Tuesday, October 18th, 2016 by Gina Thompson
Technology has come a long way over the decades – these days you can browse online, download a file, watch a music video and make a phone call all at the same time (and then some).
We’re lucky to live in an era when the development of new technology has never been so rapid, with a huge range of networking and entertainment devices available on the market. Today you can have your phone, messaging service, TV, music, emails and web browsing all in one handy device, but that wasn’t always the case. Let’s take a look at some pieces of “dead” tech that might not be the bee’s knees any more, but they did help pave the way for the stuff we have today.
Pagers/Beepers (b. 1950 – d. 2001)
Originally developed in 1950 for use by hospital doctors (a practice which continues today) pagers were also hugely popular as a form of messaging throughout the 1980s-1990s. With a limited coverage range (typically nationwide or smaller) and an even more limited character count for the message that could be displayed on the little LCD screen, pagers were the hip new way to text before mobile handsets with better capabilities such as the Nokia 3310 came around.
Motorola ended its manufacturing of pagers in 2001 and today, you’re much more likely to find a pager in a restaurant (to let you know your food is ready) than clipped to a teenager’s belt.
Transistor radio (b. 1954 – d. 1980s)
The transistor radio is an iconic piece of technology when it comes to music listening on the go. Born in an era full of lots of young people thanks to the post World War II baby boom, you’d be hard-pressed to find a movie about teens in the 1950s-1970s that didn’t show one of these babies being carried around by a wrist strap or in a purpose-made leather satchel case.
Transistor radios started declining in popularity in the 1980s when portable cassette players with better audio quality came onto the scene, with CD and MP3 players to follow in subsequent decades. Though still a durable piece of hardware that you might find at a building site or a beach party, most people today prefer digital radio or music streaming delivered over WiFi or mobile broadband through apps such as Spotify on their smartphone.
iPods and other dedicated MP3 players (b. 2001 – Present)
All things considered, the personal MP3 player wasn’t long for this world. They were a great upgrade to the humble portable CD player and the technology really took off with the release of the original Apple iPod in 2001. Things got even better when the 2007 iPod Touch supported WiFi internet connections to access even more content like YouTube videos, but MP3 players just aren’t a big deal any more. Sure, they still make them, but with smartphones and other multi-purpose devices having a range of music apps plus a memory bank big enough to hold your entire music library and then some – why bother with an MP3 player unless you’re an avid jogger?
Landline phones (b. 1880 – d. The near future)
Australia got its very first telephone exchanges in Melbourne and Brisbane in 1880, just two years after the first telephone exchange in the world was built. For an entire century with decades to spare, the copper landline network has been the heart of Australian telecommunications. Unfortunately, the rising demand for high performance broadband has placed great strain on the network in recent years, and there’s only so much bandwidth an internet service can use on copper line without interfering with bandwidth which needs to be reserved for voice phone calls.
The mix of technologies rolling out with the nbn™ will see much of this copper network replaced with fibre optic or hybrid fibre coaxial cable, meaning the traditional landline phone just won’t be available any more in certain areas. Give it another decade or two and the only premises left with a landline phone will be those in areas service by nbn™ Satellite or Fixed Wireless broadband.
Monday, July 18th, 2016 by Guest Blogger
People are talking a lot about 3D printing these days, even though it’s far from a new idea since the first 3D printing device was created in 1984. Though the concept isn’t new, the things we can do with 3D printing today are completely revolutionary and unlike anything we’ve ever seen before.
You may have seen one around at your local markets, printing jewellery and knick-knacks, which is pretty cool and interesting to watch, but it doesn’t even scratch the surface of what this technology is capable of.
What is 3D printing?
If you haven’t already seen one, a 3D printer prints objects out of a material (usually plastic) instead of ink, building up in layers until the object is complete. It can create almost any object you can think of; all you need is a digital blueprint. What has held the technology back is patents and costs. As the technology has become more accessible and affordable, we’ve been able to delve deeper into some of the things it can do and the results are astounding. Here are just some of the ways 3D printing is changing the world.
Losing a limb can be a traumatic and challenging ordeal, even though in some cases amputation may be necessary to save a life. Prosthetics can improve an amputee’s quality of life and offer opportunities which were completely unfathomable decades ago, helping them live their life as much as an able bodied person. The main roadblock for patients when it comes to prosthetics is cost, especially for growing children, who need regular replacements as they get older.
Thanks to the low production costs involved with 3D printing, affordable prosthetic limbs are slowly becoming available to patients. The Open Hand Project by OpenBionics was started with the aim of making robotic prosthetic hands accessible and affordable using 3D printing technology. It’s an open-source project, meaning the designs and engineering are available for anyone to access or use. This means more people can get involved with and contribute to the project, and even print their own prosthetics at home.
A global community called e-Nable is helping match up people with 3D printers and the know-how to use them with people who need prosthetics, in a beautiful and generous movement to deliver 3D printed prosthetics to those in need. Between the years 2013 and 2015, e-Nable volunteers had donated approximately 1,500 prosthetic hands to people in over 40 countries for free. Though the printed prosthetics aren’t as sophisticated as the top market models, they’re cheap to produce (a hand costing around $50USD to make), and are providing options to those who cannot afford the high-cost models.
