Posted tagged ‘Apple’

All hail the electronic calf

28 January 2013

Given I’ve been blogging about MOOCs lately, I thought it was high time I better informed my perspective by actually doing a MOOC.

So I signed up to The University of Edinburgh’s E-learning and Digital Cultures course on Coursera.

It has just kicked off, and one of the resources that we have been pointed to in the first week is Zumbakamera’s short animation, Bendito Machine III.

This film really resonated with me.

Anyone familiar with the Judeo-Christian story of Moses climbing Mount Sinai to receive the Ten Commandments from God will recognise its alignment with how modern consumers interact with technology. The arrival of the all-singing, all-dancing device-of-the-moment sweeps away all the false idols before it. Rejoice! as we consumers are only too willing to worship the one true god.

That is until the next one comes along.

Golden cow

Beyond the theme of religious zeal, yet another theme pervades the film: the distraction of the masses by “popular culture”. Whether it be news, lifestyle or banal entertainment, the machine can meet all your needs – and so the populace remains glued to the screen, flitting about from scene to scene without ever considering the context.

We’re intelligent because we’re hyperconnected.

Insofar as these themes relate to e-learning, the obvious parallel for me is the undue influence of Apple. The iPad in particular is heralded by some as the panacea of education. The archangel of autodidactism. The shining light of mobile learning.

The iPad can do anything and everyone owns one, so you would be a luddite not to use it, either as a teacher or as a student.

I sooo can’t wait to get mine. When I do, I’m going to put it in a golden case. With horns.

UPDATE: Helen Blunden from Activate Learning Solutions commented on this post pointing out the overly theoretical nature of the EDC MOOC content. I agree, so I have drawn out the following practical messages from the Bendito Machine III animation…

1. Don’t believe the hype – The ultra effective marketing campaign by the Apple folks would have you believe that the iPhone is the most popular smartphone in the world. If you were to develop an e-learning solution specifically for the iPhone then, you might find that you have left most of your target audience out in the cold.

2. Future-proof yourself – The current situation will not remain so forever, so don’t paint yourself into a corner. (Just ask the Flash designers!) I’m not inclined to develop device-specific mobile apps, for example, but rather HTML5 that is web-based and device agnostic. I’m not saying never develop apps; what I am saying is if your platform of choice disappears (Nokia? BlackBerry?) you don’t want all your work to disappear with it.

Bern, baby, Bern

27 March 2012

While I was in Europe for Didacta last month, I took the opportunity to visit Bern in Switzerland.

The Swiss capital is both beautiful and odd. (I mean that in a good way.) The town centre is medieval, the people speak a peculiar dialect of German peppered with French, and a riverside park at the edge of the old town houses a couple of real-life bears!

Bern, Switzerland

Apart from all the other touristy stuff, one of the things I did was visit the Museum für Kommunikation.

And I’m glad I did. I was genuinely surprised by the quality of the artefacts on display.

The permanent collection spans the history of technology-mediated communication, from the cuneiform tablets of the Sumerians, through the postal service, telephony, telegraphy, radio and television, to computers and the Internet.

If you find yourself in Bern, I highly recommend you set aside at least a couple of hours to devote this museum. It’ll be well worth it.

In the meantime, please enjoy some of the highlights that I have shared with you below…

Electric teletypewriter

Figure 1. Electric teletypewriter, Siemens & Halske, circa 1910.

Manually operated switchboard

Figure 2. Manually operated switchboard, Hasler, 1885.

National Auto-Telephone

Figure 3. National Auto-Telephone (“Natel”). One of the world’s first mobile phones.

Vintage televisions

Figure 4. Vintage televisions. Out of shot is a unit that was used at the National Exposition in Zurich in 1939, which was the first time TV was presented to the Swiss public.

IBM 601 electromechanical punch card tabulator

Figure 5. IBM 601 electromechanical punch card tabulator, circa 1940.

DuMont 303 oscilloscope

Figure 6. DuMont 303 oscilloscope, circa 1950. This oscilloscope is similar to the one that was used to demonstrate the world’s first computer game, Tennis for Two, at a US research lab in 1958.

