Thursday, February 02, 2006

Solutions that Bridge the Gap

Thank heavens for temporary solutions

by Carla Diana

BLOOMFIELD HILLS, MICHIGAN, September 30, 1998 -- [Image]
Sure, I know, shopping is supposed to be fun. But
in a world where Moore's Law (which predicted that
microprocessor performance doubles every 18 months) is
proven true, buying consumer electronics becomes a
nerve-wracking exercise in risk-assessment.

Despite the hype of the new-and-improved
product/format/operating systems, most of us still have
to exercise control over our technolust. Often it pays to
resist investing in the latest technology for budgetary
reasons, lack of space, or a healthy skepticism that
tells you the latest gizmo might not really be all that.
After all, if you can get last year's digital camera for
half its original price, it makes sense to try to hold
out even longer to see if the deal gets better.

Amid the flurry of top-of-the line products, there are
still some humble gadgets created to bridge the gap
between an established technology and an emerging one.
The audio cassette/CD player adapter that plugs into a
standard car stereo is a perfect example of thoughtful
design for forward-compatibility -- it lets us use a
newer format without having to toss away existing,
installed hardware. Many of us already own portable CD
players and have abandoned cassettes for those shiny,
sturdy discs, but if you need only a CD player in the car
for the occasional road trip, it's much less painful to
use the adapter than it is to have an additional unit
installed in your car.

While WebTV hasn't proven to be the best format for
web-browsing (most sites are designed for viewing on a
computer monitor as opposed to a TV and are geared toward
more common browsers like Netscape) it's a brilliant
solution for those who want to get on the Web without
taking the plunge into buying a computer system. There's
a glut of exiting, new computing products appearing on
store shelves every day -- yet the whole scene is still
in flux. The traditional box-and-keyboard PC may soon
become obsolete as friendlier "information appliances"
are introduced. In the meantime, set-top boxes like WebTV
take advantage of an existing object in the home and
offer a the ability to surf the net at a fraction of the
cost of a computer system.

Perhaps being stingy or indecisive doesn't seem like a
respectable reason to resist adopting a new format, but
simply liking your existing hardware so much that you
don't want to change is certainly understandable. Take
SLR camera users: they drool over the mechanical beauty
of finger-controlled mechanisms for things like exposure
and shutter speed. Once you've fallen in love like this,
abandoning your trusty device for a new-fangled digital
one can be heartbreaking -- but a company called Imagek
claims to have the answer. It's developing a small
cartridge that you'll be able to drop into any standard
35mm camera to transform it into a digital camera.
According to Imagek, its EFS-1 cartridge will be capable
of storing 30 full-resolution pictures and will have the
ability to be reused 100,000 times. An adapter that comes
with the cartridge (for PC or Mac) will allow instant
download for viewing, printing, electronic storage and
e-mailing. It's scheduled to be on the market next fall
and will retail for less than $1000.

Forward-compatibility may seem like a quick fix as
opposed to the more long-term investment in a
state-of-the art piece of equipment, but in some cases it
perfectly fills the need of the user who isn't ready for
a big purchase. And if it ain't broke....

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