Category Archives: Good Ole Fashioned Tech

Get Analog – Hands

Gosh.   I sat for a good twenty minutes trying to come up with something less morbid than I’d normally, ideally want to lead with on my first post for ThinkKit.  But, it was the biggest part of my life in this past year – the passing of two other lives.

Not only did I lose a grandparent on October 21 and December 3, each time my mother lost a parent.  As the eldest of her siblings and I that of the first cousins, we both would come to feel many implicit responsibilities take shape in the time leading up to, during, and after these deaths.  As a close-kin, able-bodied guy, I was inevitably called to serve as a pallbearer for my grandmother, Mary M. May.  Just six weeks later I did the same for grandpa Thomas B.  They had stuck together through thick and thin for almost 55 years.  It was an overwhelming time for all, to lose them in fairly rapid succession and under certain conditions.

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I don’t know if you’ve ever been a pallbearer, but one thing I kept telling myself both times was “don’t trip” and “don’t lose your grip”.  My hands were tasked with doing one of the most symbolicly important things I would ever do in my life – honoring my grandparents’ corporal side of the journey to their final resting spots.

My grandmother happened to pass on Back to the Future Day, noted for when Doc, Marty and Jennifer time-traveled from 1985 to reach what is now the past in the first sequel of the movie franchise.  Even though I had been reveling in the buildup and buzz focused on the occasion, I let myself wonder how I could even dare try to have fun on such a sad day.  I had to prepare to re-arrange  work and travel down to my hometown in a couple of days.  Not to mention, I needed to get my suit dry-cleaned before then (one that grandma helped pick out and buy many years ago).  The more I thought about it, grandma would not be encouraging my moping around.

I skipped all the special Back to the Future movie screening opportunities, such as the one at the IMA, because I knew I’d struggle to not be a Debbie Downer.   Although, the next day I took solace in picking up an old-fashioned newspaper with my bare hands.   This wasn’t just any old newspaper though.  It was the exact version of USAToday that was featured in Back to the Future II.  How cool.

As my grandpa’s health further deteriorated after grandma’s funeral, I continued to put in some time working at a local running store.  Part of the job was helping people try on shoes – up to and including tying their shoes.  A fellow runner or walker is very particular about tying shoes –  no sloppiness allowed!  Sometimes you have to re-lace the shoes in unique ways to get them to feel just right for the customer.  Either way, it becomes more of a habit when you are doing these fittings so it’s easy for your mind to wander.   In these days of grief for grandma and with the dark clouds gathering around grandpa, my thoughts, on several occasions, threatened to shut my hands down from their duties.  But, I pressed on best I could so as to not disappoint the customer’s experience.

Is there a happy ending to all of this hand talk?  Of course there is, my dear reader.   I am certainly an experiences over materials person, but sometimes in passing of someone, their former possessions are a strong stand-in for memories of certain experiences.   Remembering the importance and pride I felt during a summer job as a teen selling Cutco knives, my mom let me pick out any pieces of the giant set I had sold grandma and grandpa.   They were a big part in helping me get going with confidence and I did well enough that I ended up being able to almost build my own set from acheived sales incentives.  One thing I never got but aspired to were the Cutco forks and spoons.  Now, every time I eat a meal, my hands will be holding the prompts for memories of family meals at my grandparent’s house.

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Sick of the Yellowbook Landing at Your Door? – How to Opt Out!

For some reason or another, you rarely find phone phone books useful any more (*cough, interwebs*).   You’ve probably come up with a creative use for them, or you simply recycle them.  Below are some common things that happen with newly arrived phone books.   If you don’t see something you’ve done with them please share in the comments below.  You’ll also see the quick and painless website that I recently used to opt out from yellowbook.

Litter

Booster Seats

College Dorm Furniture

Architectural Inspiration

Sarcasm Inspiration

More Sarcasm

Last but not least, Doorstop

I couldn’t find any closeups of people using the books for kindling, which I find reassuring that people aren’t quite that daring to shove their camera too close or perhaps we all actually still know how to relax amidst a crackling fire.

During a recent IMC619 class discussion about privacy on mobile platforms, part of the conversation (as they often can with our multiple online discussion threads) took a turn towards a related matter: opting in or opting out of marketing services.   I was excited to uncover and share with my classmates and colleagues a link that you can visit to register your email and home or business address and select how many yellowbooks you would like to (not) receive.   Obviously you can set everything to zero, or if you are a budding AirBnB entrepreneur and want to impress your guests (I guess?) you can request up to three of each kind.   Just don’t forget if you ask for more, in many areas, you’ll get two updates per year.   FYI, I haven’t received any emails yet after registering, but those can always be filtered out later and it’s a small price to pay for some front stoop solace and helping he environment. 🙂

Here’s the secured data (https) opt out link!    https://www.yellowpagesoptout.com/

Please don’t forget to comment below on your creative uses for phone books and kindly take the quick poll on how many phone books you currently get or hope to no longer get.

