While all those photos of meals that people tend to post to their Instagram pages may be more than annoying, the potential to taste said fare may be of some consolation, something that a taste simulator, being called the Digital Taste Interface, sounds like it can offer.
Jony in particular had always had a deep appreciation for the tactile nature of computing; he had put handles on several of his early machines specifically to encourage touching. But here was an opportunity to make the ultimate tactile device. No more keyboard, mouse, pen, or even a click wheel – the user would touch the actual interface with his or her fingers. What could be more intimate? The Input Engineering team had built a giant experimental system to test multitouch. It was a big capacitive display about the size of a ping pong table, with a projector suspended above it. The projector shone the Mac’s operating system onto the array, which was a mass of wires.
This would be something I’d be half pleased about, being able to make my own mobile phone from scratch. While lacking much of the functionality of a smartphone, the DIY Cellphone can nonetheless “make and receive phone calls and text messages, store names and phone numbers, display the time, and serve as an alarm clock.”
US readers may have experienced this over the weekend… a barrage of questions relating to matters of technology and social media. After all, a page on Facebook makes one an expert in all such matters, does it not?
With year end holidays fast approaching, many more of us will doubtless be faced with IT related queries as friends and families get together for the break. How do I take better smartphone photos? Why is my computer slow? How do I fix my printer? How do I reset my password?
There are some people who are convinced that the universe, and everything within it, including us, is but a simulation. In other words we are merely pawns in some other intelligent entity’s glorified game of The Sims, or some such.
What’s your feeling on this? A load of hokum? Utter nonsense? Completely illogical? What about then when you’ve found yourself subjected to a series of minor mishaps, a run of bad luck? Do you sometimes have the feeling that the universe is against you?
Maybe it is. Maybe some player in another reality is indeed manipulating our every move. The question is though, if we could somehow ascertain, one way or the other, whether or not this whole mortal coil is but an elaborate executable file, would you want to know?
After all, the knowledge we are simply an assemblage of bits and bytes may be, to put it mildly, a let down for some, but it may make a lot of sense to others. Yes, a double edged sword for sure.
Seth Lloyd, a quantum-mechanical engineer at MIT, estimated the number of “computer operations” our universe has performed since the Big Bang – basically, every event that has ever happened. To repeat them, and generate a perfect facsimile of reality down to the last atom, would take more energy than the universe has. “The computer would have to be bigger than the universe, and time would tick more slowly in the program than in reality,” says Lloyd. “So why even bother building it?” But others soon realized that making an imperfect copy of the universe that’s just good enough to fool its inhabitants would take far less computational power. In such a makeshift cosmos, the fine details of the microscopic world and the farthest stars might only be filled in by the programmers on the rare occasions that people study them with scientific equipment. As soon as no one was looking, they’d simply vanish.
Definitions of simulation vary of course, and there are a number of ways of looking at such a notion. Ask some people if a creator of some sort is responsible for our presence, and they will say yes straight away.
Before the internet era, during the 1980s, and thereabouts, people would use a bulletin board system, or BBS, to communicate with others, usually within a closed network, by way of their computers.
Set up required a personal computer, that were a little harder to come by then than today, a modem, also not exactly something you’d find at the corner store, a telephone line, and a whole heap of cables to plug everything together. Or at least that is my recollection of the one and only BBS I ever saw, as it was configured, at a neighbour’s house.
All of that so a group of friends, likely living only a few minutes drive away from each other, could then discuss where to go out later that evening.
A journey of a thousand miles must begin with a single step though, and if it were not, at least in part, due to the perseverance and enthusiasm of early BBS users, the internet as we know it may not have eventuated, as big a call as that may seem.
So the question. If the internet as we know it now was still essentially a BBS, what might using it be like? Google BBS Terminal, complete with the sounds of dial-up modems, will probably give you a reasonable indication.
Even though Google on BBS doesn’t seem half bad, never again shall I complain when the wireless internet connection on my laptop, or smartphone, drops out momentarily (though I probably will).
Aside from word of mouth, newspapers were about the only way stories, ideas, and I imagine photos also, were able to go viral, or reach mass audiences during the nineteenth century, but the process behind the way many of these stories were put in front of people of the day has a certain ring of familiarity to it:
The tech may have been less sophisticated, but some barriers to virality were low in the 1800s. Before modern copyright laws there were no legal or even cultural barriers to borrowing content, Cordell says. Newspapers borrowed freely. Large papers often had an “exchange editor” whose job it was to read through other papers and clip out interesting pieces. “They were sort of like BuzzFeed employees,” Cordell said.