various models over the years have featured available buttons before. What I do love about this one, though, is the overall design Logitech has implemented. Not only does it look slick and smooth, and boasts stats that compete with some of best mice available, but unlike some other, similar gaming mice, this one actually looks like it was designed for human hands. Plus considering how I just cleaned house during the Steam Summer Sale, I’m starting to consider the G600s somewhat hefty $79.99 price tag an investment.