PRNewsFoto/Pure Digital Technologies, Inc./NewsCom

Low fidelty


Issue: "Africa, Inc.," Oct. 10, 2009

Robert Capps, writing in Wired, identifies a revolution that began with technology but is changing the way other industries, including law and medicine, are doing business. Capps calls it the "Good Enough Revolution" and uses the Flip video camera to illustrate his point. Traditional video cameras emphasized image quality and features. A new company, Pure Digital, came along and saw a market for a low-cost video camera that was easy to use and produced video that was easy to share online. It sacrificed image quality for ease of use. The Flip Ultra is now the best-selling video camera and controls 17 percent of the market.

Capps writes: "We now favor flexibility over high fidelity, convenience over features, quick and dirty over slow and polished. Having it here and now is more important than having it perfect." He uses the MP3 as another example. The music industry apparently laughed when the format was introduced because the sound quality was so much worse than CD. But consumers prized the MP3 because it "let us listen to, manage, and manipulate tracks on our PCs, carry thousands of songs in our pockets, purchase songs from our living rooms, and share tracks with friends and even strangers. And as it turned out, those benefits actually mattered a lot more to music lovers than the single measure of quality we had previously applied to recorded music-fidelity."

Capps says consumers now want three things: ease of use, continuous availability, and low price-all grouped under the rubric of accessibility. If he's right, products and services that meet these requirements will succeed while their old-fashioned competitors will flounder.

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Healthcare humor

Tired of all the gas-baggery on the subject of healthcare reform? The Gregory Brothers (actually three brothers and a wife), auteurs of "Auto-Tune the News" (available on YouTube), bring humor and a sense of the ridiculous to the debate: "Yeah, we're gonna make it right. Kill your granny and save your life" (youtube.com/watch?v=5CO2SfB1dnA).

Fun phones

Wired also noted that Research in Motion has sold 65 million BlackBerry smart phones in the past 10 years while Apple has sold 40 million iPhones since it was introduced two years ago. But about 70,000 Apps are available for the iPhone compared to 2,300 for BlackBerry, showing "that consumers like the idea of easy-to-use, fun applications that take the phone beyond just voice and data."

At least one church is taking advantage of the iPhone customer's appetite for apps. Mark Driscoll's Mars Hill Church now has an iPhone app that allows users to access 25 sermon series and nearly 150 songs produced by Mars Hill bands. All of the content is free. The church calls the app "a pivotal component to a church with such a large global following."

On the cheap

A Swiss foundation (Low Cost IVF Foundation) and IVF pioneer Alan Trounson (California Institute for Regenerative Medicine) will partner to open three low-cost IVF clinics in Africa. New Scientist reports that the clinics in Sudan, Tanzania, and South Africa will offer in vitro fertilization treatments for under $300. Another European group, the European Society of Human Reproduction and Embryology, is simplifying IVF procedures and plans to offer $360 treatments at two clinics in Egypt.

New Scientist says that "10 to 30 percent of African couples are infertile, often as a result of untreated sexually transmitted diseases, botched abortions and post-delivery pelvic infections." The two projects plan to lower radically the cost of the procedure by using streamlined methods, cheaper drugs, equipment and doctors, and transferring the fertilized eggs earlier.

The world they know

Every year since 1998, Beloit College has published its annual Mindset List for entering college freshmen. The list "provides a look at the cultural touchstones that shape the lives of students entering college." This year's list of 75 items for the class of 2013 notes that these students "have never used a card catalog to find a book. . . . Margaret Thatcher has always been a former prime minister. . . . Salsa has always outsold ketchup. . . . Christopher Columbus has always been getting a bad rap."

Individuals remembered by many older readers of WORLD are often unknown: For this year's freshmen, "Martha Graham, Pan American Airways, Michael Landon, Dr. Seuss, Miles Davis, The Dallas Times Herald, Gene Roddenberry, and Freddie Mercury have always been dead. Dan Rostenkowski, Jack Kevorkian, and Mike Tyson have always been felons."

Forty-year net

This year's freshmen have always known the Internet, which celebrated its 40th anniversary on Sept. 2, according to the website BoingBoing. That's the day in 1969 that computer scientists in a lab at UCLA, working as part of the Advanced Research Projects Agency Network (ARPANET), sent the letters LO from one computer to another over a cable. Leonard Kleinrock managed to type those letters before the system crashed.

In keeping with the spirit of remembering this history that has changed how we do just about everything, The Telegraph (UK) collected screenshots of early versions of 20 major websites-Google, Yahoo, Apple.com, Facebook, etc.-to show how web design has changed since the mid-1990s (Telegraph.co.uk/technology/6125914/How-20-popular-websites-looked-when-they-launched.html).

The internet also makes it easy to present data visually. The website Informationisbeautiful.net belongs to independent British journalist David McCandless, who writes, "My passion is for visualizing information-facts, data, ideas, subjects, issues, statistics, questions-all with the minimum of words." He puts those skills to work to illustrate many topics, including the spread and prevalence of swine flu. He shows graphically which countries have had the most cases, which countries have been hardest hit per capita, and which countries have had the most deaths.

Choice fabric

Here is a nifty idea for the creative among us: Design your own custom fabric. The website Spoonflower.com allows users to choose from among three different fabrics-a quilting weight cotton broadcloth, an upholstery weight cotton sateen, and an organic cotton sateen-that range in price from $18.00 to $32.00 a yard. A short video explains how the website works, what kinds of images to upload, and how to get the desired effects by manipulating the images. Anything you can design, anything you can upload . . . voila, in about a week your fabric with that pattern will arrive at your door.

Going green?

According to Benjamin Moore paints, 2010 will be the year of green-Cedar Green (2034-40) to be precise.

Susan Olasky
Susan Olasky

Susan pens book reviews and other articles for WORLD as a senior writer and has authored eight historical novels for children. Susan and her husband Marvin live in Asheville, N.C. Follow Susan on Twitter @susanolasky.


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