First appeared in The Apple
Newsletter of LAMALUG, Mac User Group of Lansing, MI
Digital Tape Recorder
Early in December (1994) while doing some
Christmas shopping, I bought a digital telephone answering
machine, which inspired me to start thinking about the how technology will influence the future.
First, this gadget can record an outgoing
message up to 2 minutes long. As soon as you let go of the button,
it adds a beep. None of the old 5 second pause after your message
Any memory not used in the outgoing
message is added to the 27 minutes of memory allotted to incoming
messages. The caller can leave a message up to 4 minutes. And they
can bypass my outgoing message by hitting the * button on their
phone. The machine puts a day and time before each
When I listen to the messages, I can skip
foreword or backward to the next message and selectively save or
delete any number of messages--and I can do all that from a remote
It sure beats the clunky old answering
machines with the cassette tapes that have to be replaced every 6 months. This has no moving parts to
wear out--except, of course, the buttons. I've even seen machines
that have a jog shuttle wheel to listen foreword and backward at
I guess all of this is no surprise to
anyone who uses a voice mail service. Heck, even the
phone company offers it for a monthly fee. But I sure find it
exciting when new technology is right in my face. Sure I could get one of
the phone answering cards for my computer. But we get some serious
lightning storms around here. When I go away, I unplug my
computer. I'll let the $110 answering machine get fried and
leave my precious desktop computer for other things. A direct hit
will jump right past any safety power strip.
I was describing all this to John Whiting
one afternoon. He foresees digital tape recorders that use PCM-CIA
cards. Come home, slap it into your desktop computer and it'll
convert your speech to print. Well, why not!
I was telling him that I was excited by
the idea of Sony's new Digital MiniDisk for music. Right now I use
individual cassettes with backup music for each song I do in my
entertainment shows. That way I can get to any song in any order
instead of working with a pre-set show. With the MiniDisk, I could
get rid of the cassettes and store 15 to 20 songs on a single
MiniDisk. I'd be able to get to any song faster than it now takes
me to pull out one tape and put in another.
But as we talked, I realized that the
player might not survive my occasional airline travel. At least
with cassettes I can get my hands on a substitute deck should my
own be demolished by the baggage wreck... uh, handlers.
My show stored on PCM-CIA cards might be
something else altogether! With no drive mechanism, the unit would
probably weigh less than a quarter of what a regular tape deck
I've also been seeing ads for some
Virtual Vision Sport TV goggles. Consumer Reports isn't very
impressed, complaining of such problems as focus, and a sagging,
coarse image. But the gadget does point in an interesting
What if you could speak and have a To-Do
list appear in your view? Or you could record all communications
for future reference? When your spouse tells you something, you
wouldn't forget it. Your personal digital assistant (now this is
my idea of a PDA) would flag the important part of the
communication and schedule it for you and alert you of any
conflicting engagements. It could do the listening for you at
times when you're tired and not paying attention.
Little PD could have an interpreter built
in so you wouldn't misunderstand what someone's telling you.
There's no reason that it couldn't speak the "Husband" or
"Wife" language just like it would be able to speak any other language. Can
you image the arguments you could eliminate with such a
My wife thinks that I won't be happy
until computers control every aspect of my life. I don't see it
that way. I don't want to be controlled. I want to be "assisted."
I want a device to free me from my own stupidity, inattentiveness
and the personality weaknesses that make me otherwise jump to
conclusions and react defensively--all unnecessarily. Or at least
it will be unnecessary in the future.
I want to be freed from drudgery so
that I can be more creative. I tried to convince her that such a
machine would help her with employees at her bakery. Once they
established a procedure, the PDA could train new workers on the
job. It could watch over their shoulders and correct their work.
It could help them develop speed and efficiency, and do it all in
a style that could delicately handle their individual
>She said it would do away with
individuality. But I wonder if it would. Or would we be free to be
more creative once we're liberated from spending years of learning the
With the use of computers in the field of
music, we're finding young performers who are putting out highly
polished albums after a short time on a given instrument. They
don't have to spend 10 years in a conservatory before they set
foot in the studio. If someone has the imagination, they can get
to work using it.
Back in the 50's, when predictions were
first made about the daily use of computers, many people swore it
would never happen to them. It wasn't long before even the most
resistant person could see the value of a pocket calculator. I
think everyone will feel the same way about these wonderful new
tools once they see them in action. There's no question, that's
where we're headed.