Bioprinting and Surgery
One hope for 3D Printing is that it will be able to print organs in a process called bioprinting. Bioprinters are based on the same concept as 3D printers, but they print biomaterial to build structures like tissues, blood vessels, and organs. A sample of a patient’s own cells are taken and cultivated to make “bio-ink”, which is then loaded into the printer (alternatively, stem cells may be used in some circumstances). The printers print scaffold-like structures, which cells can attach to and grow on, joining with other cells on the body in a similar way to how cells join together to heal a wound.
This technology could lead to massive strides in medicine; imagine a future where no one needs to wait for an organ donor, they can simply print out the organ they need, or skin could be printed for burn victims? Unfortunately this technology is still in the testing phase, but printed organs could be a reality in our lifetime.
Bioprinting organs might still be a few years off, but 3D Printing is already assisting surgeons today. Medical scans can be turned into blueprints for 3D printing prior to an operation. This means surgeons can print replicas of a patient’s organs to assist with surgical pre-planning, leading to more precise treatment recommendations. Being able to see a 3D model of the affected organ before going into surgery can also reduce operating time, lower the risk of errors/complications and produce better outcomes. One little girl had a complex hole in her heart mended with a custom-made patch, thanks to the accurate 3D-printed replica heart the operating team constructed based upon her MRI and CT scans. It’s likely that 3D-printed models will become the standard procedure for many operations within the next decade.
Not only is 3D printing more environmentally sustainable than many other methods of manufacture, it can also actively help the environment, perhaps even saving whole ecosystems. Climate change is one of the biggest challenges that the world faces today, and it’s already taking its toll on our oceans.
Coral reefs are some of the most important ecosystems on the planet: they protect coastlines from damaging wave action, provide habitat for marine life, contribute to the economy through ecotourism, provide us with natural resources which produce food and medicine – and they are dying off at an alarming rate due to changes in the climate. As the water temperature rises, corals get stressed and undergo a process called coral bleaching, where the algae (zooxanthellae) which live inside the coral’s tissue and give it colour leave the coral, leaving it white. The zooxanthellae provide the coral with its major source of food, and without them the coral starves and struggles to survive. As the coral dies, all other marine life leave the area, but 3D printing may be able to help.
Scientists are experimenting with 3D printed reefs, with teams in Monaco and Bahrain producing 3D printed sandstone reefs out of actual sand in the shapes of real coral to make the formations as close to natural ones as possible. Initial testing has shown positive results, with marine life quickly inhabiting the 3D printed construction. While they are still testing the efficiency of this method, it’s hoped that 3D printed reefs will help restore degraded marine areas.
Saturday, June 18th, 2016 by Guest Blogger
I consider the hours spent on video games as a child as some of the best spent hours of my life. The same way a great movie can change your whole perspective on the world, a great video game can too, only it’s even more personal because you get to be part of the story. Reliving a great video game is like getting back a piece of your childhood, letting you feel like a kid again.
If you want to experience the fun of your favourite games all over again, there are a few ways to go. Here are some of our suggestions.
Buying Consoles and Games
If you want the complete, cartridge-blowing, D-pad controllers and joysticks experience of retro gaming, there are plenty of ways to buy the original consoles and games. Some of the original console and game owners kept their investments in good nick and are now letting them go via sites such as eBay and Gumtree. There are even Facebook groups dedicated to buying and selling retro games and consoles.
Some of the local markets around Australia have managed to get their hands on some retro games and consoles too. I know at least in my own stomping ground of Perth, several markets such as Gosnells, Wanneroo and Malaga markets have stores that sell retro games, but I’m sure each city would have their own equivalent (If you know where one is in your area, please share with us in the comments!). Pop culture fairs can also be a great way to find gaming gems from times past.
On the other side of the coin, if you have any retro games or consoles you no longer use, you can always consider selling them. Personally, I horde all of my retro gaming treasures because I can’t bear to part with them, but there can be good money to be made from selling old video games/consoles – especially if your games still have the original box intact. A copy of Chrono Trigger with box and manual can sell on eBay for over $200 USD. A mint condition copy that has never been opened can go for as much as $12k USD!
Pay to Download
If you just want to play the game and are happy to do so without all the original paraphernalia, there are several ways to go. Without venturing into the murky waters of illegal downloads, there are some perfectly legitimate and legal ways to enjoy your old favourites. Steam is a great place to start, with a whole section of the site dedicated solely to retro games. There are some classics available on Steam for a small fee, including the Megaman Legacy Collection, Tomb Raider 1 and even remastered versions of Grim Fandango and The Secret of Monkey Island.
GOG.com (short for Good Old Games) is a site similar to Steam: it is a digital distribution platform with a catalogue of some of the most acclaimed games of all time, available to play for a small fee. Their library has some impressive titles such as the original Theme Park and Theme Hospital, Rayman Forever, Earthworm Jim 1 and 2, Worms 2 and one of my all-time favourite point-and-click games: Toonstruck! (With an all-star cast including Chris Lloyd, Tim Curry and Dan Castellaneta).
Consoles such as the Wii and Wii U have stores where you can buy emulators of their older games. Wii U features the Nintendo eShop, where you can buy and download both new and classic Nintendo games, including the unforgettable Super Metroid, Super Mario 64, Super Mario World and even The Legend of Zelda: a Link to the Past. PlayStation have released their own version of this on the PlayStation 4 called PlayStation Now: a cloud gaming subscription service. You pay for access to a selection of PlayStation 3 titles, with the possibility of PlayStation 1 and 2 titles to be added in the future. PlayStation Now is not currently available in Australia, but it’s one to look out for if you’re craving the old PlayStation Games like the original Spyro the Dragon and Crash Bandicoot.