All entries for Wednesday 27 December 2006

December 27, 2006

Chris's Crystal Ball: Technology

If 2006 was the year of user-generated content, 2007 might be the year that the big boys bite back.

The iPlayer

If the new BBC Trust give it the go-ahead, then the BBC iPlayer (or whatever it ends up being called) will be the first step towards the fourth generation of TV. The first was black and white, the second was colour, the third was Digital TV and the fourth is online and on-demand. Forget setting the video recorder. From 2007 you can just go online and – legally – download any of the programmes you’ve missed. You’ll be able to watch every BBC channel online and it’ll be the first time many people have come face-to-face with High Definition. I’m very excited.

Mobiles

Where on earth will mobile phones go next? Do they need to go anywhere else? Well, you won’t be surprised to hear that the phone companies are throwing more pointless twaddle inside phones to make them more attractive. Surely it’s only a matter of time before there’s a phone with in-built SLR 10-megapixel digital camera. We’ll be watching more TV on our mobiles (apparently), and using more of that squint-or-you’ll-miss-it mobile internet. Can you tell I’m sceptical? Anyway, it’s rumored Apple will bring out an iPhone in 2007, which few people think will be very good. And finally, if 2005 was the year of the clamshell, 2006 was the year of the sliderr, then 2007 will be the year of the… Nope, my crystal ball fails me.

Online

Despite what people might tell you, virtual worlds like Second Life will only ever appeal to those people who spend hours in Games Workshop or play first-person shooters all day long and fancy a break. I’m not expecting Tony Blair to maintain a permanent presence any time soon. But I think 2007 will be the year that we start using the virtual ‘real-world’. Google Earth is halfway there, but something called Microsoft Photosynth is nearly the real deal. It blends photos of well-known places into one never-ending (in theory) 3D canvas. It’s a bit hard to explain, but combine this with a Google Earth or Microsoft Virtual Earth and we might start approaching a virtual 3D model of the planet. Combine it with one of these sexy 3D controllers (only about £30 and built especially for such tasks) and you’ve got a whole load of possibilities, including online shopping where you click on the shop you want to buy from (Selfridges on Oxford Street, for instance).

Blogging

Every product has a life-cycle. Even KitKat bars will one day leave the shelves (probably to be replaced with something healthier). But when will blogging peak, and once it has, will it start to decline? I think it will, as cleverer things come along instead. But I’m not sure it’ll happen as early as 2007. Meanwhile, vlogging is still a bit too cumbersome, but expect to see something ‘embedded’ in just about every blog entry by the end of the year, whether it’s something from YouTube or an utterly pointless Flash movie.

Computers and Consoles

Britain will get its hands on the PS3 in March, although expect people to have a Vicky Pollard-esque ‘un-bothered’ face when it eventually arrives. The Xbox 360 has already got the serious gamers (and more importantly, many of the serious games) and the Wii has opened up the market to a new generation of game-players. It seems PCs will continue to be neglected by the big game-makers. While things like Call of Duty 3 appear on just about everything, it’ll still look better on a console. The only exceptions will be the games that work better with a mouse and keyboard, although someone’s built a box that lets you use them on an Xbox anyway. But PCs aren’t resting on their laurels. Windows Vista hits in the next few months, and offers a few things that will delight gamers. Namely, DirectX10, which might level the playing field with consoles. There’s also MS Office 2007, which won’t be radically different to Office 2003.

Radio

You might think “technology… radio?” but DAB is taking the radio further and further away from being a good old wireless. And not only because they consume so much electricity you have to plug them in at the mains. This year you’ll be able (on certain players) to buy tracks that you hear, as you hear them. Commercial radio stations are looking for new ways to make money, and selling you an MP3 of a track is a pretty good way of doing it. There’ll also be an auction for another batch of national digital radio stations. Channel 4 are among the frontrunners, and by the end of the year we might have an extra 7-10 stations on that dial.

And beyond 2007…

I still think that Virtual Real-Worlds will be the technology that really revolutionises the internet, making blogs and YouTube look tame. Another technology I think might, eventually, take off is video-goggles. Semi-transparent sunglasses with video-screens built into the lenses. It’ll make it worthwhile watching video on the move (rather than with those ‘portable’ media players) and could be the next shape of mobile phones too. Beyond that, who knows?


About Chris Doidge

Chris DoidgeI’m Chris Doidge and I’m a journalist based in the East Midlands.

I was born in Bedfordshire, and since then have lived all over the place.

I first got into politics on May 1st 1997, when I was on a school trip. I listened to the radio all night and let people know what was happening. Not surprisingly – as this was in Year 7 – I was the only person interested in a landslide general election. Since then I’ve absorbed a huge amount of utterly useless information, and this blog became the receptacle for much of it.

