Back when I started work I was obliged to do night classes in chemistry. It was tough going (partly because I wasn’t that focused) and my existing Walkman WM-24 whilst good had given up the ghost. I decided to put what money I had towards a Sony WM-R202.
Why that model:
It could record reasonably well which I convinced myself would be handy for lectures. It was not up to a Pro Walkman standard as the Dolby circuit fitted was for playback only. (I couldn’t afford the professional grade WM-D6C at the time and they weren’t the kind of device that you could easily fit in a pocket either. They were big and substantial.)
It had a good reputation for playback. Not only did it have Dolby B noise reduction and auto reverse on cassette playback, but it held the cassette really well to its metal construction. I learned the benefits of good tape cassette fit in a rigid mechanism the hard way. I had got hold of a WM-36 which on paper looked better than my previous Walkman with Dolby NR and and a graphic equaliser, but hand to keep the door closed with an elastic band. It was a sheep dressed up as a wolf
Probably the biggest reason was that it intrigued me being not much larger than an early iPod and was crafted with a jeweller’s precision. It was powered by a single AA battery or a NiCd battery about the size of a couple of sticks of chewing gum. It looked sexy as hell in in a brushed silver metal finish.
Whilst the buttons on the device might seem busy in comparison to software driven smartphones it was a surprisingly well designed user experience. None of them caught on clothing, the main controls fell easily to hand and I can’t remember ever having to use the manual.
What soon became apparent is that you needed to handle it very carefully to get cassettes in and out. I used to carefully tease the cassettes in and out. Despite my care one day it stopped working. Given that mine lasted about two weeks, I am guessing that mine was a lemon and that the build quality must have been generally high as you can still see them on eBay and Yahoo! Auctions in Japan.
Since mine gave out well within a warranty period, I look it back to the shop and put the money towards a Sony D-250 Discman instead.
Here’s a video in Japanese done by someone selling a vintage WMR-202 on Yahoo! Auctions which shows you all the features in more depth.
I bought this book when it came out in July and have gone back and forth reading it. I’d read books on Silicon Valley before; the Apple eulogising Insanely Great by Steven Levy which told of the graft and hard work that went into the original Macintosh or Where Wizards Stay Up Late by Hafner & Lyon which discussed engineers exceeding long works. My favourite one is still Robert X Cringely’s Accidental Empires that portrays Gates as a coupon-clipping megalomaniac and Steve Jobs as a sociopath cut from the same cloth as Josef Stalin.
Merchant’s The One Device is different. It doesn’t eulogise in the same way, but it also lacks immediacy as it feels detached from its subject matter. Unlike Levy’s work, Apple didn’t cooperate with Merchant at all. The book is broad in scope and sometimes loses its way, each one of the chapters could have been an interesting short book in their own right and this leaves it being faintly unsatisfactory. I guess this is one of the reasons why it took me so long to read it.
In the meantime the book stirred controversy over quotes attributed to Tony Fadell about then colleague Phil Schiller. This made me cast a critical eye over some of Merchant’s adventures in the book. In particular inside the Foxconn industrial complex.
On a more positive note, Merchant’s vision is grander than previous authors. One man’s mission to pull all the intellectual threads together on what made up the iPhone. The iPhone moves from becoming the child of an over-worked and under-appreciated Apple engineering team to being the totem of a global village.
If you’ve read a quality newspaper you know what he’s going to say about the global supply chain. He also touches on the decades of software and technology development that led up to the iPhone. How its multi-touch interface came out of a 1990s doctoral thesis. Ultimately the value of Merchant’s book many not be his writing, but instead becoming a new template for journalists writing on Silicon Valley to look beyond the David & Goliath mono-myth and instead dig into the tangled history of innovation.
*** No plot spoilers*** Where do you start when talking about the most hyped film of the year?
Blade Runner 2049 starts up some 20 years after the original film. It captures the visuals of the original film, moving it onwards. The plot has a series of recursive sweeps that tightly knit both films together which at times feels a little forced, a bit like the devices used to join Jeremy Renner’s Bourne Legacy to the Matt Damon canon.
The 1982 film took the neon, rain and high density living of Hong Kong in the late summer and packaged it up for a western audience. Ever since I first saw it represented a darker, but more colourful future. I felt inspired, ready to embrace the future warts and all after seeing it for the first time.
The new film is a darker greyer vision largely devoid of hope. You still see the Pan Am and Atari buildings of the first film, now joined with brands like Diageo. The police cars are now made by Peugeot. It also captures the visual language of the book, something that Scott hadn’t done in the original to the same extent. In the book, Dick (and the Dekkard character) obsess on how the depopulated world’s crumbling ephemera is rapidly becoming dust.
Visually the film dials down its influences from Hong Kong, Tokyo or Singapore and instead borrows from the crumbling industrial relics of the west and third world scrap driven scavenging from e-waste in China and Ghana to the ship breaking yards of Bangladesh. The filthy smog and snow is like a lurid tabloid exposé of northern China’s choking pollution during the winter. It paints a vision more in tune with today. Automation and technology have disrupted society, but orphans are still exploited for unskilled labour and vice is rampant.
Ryan Gosling and Harrison Ford do very capable performances. And they are supported by a great ensemble of cast members of great character actors at the top of their game. Dave Bautista, Robin Wright, Barkhad Abdi (Eye in The Sky) and David Dastmalchian (MacGyver, Antman, and The Dark Knight). The one let down is Jared Leto – who now seems to play the same character in every film since his career high point of Dallas Buyer’s Club – I suspect that this is as much a problem with casting as performance. I think he needs to be cast against type more.
For a three-hour film it still manages to hold your attention and draw you in to its universe without feeling tired. It’s also a film that forces you to think, so if you are looking for visual wallpaper for the mind a la Marvel’s Avengers series of films it won’t be for you.