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Media Science Technology

'Dead Media' Never Really Die 85

Posted by Soulskill
from the except-hddvd dept.
joabj writes "A streaming music service was available 100 years ago by telephone, through the Teleharmonium. A primitive version of Photoshopping was possible with Black Mirrors in the 18th century. While technologies and media platforms go obsolete at an ever more rapid pace, the ideas they engender never really die. They get absorbed by newer technologies, or are at least preserved by hobbyists (carrier pigeons) or niche markets (Morse Code), argued NYU postdoctoral researcher Finn Brunton at the USENIX conference. Myself, I'm waiting for an update to the visual cortex-stimulating Dream Machines of the 1960s."
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'Dead Media' Never Really Die

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  • Ugh (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Anrego (830717) * on Friday June 17, 2011 @12:11PM (#36475798)

    Brunton questioned whether any media is "truly dead," except in rare cases, such as the Rongorongo tablets found at Easter Island, which no one now knows how to read or even decipher the reason they were created.

    This whole 4 page article came off as a bunch of gum flapping over semantics. If I say something is a “dead technology”, I generally mean that very few people are using it.. not that it has completely disappeared from the face of the earth. I think the same is true of most people. Was the whole point of this to say that for most technologies, someone, somewhere, is still using it? If so it took a long damn time to make that point.

    Also the fact that an older technology is somehow embodied in the new technology that supersedes it is a pretty damn obvious statement. We invent new things to do old things in a better way. Of _course_ my word processor incorporates the same concepts of the typewriter, it was designed to be a replacement for it!

    • Economies of scale (Score:5, Interesting)

      by tepples (727027) <tepples&gmail,com> on Friday June 17, 2011 @12:19PM (#36475936) Homepage Journal

      This whole 4 page article came off as a bunch of gum flapping over semantics.

      Perhaps we can define a "dead" technology as one that no longer enjoys economies of scale [wikipedia.org]. Hobbyists and niche markets often pay a premium for the technologies they use.

      Which brings me to another question: Often participatory media die and are replaced with consumer media. For example, video game consoles replaced 8-bit microcomputers with TV output, Compact Disc replaced cassette, DVD replaced VHS, and walled-garden tablets have begun to replace laptop computers. These media create a barrier between those who can produce and those who can only consume, and one must pay dearly to surmount this barrier.

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by Anonymous Coward

        Surmounting those barriers is as easy as having a computer with an internet connection. I'm not going to predict what the future holds, but today it is easier than ever to get into any form of media production. The software to produce video used to cost thousands. Now it comes with the computer. Audio production? Drop a few Hamiltons on a breakout box, or just a USB mic. Or stick to Line In. Photography? GIMP and an average P&S can produce results that will wow people. Programming? The tools for every m

        • Surmounting those barriers is as easy as having a computer with an internet connection.

          True, if you own a PC, you can switch from consuming to creating by downloading and installing an application. But as people start buying tablet appliances instead of PCs, watch people not be able to switch so easily.

          GIMP

          ...is available only for PCs, not tablets.

          Programming? The tools for every major platform are free.

          Do you mean "iOS is not a major platform"? The tools for that cost $600 for the Mac plus $99 per year.

          as cheap as the price of a low-end desktop

          Unless it becomes uncommon to buy a low-end desktop, after which point the major companies will stop making low-end desktops. Then the low-end desktop

      • by Kemanorel (127835)

        While I won't argue your point about 8-bit mircocomputers vs. video game consoles, I fail to see how CD's, DVD's, and tablets have in any way created barriers. In fact, I would argue that while the creation tools for each of the earlier level technologies in your comparisons were less expensive by the time of the new technology's introduction than the new creation tools, CD's and DVD's both offered considerable improvements in the quality that a hobbyist producer could create. The creation tools also had

        • I fail to see how CD's, DVD's, and tablets have in any way created barriers.

          How much did it cost to get a low-volume CD pressed before CD-R was invented? Or a low-volume DVD authored and pressed before before DVD-R and DVD+R were invented?

          the Andriod tools are free

          I wasn't including Android in "walled garden" seeing as how every Android device supports adb install and usually even "Unknown sources". Even AT&T plans to push out updates [sleetherz.com] to restore "Unknown sources." I was referring mostly to iOS and Windows Phone, which leads to the next point:

          the iOS tools are $100 a year (I could very well be wrong on that one).