I’ve been blogging since October 2004. In my first entry, I wrote: “I have no idea why anyone would want to read this”. Tens of thousands of people have since ignored my advice.

I’ve interviewed many British politicians and been featured by The Guardian, The Times, the London Evening Standard and the French newspaper Le Monde. In 2006 I contributed to a book on Labour Scandals. A second edition was released in 2007.

In my spare time, I maintain Tetbury Online – a local community website based in the Cotswolds. Despite being far more interesting, it gets far fewer hits than this blog. I’ve also created other websites for small businesses and organisations.

My favourite band is The Divine Comedy, my favourite book is Atonement by Ian McEwan, and my favourite films are Shooting Fish and Sideways. I’m a big fan of 24, Lost and the best TV show ever made, The West Wing.

My heroes are Gavin Hewitt, Matt Frei, Jon Sopel and Andrew Marr. Oh, and Jack Bauer.


Journalism by Chris Doidge

Broadcast

The future of Cardiff’s Victorian shopping arcades:
Part of postgraduate assessment at Cardiff, March 2007

David Cameron visits Wales:
Part of postgraduate assessment at Cardiff, March 2007

Disabled Services in Cardiff – Is the money being well-spent?
Part of postgraduate assessment at Cardiff, December 2006

Interview with David Davis, Shadow Home Secretary
Broadcast on Radio Warwick and BBC Radio 4, October 2005

A current affairs programme on the AUT Lecturers’ Strike
Broadcast on Radio Warwick, June 2006

Print

Comment on the Labour leadership race
Evening Standard, 10th January 2007

An opinion piece on John Prescott’s behaviour
Evening Standard, 25th July 2006

The Phillis Report – What it means for politics and journalism
Unpublished, January 2007

Blogs

An article on the 2008 United States Presidential Elections

Thoughts on the plan to have more directly-elected mayors in Britain

Chris’s blog has been quoted a number of times in The Guardian, as well as in The Times, Le Monde and on BBC News Online.

Other

A letter to the Guardian regarding their ‘Student Media Awards’
Printed in MediaGuardian, 10th April 2006


Two very different politicians

Gordon Brown and Gerald Ford

A question being asked after the death of former U.S. President Gerald Ford is whether a politician of his kind could lead today. Ford was thrust into the Oval Office after Nixon resigned following Watergate. He hadn’t even been elected as Vice President, but had been placed there after another scandal.

Despite not seeking the job, his achievements in two years were impressive. He failed in the 1976 election because of his decision to pardon President Nixon. At the time he was strongly criticised for the pardon, but as time passed Americans realised he took the difficult, but correct decision.

Contrast him with the Chancellor, Gordon Brown, and you have to wonder whether an accidental politician could ever prosper in Britain or America in the 21st Century.

It seems to be to the detriment of politics that there are fewer public servants like Ford.


Stuff the dictionary

If there’s one thing that Scrabble, Boggle or Countdown are any good for, it’s reminding you how stupid the English language is. My mum asked a good question:

How do you pronounce “Ough”?

Is it like Cough? Bough? Dough? Nought? Thorough? Through?

The Americans can’t spell Colour. But then neither can we. It should be culur or even culler.

Why do we put up with this traditionalist nonsense? Why don’t we march on Oxford and inform the OED they’re wrong?

Millions of kids ‘fail’ at English. But is it surprising when the English language is such a ruddy great big hurdle to speaking, reading and writing?

There’s things I love about English. The lack of all those male/female verbs for one thing. The EU should make everyone speak English. They’d save billions on translation. But we need to sort out our pronunciation first.

Britain’s quite a traditional country but we’ve never been afraid of doing something differently if the first attempt didn’t work. Look at Wembley. The railways. The M6. Corner shops.

So dictionary people, stop inventing utterly useless fad-words like “Crunk” and “Celebutante” and start doing something useful! You can start with weird, believe and leisure. Shall we just ban ‘i before e’ outright?


2006 through African eyes

Adam Westbrook has been complaining that many journalists are lazy at Christmas and complain of “no news” when there’s plenty going on outside cosy Britain. He’s right, as usual, although broadcasters have been kept busy this year thanks to plenty of famous people popping their clogs.

There’s been a few rays of light amongst the lazy stuff though. Kate Silverton’s been dispatched to Basra to spend Christmas with the troops, where she’s providing plenty of material for News 24 and covering the daily events as well.

And BBC News Online have managed the near-impossible. A ‘Year in Review’ which doesn’t tread well-trodden ground.

Using the cartoons of two African cartoonists, Jonathan Shapiro and Tayo Fatunla, they’ve proven that pictures are worth a thousand words. Not surprisingly, it’s one of the most popular stories on the site. And it’s the only “Year in Review” that makes the top 10 articles.


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