Forbes The Predictor

Apropos of last week’s item on predicting the future: Daniel Dern passed on an article about the death of American computer magazines. It reminded me of Jim Forbes, who told me this well before the Internet began its deadly work: “There is no Toaster Magazine. At the turn of the century there were dozens of auto magazines when autos were new; now there are only two. When the novelty wears off, there will be no computer magazines.” He was just a decade or two early.

A Declaration of the Independence of Cyberspace

John Perry Barlow was a pioneer of the Internet who died .in 2018. He issued a Declaration of the Independence of Cyberspace, in Davos, Switzerland on February 8, 1996. He wrote and said a lot of important things about the Internet, but this document might have been the most important.

The Internet offers a potted summary: The declaration laid out an optimistic vision for an egalitarian internet that would allow anyone to express their beliefs “without fear of being coerced into silence or conformity” and without government regulation.

Thank God And Guru: One Charging Cable To Rule Them All

The EU will require USB-C charging for mobile devices by the end of 2024

One cable type for everything. A single standard for all power cables, meaning interchangeable and less expensive chargers, except for devices like the Apple iWatch which cannot be charged with a cable).

Let me translate that for you: No More Lightning Connectors! It seems unlikely that Apple will make separate European versions of everything, or that it will give up the European Market.  For me, it means no longer taking four kinds of cables with me on vacation, “Just In Case.”

I admit it would be nice if all USB connectors were reversible, like the Lightning connector. Maybe vendors could paint one side black, just so we wouldn’t have to toss a coin every time we plug something in.

I am old enough to remember the Wild West days of DOS before the IBM PC. A dozen serial connectors (RS-232 anyone?) and a dozen parallel connectors (Centronics Parallel anyone?). Standards are good. They lower costs and make life easier for consumers. What’s not to like?

I love quoting my good friend, one of the fathers of the PC, George Morrow. On the subject of standards, he was both flippant and serious.

Flippant: “I believe in standards.  Everyone should have them.”

Serious: “It is the user's responsibility to promote standards.  Companies that try to set their own standards should not be rewarded by getting the users' dollars.”

When serious, he was not only right, he placed the responsibility where it belongs: on us, the users.

Workers of the World Unite! You have nothing to loses but your chains―comprised of random charger cables. God Bless The EU!

Set Start and Stop for YouTube Video

This is a public service announcement, brought to you by this blog and the Ad Council.

But seriously, it took me a half hour to find this code. If your Google search brought you here, this is the syntax. Your YouTube video code  is DuMMyCodE, and you want to enter at 45 seconds and end 3:44. Convert all times to seconds and use this code:

Substitute the URL for you video where it says “Dummy Code.” Be sure to strip off any miscellaneous stuff after the last letter of your code (? = & edit, watch, etc.)

Good luck, but I’m willing to wager a) it will work and b) I just saved you a half hour. Feel free to email the half hour to typepad@schindler,org; I could use the time.

All The Different Me’s: 80s Paul

The 80s were the decade of family for me: I settled into a mutually comfortable marriage with Vicki, and we had the two children we wanted, both girls. It is moderately difficult for me to write about them (for the same reason fish have trouble writing about water), but it is no exaggeration to say my family made my life worth living. I enjoyed every minute of fatherhood. I was advised to: “always enjoy the age they are, don’t spend time anticipating the next age.” I feel confident I followed that advice to the letter. My daughters were, and continue to be, one of the greatest sources of joy in my life.

This was the decade when I tasted one of my childhood dreams. I was a west-coast reporter writing, first about minicomputers, then mainframe computers. Despite having poured water on my youthful dream of television, I still mentioned it occasionally. A PR woman I knew heard that The Computer Chronicles, a weekly PBS program, was looking for a software reviewer. It came down to me and Esther Dyson, and I came across better on camera. For eight years, I lived my dream of appearing on national television. I was no Art Linkletter; mostly I sat in a chair and wore funny hats while doing software reviews. But TV is TV.

