by bbadmin

Eight Tech Flops: The Great Tech Revolutions That Never Made It

January 21, 2014 in Gadgets by bbadmin

In the fast-moving, fast-paced world of technological innovation, there are aspiring and talented creators always coming up with either new gadgets or improvements to existing ones that make life faster, easier and more interesting. The trouble is, sometimes a well thought-out idea and a useful product isn’t enough to make it. Inventors need to gain favourable press coverage and have their product accessed by the right market, or all their efforts may end up being in vain. Read on to find out about products that could have been great, but that instead ended up unfortunately falling by the wayside

 

 1.    Apple Newton

Released in 1993 to much acclaim and hype from the journalistic community, the Apple Newton was ahead of its time in that it was a portable PDF (much like a primitive version of the Blackberry used by many today). It offered a range of organisational and calendar features, just like the blackberry does, and it even came equipped with a stylus for touch-screen use.

So why did the Newton fail? Mainly, it was because of the negative coverage of the product’s handwriting identification program, which was made light of at the time by major comedians. At a price of at least $700, the Newton was considered prohibitively expensive at the time, and so within five years of its release the product disappeared altogether.

2.    Digital Audio Tape

So Digital Audio Tape (or DAT) was a format for playing recorded sounds and segments of speech through the basic cassette-player format. In fact, at the time (and this is true) the DAT was billed by Sony as being able to produce a higher quality rate of sound than CDs, which the market competitors of the time.

The early 1990s saw the DAT format struggle against alternative CD formats, as the CD began to gain serious traction as a successor to audiocassette format. This, coupled with legislative restrictions on the use of the DAT (for copyright reasons), meant that the product never fully took off among consumers (although it was used by recording professionals for a while).

3.    DivX

Now many among us would be familiar with the Codec extension ‘DivX’, but long before this there was an actual disc format known by the same title, and a DivX player to boot. The aim of DivX was to give consumers an alternative to returning VHS tapes, whereby they could buy a DivX cd, watch a movie on it and then either discard it or pay further fees to continue using it. However, because of a lack of consumer confidence in the new disc medium as an alternative to VHS, and because of a concerted campaign by video-rental stores, the DivX system never got off the ground and was shelved a year after its release, in 1999.

4.    IBM PCjr

Back in the mid 80s, long before the world of desktop flat-screens and Ultrabook power-horses we know today, IBM released a product called the PCjr. It was a basic computer designed to compete with the Commodore 64 and Apple II, but it was thought by users to be quite cumbersome to deal with. On top of that, it didn’t contain a hard drive, but instead required memory cartridges to be inserted by the user. Even though it was technologically impressive by the day’s standards, certain design flaws and poor marketing meant that the PCjr didn’t really get off the ground and it was shelved a short while after it made its debut.

5.    Microsoft Bob

Now, who here remembers the little paperclip that did the rounds explaining functions of the Windows XP? Or the little dog that helped you search your computer for files? As quirky and at times, irritating as those guides were, they were nothing compared to the frustration generated by the highly unpopular Microsoft Bob. Released in 1995 as an accompaniment to Windows 3.1, Bob was a bit of a buffoon- and apparently his unhelpful suggestions irked users more than pleased them. For this reason Bob was withdrawn from the services of Microsoft, and replaced with more endearing cartoon assistants as the years went on.

6.    Smart Households

In the years immediately prior to the dot com burst of the early noughties, there was a lot of speculation and hope within various tech industries that household appliances would soon become super intelligent- that they would order products for you, clean the house for you automatically, pay your bills and so on. While there remains a level of interest in this type of technology today, the whirl of enthusiasm and funding that initially went into these types of projects has dropped off, and with it the household managing supercomputer dreams that dominated our attention not so long ago.

7.    Apple Lisa

So we all know about the Apple Macintosh, that market and world-changing personal computer. But did you know that not long before this, Apple released a clunky, non-user friendly PC called Apple Lisa? While you could open multiple applications on it, and there was a desktop HUD, the computer was extremely slow and cost over $10,000 a unit to buy when first released (less than what you’d have to pay in laptop rental fees for an Ultrabook these days!).  On top of all this, it just couldn’t compete with the more affordable, more capable IBM pcs being released at the time.

In the console-gaming world, one of the early serious contenders in the market was actually the game company Sega. Through a series of misadventures and poor strategic moves, Sega was losing out in the console wars and it needed a last-ditch miracle to save itself- this came along in the form of the Dreamcast. While it was a fine enough console for the time, and still has many nostalgic proponents today, in market terms the Dreamcast just couldn’t keep up with the ferocity of Sony’s PS2 onslaught. Although it sold over 10 million units, it was dwarfed by its competition, and its failure pretty much signified Sega’s departure from the console-market battlegrounds.

