Looking back at past innovations leads to the future.
The innovations of the past are more than examples of wrong turns or outdated methodologies and they are more than modern entrails readings. What the study and working knowledge of past technologies are is inspirational. One prime example is how telephony engineers re-examining the process and patent for a frequency jamming resistant torpedo controller developed by ‘the worlds most beautiful woman’ just prior to WWII lead to our modern smart-phone communications - a process called CDMA. The fact is that nothing is built out of the blue but is based on processes that came before, something akin to Broca’s brain.
If you are a fan of Scientific American magazine you might recall that some of the most thought provoking articles were not the five page with pull out centerfold on DNA mapping but were located near the back of each edition. Just before the ads selling Name a Star services and other science fandom accessories were the magazines anti- agitprop agitators such as James Burke and his ‘Connections’ articles. Mr. Burke’s column took the reader on a delightfully wandering path to discover how things actually came to be, like how the water wheel lead to breakthroughs in modern computing. The BBC series based on his writings only added to the wonder and prodded one to never take for granted any common device - each has so much history and wonderful things to teach us about why our modern world works the way it does.
I was re-reading the fantastic AV shout article 'What Goes Around, Comes Around: A Historian’s Response to Unified Communications' By K. Daniel Armstrong recently and it got me to thinking. The past is something we are bound to repeat, whether we know it or not. Sometimes this is a good thing, a very good thing.
It was the best thing that could have ever happened to me- being put on these shows. I had the good fortune to meet and learn from the slide men- gentlemen who had been working and making these industrial revolution sewing machine looking boxes sing and delight audiences for decades - and my world changed. Slide folks were practitioners of an ancient art that,on first pale, looked and acted as if completely divorced from more ubiquitous technologies of audio and video which were slowly encroaching on their native lands. These folks taught me about form and function, about how to properly space text and how a show flow should feel. Being given the privilege of learning from these masters just how the art of multi-image worked, seeing the analog mechanics just enthralled me. The lessons I learned, of stripping things down to their fundamental processes, seeing beyond the shiny gloss has helped me to continue learning with a wide eyed fascination.
The past repeats itself in new ways everyday.