          Plus the cost of a Mac if your current PC happens to have come

      • by ultramk (470198)

        1984 called and they want their complaints back. Seriously, when the original Mac came out there was no end to the wailing and gnashing of teeth because it didn't boot into BASIC like the Apple ][, but into a GUI without a CLI at all. "How will I write a program? How can anything be accomplished on a machine that's so locked down and sealed up!?!" Of course, anyone who cared could get into it fairly easily, as evidenced by the explosion of shareware and freeware on the Mac

        Jump forward 27 years and it's the

        • by tepples (727027)

          You need another machine to actually do the work on, but those are hardly rare.

          For one thing, you also need a certificate that expires. For another, as I mentioned in another comment [slashdot.org], there are rumors that a Mac to actually do the work on might actually become rare.

      • by yarnosh (2055818)

        These media create a barrier between those who can produce and those who can only consume, and one must pay dearly to surmount this barrier.

        Nonsense. The new media simply bring mature technologies to those who would only consume regardless of the media. It doesn't put up any new barriers. Ok, it might be more difficult for me as an individual to produce a game for a console, but there's still PCs. Video game consoles didn't replace 8-bit microcomputers. They created a new market for people who didn't care about all potential uses for a general purpose computer. As for DVDs replacing VHS, sure it is more complicated to burn a DVD, but it is cer

        • You make a good point about YouTube,

          Ok, it might be more difficult for me as an individual to produce a game for a console, but there's still PCs.

          A PC doesn't* display on a television. This makes it more difficult for two to four players to fit around the monitor of the family's gaming PC to play a multiplayer game. This is why most notable PC multiplayer games tend to be online, requiring a separate PC for each player even if all players are in one household.

          [Locked-down video game consoles] created a new market for people who didn't care about all potential uses for a general purpose computer.

          And hurt the market for video games developed outside the mainstream video game industry, as console makers refused to deal with developers operating out of a

          • by yarnosh (2055818)

            A PC doesn't* display on a television. This makes it more difficult for two to four players to fit around the monitor of the family's gaming PC to play a multiplayer game. This is why most notable PC multiplayer games tend to be online, requiring a separate PC for each player even if all players are in one household.

            I mean "doesn't", not "can't". A PC with a VGA or DVI video output can display on any HDTV with a VGA or HDMI input respectively, but in practice statistically nobody uses that feature. For one thing, few people that I've talked to appear to know it exists, and for another, people don't want to have to cart the family PC back and forth between the TV cabinet and the PC desk.

            So what exactly is the problem? Everyone one still has a PC. It isn't like they all just gave up the PC for the gaming console. There's plenty of room for the Indie game developer. Especially with Flash on the web and Steam for the PC. Not to mention that consoles are opening up more the ability to download titles from online stores. Hell, look at indie title Minecraft making it to the Xbox 360. Who would have thunk..

            And hurt the market for video games developed outside the mainstream video game industry, as console makers refused to deal with developers operating out of a home office.

            Oh please. Game consoles never took away market from the PC. They they created their own ma

            • by tepples (727027)

              So what exactly is the problem? Everyone one still has a PC.

              The problem is that PCs haven't been strongly marketed for set-top use since the 8-bit days, and a desktop PC can't play certain genres of games. I'd hate to develop and self-publish a game only to have people in the audience tell me "I'd buy that if only it were for something other the PC."

              Especially with Flash on the web

              A Flash game can't read gamepads. It can read only player 1's keyboard and mouse, not the gamepads that players 2 through 4 are using.

              • by yarnosh (2055818)

                The problem is that PCs haven't been strongly marketed for set-top use since the 8-bit days,

                So what? It isn't like consoles stole this market. They created a new market while general purpose computers advanced to the point where a TV was inadequate for display purposes.

                and a desktop PC can't play certain genres of games.

                So play to the strengths of the PC.

                I'd hate to develop and self-publish a game only to have people in the audience tell me "I'd buy that if only it were for something other the PC."