Author Bio:

Todd Turner is a third year IT student who has an interest in the history of technological evolution. Specifically, he is interested in how consoles have developed over time.

by bbadmin

Raspberry Pi Project Ideas

January 15, 2014 in Computing, Gadgets by bbadmin

Raspberry Pi (RPi), the stripped down micro computer has been around for over 2 years now and has surpassed the 2 million sales mark. Despite its huge success it could be argued the RPi is a failure. It was originally designed to encourage young children to learn how to code. This hasn’t happened. Instead it may have inspired the next generation of engineers. So where should you start with a Raspberry Pi?

Raspberry Pi Case

Build a pi case

This is probably the easiest thing you can do and usually where most people start. The RPi arrives as a credit card sized circuit board. To keep it safe you’re going want to put it into some sort of casing. There are plenty available to buy online, but if you’re creative you can build a custom case from almost any old junk you have lying around the house.

Wireless Raspberry Pi Server

Raspberry Pi Server

With little more than some open source software, a little coding and a wifi dongle, you can transform the RPi into a neat little home server. The RPi isn’t going to be able to handle a high volume site, but is perfect for hosting a small portfolio site, intranet or perhaps as a test server for budding web developers.

On the other hand take a look at this project by , which proves that you can actually host a reasonable high traffic site with Raspberry Pi… but you may need more than one! In reality it would be a lot easier and cheaper to convert an old desktop or buy a second hand server, but where’s the fun in that?

Raspberry Pi Media Centre

The Raspberry Pi is perfectly suited to life as a media centre. This project takes a little bit more work and a few more components than the server, but it is well within the capabilities of the complete beginners. With a little bit of time and effort you could be streaming content from your favourite online service direct to your television.

Raspberry Pi Arcade Machines

Pi Arcade Project

For those 80’s kids, yearning for the good old days of arcade gaming, the Raspberry Pi may be the answer to your prayers. The versatile little device can be installed into an old or custom built cabinet, hooked up to a TFT screen and with some nifty software you can be taken back to the good old days of your youth. This project can be quite complicated, but if you’re not confident enough to take on the challenge, there may be a solution. The Porta-Pi is a Kickstarter project that does much of the hard work for you.

Automate Your Home

This project is a lot more involved and expensive, but it is possible to convert your house into a smart home using the humble RPi. It’s possible to control virtually everything in your home, including the heating, lighting, security systems, etc all from your smart phone; Or if you really want that futuristic feel, why not go all out and install a voice controlled system.

Raspberry Pi Robotics

Pi rpbotic arm

The RPi lends itself perfectly to amateur robotics. There are lots of RPi robotics kits available online or for the engineers out there you could try to build your own machine with the RPi at its heart. Whether you want a flying drone to or a voice controlled robotic arm to it’s all possible with the RPi.

The Bear Bottom

Priced at around £30 the RPi is often an impulse buy, bought on a whim with thoughts of becoming a master coder. Unfortunately most of these devices spend most of their lives sat on a shelf gathering dust (as mine has). If you’re guilty of this perhaps it is time to dust it off and get creative. Take inspiration from this list or the thousands of other projects described on the web!

by bbadmin

2014s Technology Predictions

January 14, 2014 in Computing, Gadgets, Science by bbadmin

With the stresses of Christmas firmly behind us for another year, and the winter freeze setting in, January can be a very long and bleak month. So to help with those mid winter blues we’re taking a look at the year ahead, and there are plenty of reasons to get excited.

3D Printing Reaches the Masses

3D Printing

Okay so perhaps this may be slightly overstated, but 3D printing is definitely becoming more affordable. It is not too great a leap of the imagination to visualise every home having a 3D printer. 3D printing could revolutionise the world. It could be possible to download physical objects in the same way that we currently stream music and movies.

So far 3D printing has mainly been limited to plastic objects and components, but that is going to change in 2014. US based bio-printers Organovo have predicted that they will be able to print transplant ready livers this year. The technology can even be used to print food!

Perhaps the biggest issue for 3D printing in 2014 could be how to adapt intellectual property and copyright laws. Regulators have struggled to cope with the effects of online sharing for digital media. How are they going to manage when you can quite literally download anything?

Electricity to go Wireless

wireless electricity

Just about everyone these days has a mobile phone – many have more than one. These days for most of us one portable gadget is just not enough with smart phones, tablets, laptops, MP3 players… And for each of these devices we have a plethora of chargers, to the point where there just aren’t enough power sockets to go around. This could be about to change.

Wireless charging has been around for a while, but as yet the technology has not been widely adopted. This could well change in 2014. There are a huge amount of wireless chargers already on the market this could be the year when manufacturers finally begin phasing out plug-in power supplies.

