Stephen Hackett loves old Macs. (And iPhones and iPods and Newtons.) His fascination with old Apple hardware and the passion to share it with a larger audience — many of whom weren’t around for the dark days when Apple was doomed — is one of the things I love most about reading 512 Pixels.
He’s slowly been expanding into video production with a channel on YouTube. The latest video covers the iPod Shuffle, the tiny iPod without a screen that Apple still sells. At just $49, it’s not much more expensive than a long USB-C cable and may be the best bargain in Apple’s lineup after the $399 iPhone SE. Stephen writes about the original Shuffle:
The first Shuffle was built like a glorified USB thumb drive. This new player was smaller than a pack of chewing gum, and built around the concept of shuffling your music. There was no need for a screen or a true clickwheel. If you wanted to listen to music in order, the switch on the back could be set to continuous playback.
Ah, nostalgia. One of the reasons I blog at all, and have been for 14 years now, isn’t so much for today’s audience but tomorrow’s. Even the most mundane blog posts take on new significance with a few years’ distance. Old technical topics have surprisingly poor representation on today’s web, as linkrot sets in.
I’m looking forward to what else Stephen has planned. I know from the Connected podcast that lately he has been trying to collect all the different original iMac colors. (Two other podcasts that are worth a listen for an additional trip down memory lane: The Record and Simple Beep.)
The other night I was digging around in other people’s old blog posts, catching up on things I never read but should, and I found this gem on “Seth Godin’s blog”:http://sethgodin.typepad.com/.
“Watch it on YouTube”:http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1k08yxu57NA and then come back here.
Maybe the video and show is old news to everyone else, but I was stunned. A seemingly unremarkable man, by his own admission lacking confidence, the judges and audience clearly expecting the worst, expecting humiliation.
And then he is transformed. He nails it.
I consider myself reasonably competent, but not great, at what I do. My weakness is that I have my hands in too many unrelated projects to ever master one thing. The areas I am most passionate about receive a cruel pittance of attention. Not so with Paul Potts.
It’s inspiring to see someone who is just freakin’ good, rising above expectation out of a bland job to surprise and overwhelm everyone around him.
Oh, and the nice thing about discovering this video late? I can fast-forward to the finish. “Here’s the winning performance”:http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rDB9zwlXrB8 with some additional backstory.
If you are wondering why I haven’t posted here in over a month, it’s because I’ve been getting my writing fix “over on Twitter”:http://twitter.com/manton, in 140 characters or less a couple times a day. Still trying to figure out the best way to integrate that experience into this site. I also have the usual queue of blog post drafts that will roll out here when I have time.
A bunch of really interesting things hit today. Microsoft Surface (can’t wait for the multi-touch iPhone); iTunes Plus (already upgraded my songs); and YouTube on the Apple TV (welcome if unexpected).
I have actually been dreading the iTunes Plus announcement because I am behind in “Wii Transfer”:http://www.riverfold.com/software/wiitransfer/ development, and I had hoped to coincide version 2.3 with the DRM-free AAC files on iTunes. It should be ready for a private beta in a few days. (Want in on the beta? Just email email@example.com.)
But it’s the YouTube feature that is really fascinating to me. I’ve long thought that Apple has all but given up on web video, somehow content to let Flash dominate. The Apple movie trailers site as the last pocket of QuickTime content isn’t quite good enough. Apple could have created something on the scale of YouTube but hooked into the iApps, .Mac, and built on QuickTime. Maybe even as an extension of the iTunes Store around video podcasts.
(The great thing about podcasts is that they are decentralized, but it makes it a little more difficult when you are trying to build a community. The iTunes Store also does a great job for discovery but nothing to help content creators. There is no one-step upload.)
The Apple TV announcement is weird because while on the surface it looks like a confirmation that Flash video wins, it might just be the first sign of Apple fighting back. Every video on YouTube will get the H.264 treatment. The web video revolution (of sorts) has been great, but the pieces are coming together for truly useful broadband video. Perhaps YouTube sees that they could be a major player not just for silly webcam videos but as an infrastructure for high quality distribution, with content in some categories that will rival the networks.
That future is especially believable the first time you sync up near-HD video podcasts to the Apple TV. It’s a great experience and definitely exceeded my expectations.
When we use Google everyday and mostly work with technology and related topics that are well indexed, it’s easy to forget the truth: the web is horribly incomplete. I’ve been doing some research for an upcoming podcast and it’s very frustrating to encounter huge gaping voids in the internet where history, audio recordings, and photographs should be. Somewhere out there is an audio cassette tape recording that I’d like to hear, but it will probably gather dust in an attic for the next decade instead. It needs to be even easier for anyone to put everything they have online so that it can be preserved and shared. Already I think the current generation raised on instant messaging and the web may not realize that there’s a whole world out there that is outside the reach of our keyboards. At least I know I sometimes forget.
The other part of the problem is linkrot. And not just 404s, but old links to obsolete file formats that can no longer be accessed. I can’t even count how many links to .ram files I’ve clicked that result in an error. When your content requires a special server (RealAudio streaming server software, in this case), it’s only a matter of time before that content itself will die.
Now, the good news is that a simple MP3 file and static HTML file with JPEG images will be around forever. It requires no special server software, no dynamic processing of any kind, and client software is so widespread and open that it’s a guarantee you can access it 10 years later. The only missing piece of the puzzle is reliable non-expiring domain registration and hosting.
The bad news is the rise of centralized web applications and data stores. What happens when YouTube shuts down? Remember they burn through huge amounts of cash for bandwidth each month and seem to have few options for becoming profitable. I feel better about Flickr, because they get it, but “Yahoo! has been known”:http://www.manton.org/2002/07/yahoo_mail.html to not treat data longevity seriously.