                If something as silly as that i stopping you, you've got other problems. Seriously, you're making a big deal out of nothing. Fact is there's a healthy enough market for good self published games on the PC. Probably more now than there ever was. Now you have the internet and services like Steam. No

                • by tepples (727027)

                  It isn't like consoles stole this market. They created a new market while general purpose computers advanced to the point where a TV was inadequate for display purposes.

                  If an indie developer has a design document for a game that would best work in this new market, how should the developer proceed?

                  So play to the strengths of the PC.

                  How can somebody who has never been a fan of first-person shooters and real-time strategy "play to the strengths of the PC"? As I understand it, the strength of a PC is its lack of organizational requirements as a prerequisite to distribute software, but the biggest weakness of a PC that I can see is its physically small monitor. (In one sense, a 32" 1366x768 pixel TV is "bigger"

                  • by yarnosh (2055818)

                    If an indie developer has a design document for a game that would best work in this new market, how should the developer proceed?

                    I don't know, I'm not in that part of software development. I get it. It is difficult to publish games for consoles. But I already acknowledged this much in my original comment to you. Why are you harping on it? I'm sorry that you so desperately want to publish a game that plays on a TV and uses multiple gamepads but can't. I don't know what else to say.

      • Which brings me to another question: Often participatory media die and are replaced with consumer media. For example, video game consoles replaced 8-bit microcomputers with TV output, Compact Disc replaced cassette, DVD replaced VHS, and walled-garden tablets have begun to replace laptop computers. These media create a barrier between those who can produce and those who can only consume, and one must pay dearly to surmount this barrier.

        Except - only two of your examples (the first and last) even remotely su

        • But arguably even those two [video game consoles and walled-garden tablets] are irrelevant because a) the vast majority of their users aren't creators anyway

          They aren't creators because the devices' firmware doesn't allow them to be.

          and b) neither of the things you claim to have been replaced have actually been replaced

          As for consoles: What do you mean they haven't have replaced personal computers connected to televisions? Nowadays, statistically nobody has a home theater PC, and I can cite several comments by CronoCloud and others to back up this assertion. Shall I dig up links to these comments?

          As for tablets: Low-end laptops haven't been replaced yet, but some analysts claim the proverbial writing is on the wall. Please see my other comment [slashdot.org]

          • But arguably even those two [video game consoles and walled-garden tablets] are irrelevant because a) the vast majority of their users aren't creators anyway

            They aren't creators because the devices' firmware doesn't allow them to be.

            They weren't creators before either.

            and b) neither of the things you claim to have been replaced have actually been replaced

            As for consoles: What do you mean they haven't have replaced personal computers connected to televisions?

            Oh, I see now. You're playing a narrow mi

            • the vast majority of [console/tablet] users aren't creators anyway

              because the devices' firmware doesn't allow them to be.

              They weren't creators before either.

              A walled-garden device may be ideal for people who are sure that they'll never decide one day to become creators before the device breaks. But when people who "weren't creators before" decide one day to become creators, it is a lot more expensive for them to do so if all they own is a walled-garden device than if they own a general-purpose PC.

              Only devices attached to televisions count

              As I understand it, only devices attached to monitors the size of televisions can be used for playing multiplayer games with multiple gamepads, as opposed to having to

      • by mianne (965568)

        And?

        8-bit computers replaced hobbyist built 4-bit machines which were NOT a mass consumer item. Cassettes replaced 8-tracks, vinyl, and wax -- none of which were easily recorded to by consumers. Yet recordable CD and DVD media is readily obtainable. VHS (and Betamax) replaced nothing really, unless you wanted to set your 8mm video camera on a tripod in front of the television. or watch a film on a home movie projector/screen. I don't really see tablets as a replacement for laptops, which are still widely so

        • Yet recordable CD and DVD media is readily obtainable.

          In the early days of CD, CD-R media was not "readily obtainable". Nor was DVD-R media in the early days of DVD, as I understand it.

          VHS (and Betamax) replaced nothing really

          I agree that the VCR was a step forward in participatory media. So was CD to CD-R, and so was DVD to DVD-R, and so was DVD-R to YouTube. I was pointing out the steps backward to remind people that such steps backward have happened, where a medium becomes "dead technology" in favor of a less participatory medium.