Cloud Computing to Become the Norm

The Cloud

Until very recently most data was purchased on a physical storage device (vinyl records, tapes, VHS, CD, DVD, BluRay). Then as internet speeds increased and storage devices become more compact and efficient, most media was purchased online, downloaded and saved on a hard drive. In 2014 as internet speeds continue to increase and 3G is replaced with 4G, we could see a new shift to cloud storage.

As the internet becomes faster and more reliable we may no longer need to store any data at all. Films, documents, music, photos, etc. Could all be stored in the Cloud and streamed when needed. Large software firms have already started to move to cloud based services, where customers no longer purchase software, but pay a monthly or annual fee.

A move to total cloud storage would see a massive change in computer design. The biggest component within a computer is usually the hard drive. Removing the need for a large storage device would allow the creation of very lightweight and energy efficient devices.

The Bear Bottom

On these drab and dreary winter days life can get a little depressing, but in the world of technology there is always something to look forward to. The next advancement is always just around the corner. 2014 is no different, and while the tech predictions above may not be fully realised this year, we should be a lot closer to a wireless, cloud based world, where just about anything you can imagine can be downloaded in an instant.

by bbadmin

Most Exciting Gadgets of 2013

January 2, 2014 in Gadgets by bbadmin

As we enter a new year now seems like a good time to look back at some of the best gadgets of 2013. Here are the 5 of our favourite tech releases of last year:

Five: Chromecast

chromecast

The Chromecast is a small device that plugs into the HDMI socket of your television set. IT allows you to effortlessly flick content from your laptop, tablet or smart phone on to your TV. There are no wires and no complex set up, just plug in and go. All for just $35! The Chromecast is not yet available in the UK, but should be here in 2014.

Four: Leap Motion Controller

leap motion

There has been little innovation in the way we control our computers. For the most part we still use basically the same mouse and keyboard controls that have been around for decades. However voice controls have been improving and touch screens are fast becoming the norm. Another device which could perhaps give us a glimpse into the future is the Leap Motion Controller. This tiny USB device sits on your desk and allows you to control your PC by waving your hands in the air. You can expect to see this technology to be built into laptops from next year, starting with HP’s Envy 17 Leap Motion SE.

Three: Pebble Smart Watch

smart watch

Google Glass was not the only wearable tech to be released. The Pebble smart watch was a huge hit in 2013, despite the poor reviews it was one of the year’s most desirable gadgets. It connects to your Android or IOS device, displaying notifications and exercise data on its e-Paper display. Crowd funded on Kickstarter the Pebble beat the big boys to the punch, but in 2014 it will face stiff competition from the likes of Samsung’s Galaxy Gear.

Two: Console Wars

xbox1 v ps4

For gamers 2013 will be remembered for the release of the next generation PS and Xbox consoles. The first major console release since 2006. Both consoles have had their teething problems and for the time being there aren’t too many games to get excited about, but the machines seem to have lived up to the hype. It’s too early to tell which system will win the console war, both will have their die-hard fans, but which console comes out on top will probably depend on their exclusive titles. One things for sure, 2014 will be an exciting year for gamers.

One: Google Glass

google glass

Google glass, the wearable computer is straight out of a sci-fi movie. The voice controlled miniature computer will eventually have similar features to your smart phone, but rather than walking around (and into things) looking at your phone you can look straight, with your updates and notifications popping up right before you. This is one of the most exciting pieces of tech to be released in a very long time, but it is also pretty scary. There is the potential for Google to spy on everything you see – what brands you’re looking at in the supermarket, whether you’ve been drinking… who you’ve been checking out! There are also some grey areas on the use of them for example, while driving, or for filming /taking photos.

by bbadmin

Top 10 Useless Gadgets of 2013

December 9, 2013 in Gadgets by bbadmin

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So far 2013 has been a great year for gadget lovers, with some outstanding new releases including the Pebble SmartWatch, iPad Air and Evobike Bomber. If you are looking for the perfect Christmas prezzie for the techie in your life there is a vast range to choose from… In our efforts to help we could have put together a list of the must haves, but instead we decided to put together some of the definitely avoids!

USB Mouse with Digital Scale

The perfect gadget for the office drug dealer! Anyone else will look at this and think why? A successful invention solves one of life’s little problems. One can only imagine what problems this combo was designed to overcome. How heavy is your hand?

Text-Messaging Chandeliertext message chandelier

The text massaging chandelier – for those who want to share their private massages with the whole household in the most garish way possible. The Chandelier, a must have accessory for your luxury home. With over a thousand LEDs and over two thousand crystals this chandelier can bring a touch of class to any home… but why does it need to display text messages?

Laser guided scissors

Are you anal about the accuracy of your cutting? The perhaps a laser guided scissors is for you. Sure you could fold the paper or pencil out a guide line with a ruler, but the laser looks so much cooler!