Ermeth electronic computer

Figure 7. Ermeth electronic computer, Swiss Federal Insitute of Technology, 1956. Working memory: approx 80 KB.

PDP-8/E minicomputer

Figure 8. PDP-8/E minicomputer, Digital Equipment Corporation, 1970. At less than $20,000, the PDP-8 series was the first that medium-sized organisations could afford to purchase.


Figure 9. Apple-1, Apple Computer Company, 1976. The first personal computer with a fully assembled circuit board to which a keyboard and display unit could be attached.


Figure 10. Scrib, Bobst Graphic, 1979. A portable computer designed for journalists. It was equipped with an acoustic coupler so that text could be transmitted over a telephone line.

Osborne 1 Portable

Figure 11. Osborne 1, Osborne Computer Corporation, 1981. The world’s first commercially successful mobile computer. Working memory: 64 KB.

Bad Apple

16 January 2012

It seems like ancient history now, but last Christmas I received a $20 iTunes card from a work friend.

I was very pleased to receive it, as I usually buy songs from iTunes with my credit card – and that can tick over in the blink of an eye.

Obviously I hadn’t handled an iTunes card in a while. Without much forethought, I peeled back the sticker covering the code, only to notice I had damaged two of the characters beyond recognition.

iTunes card with scratched code

Naturally I tried to redeem the value in the iTunes Store with a few guesses, but to no avail. So I turned to my trusty adviser, Google, and found that I was not the only one with this problem. However, none of the suggestions helped me.

So I bit the bullet and clicked the iTunes link to “get help”. I filled out the form, including the card’s serial number, then clicked OK.

The next day I received an email from a guy from iTunes Store Customer Support. He wanted me to fax the following to him:

• A cover sheet including my name, email address, and my case ID;
• The sales receipt; and,
• Photocopies of the front and back of the card.

Yes, he said fax. Seriously, who faxes any more? Some Gen-Y’s don’t even know what a fax is.

Thankfully he provided an alternative: scan the receipt and the card, then attach them to a reply email.

However I had a second problem – because I didn’t buy the card myself, I didn’t have the receipt. Call me old fashioned, but I wasn’t keen on asking my friend if he still had it. So I replied to the support guy’s email with a cover message, attached scans of the front and back of the card, and explained my receipt predicament.

Eight days later – just as I’m starting to suspect Apple has ignored me – I receive an email from another support guy. He tells me he can’t find the serial number in his system. Now that’s a strange one, given it’s their number on their card. This guy also asks for the receipt again, so I embarrassingly asked my friend if he still had it. Of course he hadn’t. So I told the support guy that I was going to let it go. It was only $20 anyway. (That was a test: Did they really want to serve me or not?)

The next day I got an email from yet another support guy asking me to fax or email the sales receipt and scans of the front and back of the card! I informed this guy that I had already responded to that, so could he refer to the other guy.

Two days later I got an email from yet another support guy asking me to email the scans of the front and back of the card!! No mention of the receipt this time, so I’m unsure as to whether they’ve waived it or forgotten about it. Nonetheless I email back the scans again.

Another couple of days go by when thankfully, a support lady finally emails me the code – complete with the two mystery characters.

Worm inside an apple

This isn’t the hip and cool Apple I’ve become accustomed to. I must stress that the support people were very polite (if scripted) and they persisted to the end, but their system let them down.

Sure, it was only $20, but I consider a brand’s response to a minor matter a predictor of their response to a major matter. (Besides if you don’t mind writing off $20, let me know and I’ll provide you with my postal address.)

Furthermore, it’s not just the systemic barriers and process inefficiencies that bug me. It’s the fact that the sticker is so damn hard to remove and the code so easy to damage, that you can only wonder whether Apple is doing it by design.

How many other customers out there have just given up and thrown their damaged cards away, never to redeem them? High fives all round at Cupertino, except it’s a high price to pay for losing a lifetime of future sales.

If I were lucky enough to own Apple shares, I’d sell them. I have seen the worm that can kill it from the inside.