          I don't really see tablets as a replacement for laptops, which are still widely sold.

          Apple has announced that iOS 5 will no longer need to be connected t

    • Even if you want to accept that even a single existing example of some kind of "media" proves that that "media" is not dead, I cannot understand how anyone could possibly hold the idea that for every single type of "media" that ever existed there exists at least one sample. Really?

    • by pz (113803)

      This whole 4 page article came off as a bunch of gum flapping over semantics.

      Agreed. It also had a tone of free association. There's no evidence presented that the 18th Century idea of Black Mirrors can be traced to the creation of Photoshop. There's no clear link between the Teleharmonium and streaming music services. And the idea of shaving Edison cylinders morphing into voice mail? That's an easier sell, but still not convincing. The first photographs were painterly because the exposure times limited subject material to those that would be indefinitely still, not because th

    • It read very Friedman-esque to me, in that here is some self absorbed pseudo geek who 'discovers' that hobbyists are still using Morse Code and that becomes an epiphany for him. And the mangled example of black mirrors being a 'primitive version of Photoshop'...that is an idiotic claim by itself but it doesn't actually support what the guy is claiming because it is a forward progression of technology.

      Regardless, someone somewhere hangs on to about anything. Apart from the fact with enough mental gymnastics

    • I remember listening to an NPR tech podcast where they had (I think) a Wired contributor who bet the host that he could not name a single technology in the last century no longer being made. By this, he meant farm equipment. And it's not semantics. They literally make the EXACT same equipment, same name. They used a turn of the century catalog as their guide. And sure enough, no matter what piece of equipment they looked for, they found someone who made it today.

      Now, you say, farming hasn't changed. W

    • I tend to define "dead media" the same way I define "dead language" -- sure, it still exists and is still used, but it is no longer living. It doesn't grow or change to reflect the current social situation. You could argue that RFCs 1149 and 2549 imply that carrier pigeon media isn't dead, but I'd argue that morse code is definitely not just "dead media" but also a dead language... and was such almost from the moment it was invented (and on purpose, too!). It's been a long time since someone's come up w

      • by Anrego (830717) *

        Totally agree, though I'll point out that morse code is still used a fair bit in the ham radio community, sometimes even in novel ways.

  • Good, I'm glad to hear than the 5+ senses we each possess are not degrading!

  • Myself, I'm waiting for an update to the visual cortex-stimulating Dream Machines of the 1960s.

    There is a whole spectrum of these gadgets available, and I imagine many of them are quite good. Still, the best dream machine is the one that will lie next to you and excite some circuits you never thought existed... Shagadelic, baby!

  • Myself, I'm waiting for an update to the visual cortex-stimulating Dream Machines of the 1960s.

    It's called AVS (Audio Visual Stimulation), also known as AVE (Audio Visual Entrainment). Basically, they're visual bio-feedback machines that use data from an EEG recorder. You can find many products online. I personally don't use them so I can't vouch for their build quality and/or effectiveness. At the very least, it's just snake-oil. At best, the placebo it provides is therapeutic.

    • by ultranova (717540)

      It's called AVS (Audio Visual Stimulation), also known as AVE (Audio Visual Entrainment). Basically, they're visual bio-feedback machines that use data from an EEG recorder. You can find many products online. I personally don't use them so I can't vouch for their build quality and/or effectiveness. At the very least, it's just snake-oil. At best, the placebo it provides is therapeutic.

      You do realize that flashing lights can actually kill people with epilepsy, right? And make non-epileptic people extremely

      • That's a very good point. Epileptic seizures can be deadly. However, some will claim success to their usage of an AVS device. I'll chalk that up to the placebo effect. But who am I to judge their happiness as long as it doesn't hurt anyone else?

        Makes me wonder if any one of these manufactures got sued for inducing a seizure or any other bad symptom.

  • almost entirely quoted from a 1995 talk, doesn't really say anything interesting, draws some pretty far out conclusions, and page 4 is just a credit

    but they sure shoved in 18 tons of ads

    • There's a link at the bottom of the first page called "Print this", that removes all the junk.