Laptop steering Wheel Desklaptop-steering-wheel-desk_2

This gadget does exactly what it says on the tin, a laptop desk that attaches to your steering wheel. It is illegal to use a mobile phone while driving… so instead of making that urgent call why not get your laptop out and send an email instead. That’ll be much safer!

Useless boxuseless-box

Another gadget that is what it says it is. A box that is completely and utterly useless. Insert your batteries, switch it on and wait for the magic to happen – it switches itself off. Not much more to say on this one.

iPottyiPotty

At first glance this gadget looks like a potty with an iPad stand attached. Well that’s because it is a potty with an iPad stand. The idea is to give your child something to distract them while potty training so they sit there until they are finished. Personally I would rather give them a cheap toy that try to explain to my insurer the reason why my tablet has urine damage.

HAPIfork

The Christmas present that tells you’re loved on they are overweight and/or they eat like a pig; a fork that tells you when you are eating too much or too quickly. That’s going to be fun at Christmas dinner!

Ultra-HD 4K Televisions

HD wasn’t clear enough. 40, 50, 60 inch screens too small? Then maybe you should consider switching to 4K. 4K brings cinema quality to your home with double the resolution of HD. There’s no doubt the quality of the picture is outstanding, but what are you going to watch on it? Super high capacity DVDs or turbo internet streaming? Maybe in the future 4K will replace HD, but for now your picture quality is limited by the content you can play on it.

iMusic Bodyrhythm

Massager devices are quite popular. And syncing your massage to your favourite tune sounds like a good idea. But do you really want to walk around wearing a toilet seat? The iMusic Bodyrhythm, a decent idea, but terrible design.

Spike Typesmart

Are you fed up of your sleek smart phone design? Do you want to age it 10 years with a clunky keyboard that works almost as well as your phones touch screen keyboard? Well then you should invest in the Spike Type Smart.

by bbadmin

Google Glass: All You Need To Know And More

November 21, 2013 in Computing, Gadgets, Mobile by bbadmin

We all know Google as a company that loves to innovate. From its humble days as a search engine company, Google has expanded its services manifold to include Gmail, Google Plus, maps and satellite services, scholarly databases and more. With all this internet real-estate under its belt and a load of cash to spend, it’s little wonder that Google would quickly expand into the world of portable gadgets. Google’s transition to technology development has seen the emergence of the Android mobile phone, and more recently the incredibly interesting Google Glass. Read on to find out more about these amazing, interactive glasses.

Appearance

To start things off it’s worth discussing the aesthetic elements of Google Glass. The most striking and attractive feature of the apparatus is the long, curving titanium frame that comprises its sides and rims. Expertly crafted, the long metal strip is thick and then thins out into a slender hook that nestles behind both the users’ ears. Augmenting this shape are the silicone nose pads, simple and pleasant in design, and capable of keeping the glasses in one place for hours. Adorning this wonderful and stylish metal assortment is a plastic extension that hangs over the right glass-frame, and it is in here that all the essential circuitry and wires, which allow the Google Glass to function, are kept.

Connectivity

The really great thing about the Google Glass is that it is able to connect to wireless Internet sources without the need for a third-party device. What this means in real terms is that you can go for a walk down the road or to anywhere that has wireless, with just your Google Glass in tow. You don’t need any sort of Android or iPhone backup with you, meaning that you can be totally hands-free and connected to the Internet all at the same time.

Viewing Screen

With a clear, reasonably crisp display screen that fills your vision in real-time the Google Glass really is a modern technological wonder. The panel that projects images is located at the right side of the Glass, and it uses a light-refraction process to provide you with images that literally hover in the air in front of you. Coming equipped with a full range of colour contrast and saturation adjustment settings, and with the definition quality of an LCD TV, the Glass certainly packs a punch in the visuals department.

Videos and Voice Commands

In keeping with any Smartphone on the market right now, Google Glass is also configured to enable you to take pictures and capture video footage with the click of a button- or the use of a voice command! Simply follow voice command procedures and you can snap an image of whatever you happen to be looking at. You can also manually take a picture by tapping the shutter release button on the top of the Glass’ frame, and afterwards you can upload your images to Google plus or other online areas. The voice commands are also great for searching for content online, and you can also rely on verbal dictation to send quick responses to emails and messages, all of which can be accessed via the glasses of course!

So all in all the Google Glass is an amazing product that ushers in a new era of innovation and technological development in the gadget world. While the units are currently quite expensive, the amazing array of novel technological features they offer just begs trying and odds are you’ll be hooked the instant you try Google Glass.

Author Bio:

Simon Stevens is an Engineering student obsessed with new and upcoming technology. He recently arranged a loan through Flexirent to help him afford the amazing Google Glass device!