AnalogSenses

By ÁLVARO SERRANO

Today’s quote →

November 13, 2009 |

You want more mysterious? I’ll just try and think, “Where the hell’s the whiskey?”

Bob Harris, Lost in Translation (2003).

♤ ♧ ♡ ♢

Experimenting a bit

November 13, 2009

Ok, enough with the analog vs digital rant, I don’t want anybody here to think I’m some kind of analog retro-nerd :-P

Besides, it was just a weak attempt at writing something that made reference to the title of the blog. But, like I said in the first post, this is not a technical blog, nor it intends to be a passionate vindication of the old ways. Truth is, I’m very happy to be living in the digital era. But a little reflection on why things are the way they are doesn’t hurt anybody, does it?

Today I would like to talk about something completely unrelated. Because I feel like it. It may take me some time to focus on a theme and a coherent structure for this blog, I need to experiment a bit with different topics, options, and so on, until I find a way to make this an interesting place to spend your fifteen minutes of choice. So I’m afraid you’ll have to bear with me until we get there. Of course, feedback is always appreciated. Let me know what you like, and what you don’t. Thanks.

So, today it’s about writing something entertaining. And short. Short is important. It’s a resolution I’ve made recently, to try and say what I want to say using the smallest number of words possible. Because, frankly, the rest is just noise, and we have enough of that on the Internet already.

I think I’ve got it. Today it’s about a movie: Lost in Translation. If you haven’t seen it, I strongly encourage you to do it like, right now. Seriously. I’ll wait for you to be done and we’ll continue this later.

Lost In Translation - Poster by Álvaro Serrano, on Flickr

GO.

How’s that for short? Yeah, I thought so, too…

♤ ♧ ♡ ♢

Today's quote →

November 13, 2009 |

The first step to getting the things you want out of life is this: Decide what you want.

Ben Stein (1944-)

♤ ♧ ♡ ♢

Today's quote →

November 12, 2009 |

The days of the digital watch are numbered.

Tom Stoppard (1937- ).

♤ ♧ ♡ ♢
♤ ♧ ♡ ♢

Excuse me sir, what's the time?

November 12, 2009

Bvlgari by Álvaro Serrano, on Flickr

It’s funny how in the top-class watch market, analog watches are undoubtely the norm. We are talking about pretty expensive gadgets here, and digital models are virtually non-existent in the catalogs of the first brands.

Analog watches have a more classic appeal, in my opinion, just look at this Bvlgari. After seeing this, why in the world would you want to buy a digital watch?

Don’t get me wrong, I’m all for the digital world… when it makes sense, when it’s necessary, and when it’s adequate. But not on a default basis. Digital doesn’t always mean better, as you can see.

♤ ♧ ♡ ♢

About Form and Function

November 12, 2009

Just look at this for a moment:

gramaphone

Beautiful, isn’t it? The first gramophone was invented in the 1870’s by none other than Thomas Alva Edison (yes, the same man that invented the light bulb and the motion picture camera). Back then, it was only an attempt to play back previously recorded telegraph messages. But from that point in human history until the 1980’s, the turntable experienced an unprecedented rise until it became the center of the music market, used for both professional and consumer purposes. It became an icon that is still present in our collective consciences, some 20 years after it was replaced from mainstream use.

Then along came the CD, and people discovered the wonders of the digital sound. As hard as it may seem to believe today, the transition between the two formats was far from easy. Analog technology was in place everywhere and the CD simply couldn’t compete in costs with vinyl LP’s yet. Besides, there was the human factor: we don’t like change. We never have, and this was probably as big a change as the music industry has ever experienced. People started complaining that new CD recordings sounded weird. The warm, familiar sound of their old LP’s was gone, and they didn’t like it one bit.

What was the deal? Today it seems obvious that a CD sounds better than a vinyl record, so what happened back then? Theoretically, there is nothing that keeps a vinyl record from sounding better than a CD. They do have a wider frequency response (the range of frequencies they can play), so in theory a new vinyl record played by a high-end turntable should sound better. Well, not quite.

You see, while vinyl records do have a wider frequency response, it is not flat, which means than not all frequency components are played at the same level of intensity. Our hearing is also not flat for all frequencies, so any mismatch between both frequency curves may result in audible differences when compared to a live performance. Add to that the mechanical noise and distortion that the stylus introduces and you get the listening experience that people identified as “warm”. Compared to that, audio CD’s play music with a frequency response that, while inferior to that of high-quality vinyl records, still generously covers all of the hearing spectrum, which ranges from 20Hz to 20KHz. The rest of the spectrum captured by vinyl records not only isn’t audible, but it can actually cause interference and distortion in the audible range. 1

As a result of these differences the listening experience changed dramatically and, while the CD theoretically offered a better sound quality, people found it lacking depth and musicality, and often described it as sounding metallic. Early audio CD’s were also affected by poor analog to digital conversion processes, which hindered the final quality of the sound, mainly due to aliasing of higher frequencies.