The Mountain Dew Extreme Network Pager

In our first week of class discussion class we were asked to define in a comprehensive manner what we actually perceived “emerging media” to be.  In general society seems to automatically attach a sense of promise to the term that something is “emerging”.  Currently, social media is often still considered an emerging media.  But what about when social media has had a chance to mature, yet continues to evolve and yet something entirely new and different comes around?  Is it reasonable to call all socially-oriented emerging media at a later date simply social media?  Upon analysis, what is often referred to very generally as social media can be much more or much less than social.  It truly can change in its meaning day-to-day or year to year.    Bestowing enhanced meaning upon such a term was a challenging and revealing exercise. It was interesting to see that many of us in our thoughts had converged on like terms, but for sake of generating ideas and further discussion had to branch out an each pick unique terms.   It was a wide range of terms that we generated that ranged from new acronyms to newly minted compound words.

One of the essential challenges that we all wrestled with: what makes something emerging? How does it emerge?   Is it really an essential medium or is the buzz just a deafening roar that denies concrete definition of its usefulness?   Perhaps history can provide an example.

The first telephone pager, a.k.a. the “beeper”, was invented in 1949 by Al Gross.   New York’s Jewish Hospital began deploying pagers to its doctors the following year, but they only worked when inside of the hospital.  Unfortunately, Gross did not get approval from the FCC to free up public frequencies for the device until 1958!  Because of barriers to implementation such as this and apparent lack of public enthusiasm towards adoption, pagers did not hit widespread public use until the late 1980’s, aided by its use as a status symbol in the business and entertainment worlds. Just think, the pager had been a highly exclusive communication medium for almost 40 years!   It was not for the masses.  Would we have called it emerging media that whole time if we had studied media communications definitions to such depth back then?  Doesn’t much of what we refer to as emerging media today also qualify as being available to hundreds of millions if not billions within a relatively short timeframe?

While pagers have not been known as a marketing communications tool for most of their existence, the biggest push for using pagers as a marketing medium was perhaps a 6-month long promotion by Mountain Dew in 1996.  This was near the height of pager use in general, mainly for convenient person to person communication.  Mountain Dew parent Pepsi’s plan was to distribute 500,000 Motorola pager units within 6 months, primarily to 18-24 year olds.  The pagers were Mountain Dew branded and came with free service for that time frame.  Also, each week the user received a special text promotion from the Mountain Dew network that encouraged a call in to a toll-free contest line that touted contests and other offers from companies such as MTV, Hummer, ESPN, Frito-Lay and Sony.  All wishful subscribers had to do was send in $35 and 10 proofs of purchase.   While I was unable to find definitive records, my research indicated that for all this effort perhaps only just over 200,000 of the pagers were ever distributed.   Also in the process, Mountain Dew  ticked off a lot of parents.  Regardless, most of the pagers  probably found their way to thee junk heap just a few years later as cell phones began their push to greater public adoption.

On the positive side, the pagers definitely were good for people’s social experiences.  To flesh out my research, I posted a status update to see if anyone remembered these things.  One Facebook friend said she’s pretty sure it gave her EX-boyfriend at the time/future husband an excuse to beep her to call him, presumably to reconcile – two days before her service would have been shut off for good!  Another didn’t actually have one, but to this day still remembers being jealous of his friend that did!

Mountain Dew Extreme Network Ad and Entry Form – via mtndewkid.com

While pagers displayed some characteristics of an early Twitter-like medium (limited character count, abbreviated wordings, references to other actions like picking up a phone) pagers are now a marginalized media, arguably not social media, and definitely no longer emerging.  The only time we typically only see pagers now is when we are waiting for a table at a restaurant and even that is being supplanted by apps and SMS (text notices).   Though, pagers still are very useful for emergency workers.   My brother still uses one for his rounds in med school and he even gets to take it home, thanks to the FCC.

Andy Krack's Pager

Andy Krack’s Pager

Do we automatically attach a sense of promise to the term “emerging media”?  Should we jump to that conclusion for everything that is new and shiny in light of such examples?  From my perspective, the pager was a flash in the pan in most people’s consciousness.

One interesting difference between the emerging media before the PC/internet revolution and post-PC revolution style of emerging media, is that to be in step with emerging media before the revolution, it was very expensive.  Think about the status symbol that was the satellite phone in the 1980’s.  It was expensive emerging media.  Now, anyone with an email address can get a Twitter account and so on.   The only exclusivity to being a user of a hot new emerging medium now seems to be if you’re a beta developer or part of the initial rollout group.

For example,  Facebook was only originally available to students and faculty at certain universities.  I had already graduated but luckily I was able to use my alumni email to sneak in.   Google+ was originally an “invite-only” network, but pretty much anyone that wanted one could get an invite, as Google was fairly generous with its invite quota – I had made it in and posted on Facebook that I had invites to Google + and got a couple of takers, but not more than my number of available invites.  These are small prices to pay compared to in the past to be an early adopter of an emerging medium.

The cost of  entry into today’s emerging media is often lowered to next to zero rather quickly.   I believe this has huge implications for the enhancement of communication in our world moving forward.  There is always some new and exciting change around the corner and it rarely takes $35 and 10 proof of purchases to get in on the action these days.

mk