      And why aren't you using AdBlock Plus if you don't like ads?
      • by Osgeld (1900440)

        I don't totally believe in ad block plus since a portion of my income comes from ad's, but of course the site I work for does not rephrase a 17 year old talk nor do they make the last page less than a paragraph just to sucker another 100 ad's on one page (we run 3 per page)

        yes I know this is the way the rape the net companies like it and its been around forever, but it does not mean I need to praise it either, hence the warning

      • by Pope (17780)
        The only ad blocker anyone needs is a Flash blocker. That takes care of 95% of the most obnoxious ads.
  • I understand Apple have patented iTeleharmonium so keep quite or it will be patent hearing for you, young fellow me-lad!

  • VHF omnidirectional radio range radio's are used for navigation by basically every aircraft in the sky, and the signal sent out by each airport is just it's IATA Identification code, broadcasted as Morse code.
  • While technologies and media platforms go obsolete at an ever more rapid pace, the ideas they engender never really die.

    Gee - people have a range of activities that brings please, facilitates work, allows them to be creative, etc.; and they adapt and adopt newer technologies that allow them to continue to do those things. When they discover the newer technology is better (with a wide definition of "better") at providing them what they want they stop using the old in favor of the new. Except for a few, who for whatever reason, prefer the old.

    Hmm, if you can get post doc funding for the above, maybe I should get a grant for

  • All the media that no one remembers, die. I'm sure Ogg the caveman scratched marks into a boulder that meant something to him, but nobody else knows how to decipher it.

    There could easily be media sitting in someone's attic that can't be read on any working hardware. (Or a farmer's barn, I've seen old computers gathering dust on a farm)
  • out of 3D glasses, white LEDs and an Arduino [imgur.com] (you know, for blog cred)

  • Some technologies die because they require a substantial infrastructure to sustain them. Kodachrome is a recent example. The special dyes, the factory that made then, and the elaborate, specialized processing labs are all gone now.

    Steam locomotives are getting there. They require a major overhaul [youtube.com] every 100,000 miles or so, and the massive infrastructure needed for that is long gone. There are people restoring the things as hobbyist projects, but they're taking a decade to do a job that a proper shop onc

  • I put all my important records on clay tablets and store them in a cave by my house.

  • Does this title make anyone else think "ph'nglui mglw'nafh Cthulhu R'lyeh wgah'nagl fhtagn" or is it just me...
  • Myself, I'm waiting for an update to the visual cortex-stimulating Dream Machines of the 1960s.

    Those weren't machines, those were drugs. And believe me, they have been regularly updated with new mind-bending versions.

  • This is somewhat akin to the argument made a while back on an NPR show by Kevin Kelly, the founding editor of Wired Magazine: that tools never die. No matter what tool you can think of, it is still in active use somewhere on Earth by someone: http://www.npr.org/blogs/krulwich/2011/02/04/133188723/tools-never-die-waddaya-mean-never [npr.org]
  • and guess what, with very little expense (wire money to the author, paypal accepted), it could easily be applied to other areas:

    - Dead technologies never die ! People are still riding horses, using manual looms, blowing glass, handcrafting watches...
    - Dead languages never die ! People are still studying Greek, Latin, even shooting films in Aramaic !
    - Dead ideas never die ! People still consider non-whites, women, gays... inferior !
    - Dead OSes never die ! People are still using OS/2, BeOS, AmigaOS, Plan9, an

  • apparently nowadays common knowledge = slashdot headline.
  • Myself, I'm waiting for an update to the visual cortex-stimulating Dream Machines of the 1960s."

    That's a DIY project that's been around for years now, the open-source Brian Machine [makezine.com] by Mitch Altman. There's also lots of iOS and Android apps that simulate the same behavior with flashing colors on the LCDs while you lay your phone over your eyes.

  • Maybe some old media "failed" because they they required too much creative imagination to figure out usefulness. Or they were not technologically robust enough and still clumsy. Holograms are an example of the latter. Everyone expects "floating Princes Leah" dynamic holograms in the future. The first single-image holograms used lasers, camera, and a lot of expertise. But its expected you could compute the diffracted wavefield in real time without needing a laser or camera once computers were fast enough.

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