Why am I writing sooo much about this stuff? Well, because I believe there is an important lesson hidden somewhere here: Technology may be great, but it’s only great if it serves a purpose. The list of great devices that were huge commercial failures is long, and it’s usually because at some point those devices lost track of their purpose: why do people need this? Or, more importantly, do they need it at all?

These devices are not just feats of engineering and design, they need to make our lives easier or more enjoyable. If they don’t, they will almost certainly fail. The problem with the CD was that many people were unpleasantly surprised by the new format and the dramatic change it introduced in their listening experience. If it were not for the tremendous savings and convenience that digital technology brought to the music industry, it is unclear whether the CD wouldn’t have gone the way of the Dodo.2 It took a few years for the MP3 to make its way into the market, and that’s a format that is incredibly convenient and efficient compared to the CD.

The point is: don’t give me technology, give me solutions. Don’t tell me what this is made of, tell me what it can do. Can you think of a company that designs and markets its products this way? And how’s it going for them lately? Not bad?

I wonder why that is.

We are analog beings.


  1. Most amplifiers and speakers have a marked non-linear behavior outside of this range, which contributes to the distortion.]. Besides, a CD’s frequency response can be perfectly flat, which provides an even higher fidelity to the original recording.

  2. The list of devices arguably better than the CD that failed to replace it during the last decade is also long: MiniDisc, LaserDisc, even Audio DVD’s…]

♤ ♧ ♡ ♢

The old and the new

November 11, 2009

gramaphone by the ant hill mob, on Flickr

Just Beautiful. And it plays music, too.

iO by M Al-Ghanim, on Flickr

… but yeah, this is more like it.

About Form and Function.

… more on that later.

♤ ♧ ♡ ♢

Paying Tribute

November 10, 2009

The first thing I would like to do before actually starting to post real stuff here is acknowledge those people who have influenced me and inspired me to start this project. I don’t have the privilege of knowing them personally, but I absolutely feel like they deserve credit for the amazing work they put in their respective sites. To them, my sincere gratitude. I owe you big time.

DISCLAIMER: Even though I admire all of them greatly, they have no affiliation with me, nor my opinion regarding any of the posts in this blog. There is no association whatsoever between this blog and any of the others I mention here. Guys, If you feel that my mentioning you here doesn’t do you justice, please buzz me and let me know.

First, I want to mention Patrick Rhone from Minimal Mac. I don’t think I have ever been so blown away by a weblog before. The first time I saw it was during this summer, right after he started posting, and I instantly fell in love with the idea. I check it every day ever since. Patrick is a Technology Consultant, Mac Geek, Productivity Nerd and Blogger, and also happens to be a terrific guy. Besides Minimal Mac, he is involved in a series of other projects, including a fearless Mac tech-support program via Twitter for free (@machinemethods). Way to go Patrick, and thanks for the inspiration.

There is also Berto Pena from Think Wasabi, a Spanish weblog about productivity on the Mac. Berto is a productivity expert, writer, blogger and a black-belt-ninja-master of Evernote. Among other really interesting things on his site you will find a series of articles named: “101 uses for Evernote”. He is also an advocate of the GTD way, and gives priceless advice frequently on how to put it to good use. He recently wrote a book called Gestiona Mejor Tu Vida (Manage Your Life Better) in Spanish, which is available online and must be selling like hotcakes. And, having read it, I’m not the least bit surprised why.

Next up is Rands, from Rands in Repose. Though Rands is not his real name, his voice couldn’t be more real. His posts are crafted with a skill and expertise that you will rarely see anywhere else on the Internet. He works as a senior engineering manager and in his weblog he gives advice on how to manage teams and reflects on the technology world in general. If you read one of his posts you will be instantly hooked. Guaranteed. He is also the author of Managing Humans, a great book where you can learn about his experiences as a software engineering manager.

And of course, David Lanham, a terrific, terrific artist that is currently working at The Iconfactory, designing awesome icons for the Mac. If you have a minute, go pay him a visit at his website, where you will find a great collection of some of his incredibly talented work, in both digital and traditional formats (or, for the purpose of this blog, analog).

These are the big four places I go to every time I have a moment to spare. Among other sources of great inspiration are:

Merlin Mann from 43 Folders. In his own words: “43 Folders is Merlin Mann’s website about finding the time and attention to do your best creative work.” Good, good stuff here.

Leo Babauta from Zen Habits. Also, he is the author of The Power of Less, an awesome book that will teach you how to eliminate the clutter in your life and focus on what’s really important. Do more, by doing less.

That’s it, I believe. I’m sure I will be adding to this list very soon, but for now I guess this is a fairly accurate collection of the online places I find inspiring, interesting and/or amusing. If, with time, I can produce something that is anywhere near close to what these incredibly talented people are up to every day, I will be proud and consider myself extremely satisfied.

And if I can add some value to you, and make the time that you are spending here useful, my mission will be complete.

And now, without further ado, let’s get started.

Welcome.

♤ ♧ ♡ ♢

Today's quote →

November 10, 2009 |

Welcome to my house. Come freely. Go safely; and leave something of the happiness you bring!

Bram Stoker (1847-1912), Dracula (1897).

♤ ♧ ♡ ♢