Sometimes, I co-hosted the show (check it out at the Internet Archive). And eventually came to realize that I had made the right choice in going into print. Less work, more money, more time at home (for years, I was CMP’s single WFH employee, out of a staff of 1,000). I never missed a teacher conference, play or soccer game.

I started out sending stories to headquarters in Manhasset, NY on a rotating drum fax machine that required a human being on the other end to feed in sheets of thermal paper. “Read it fast, before it turns brown.” I also bought my first pair of blue jeans in decades. Lots of joy. Very little contemplation and gratitude.

Semi-Rad: A Big Wet Kiss

I have frequently plugged the amazing website Semi-Rad. Brendan Leonard promotes his 11-year-old blog with a weekly email you can subscribe to at the bottom of almost any page by clicking “Subscribe to the Semi-Rad email newsletter,” which he calls the Friday Inspiration. I can’t recall a week without at least one amazing link. Recently, there were two:

A hearty round of applause described by its poster as “This is literally the funniest thing I have seen in 2 years.”

And, a link to the story of ketchup: When Every Ketchup But One Went Extinct - Gastro Obscura. If you’ve known me for a long time (password―open-mouth ketchup bottle; you know who you are), you’ll know ketchup is near and dear to my heart.

Information Superhighway Potholes in 2012

The bad old days, as recorded by my friend and colleague, the late expatriate American journalist Larry King in February 2012

Just occurred to me that on my home PC I have any number of communications packages -- well, two -- and that I have access to an electronic-mail service that provides an X.400 gateway for cross-service messaging, even if the service would prefer not to tell you about it, and also that on my desk were some disks that held files which you had sent via that same gateway, which perforce contained the information necessary for me to construct an address the gateway would recognize, and therefore, I can fool around on the electronic superhighway we keep hearing so much chatter about.

 One day, somebody is going to have to let the public know the electronic superhighway is already pretty much built, but the on  and off ramps are either non-existent or full of potholes and the wreckage of vehicles that couldn't negotiate the curves, and that to get to the on ramps, you have to drive down a one-lane road through an industrial wasteland in the digital equivalent of New Jersey. My metaphor may have gone astray somewhere, but you get the idea.

 Anyway, I intend to get MCI Mail one day soon, thereby eliminating the need for all this motoring around the countryside. Until then, let me know if you got this message.  Larry  By the way, my ESLink mailbox number is 62056243. In case you're as negligent as I am in actually writing down and saving that kind of thing.

A Declaration of the Independence of Cyberspace

Just right for the week after The Fourth: John Perry Barlow was a pioneer of the Internet who died in 2018. Back in 1999, I ran an item on his Declaration of the Independence of Cyberspace, which he declared in Davos, Switzerland and dated February 8, 1996. He wrote and said a lot of important things about the Internet, but this document might have been the most important.

The Internet offers a potted summary: The declaration laid out an optimistic vision for an egalitarian internet that would allow anyone to express their beliefs “without fear of being coerced into silence or conformity” and without government regulation.

Humor: Computers: Male or Female

Are computers masculine or feminine?

A class learning French and trying to get to grips with gender wondered if the word "computer" should be masculine or feminine. Split into  two groups, men and  women, they were asked to say which they considered a computer to be, and to give four reasons for their decision.

The women decided that computers are masculine because:

  • In order to gain their attention, you have to turn them on.
  • They are full of data, but are still clueless.
  • They are supposed to help you solve your problems, but most of the time they are the problem.
  • As soon as you commit to one, you realise that if you had waited a little longer, you could have had a better one.

The men decided that computers are feminine because:

  • No one but their creator understands their internal logic.
  • The language they use to communicate with each other  is totally incomprehensible.
  • Even your smallest mistakes are stored in long-term memory  for later retrieval.
  • As soon as you commit to them, you spend half your disposable income on buying accessories for them.