harrymcc writes: In 1954, the Ideal Toy Company released Robert The Robot, the first toy robot made in the U.S. He was made of plastic instead of the more common tin, had a hand-cranked remote control and talked. And he not only became a bestseller, but appeared in a movie, inspired songs, and was generally a media superstar. And then everyone forgot about him. Over at Fast Company, Jared Newman chronicles his odd and interesting story.
harrymcc writes: In 1992, the web was not yet a consumer medium, but proprietary online services were increasingly popular. And for the first time, presidential candidates courted voters in cyberspace--starting with an obscure Democratic challenger named Larry Agran, and eventually including almost all the candidates, including president Bush and Democratic nominee Bill Clinton. I detail this almost forgotten--but important--intersection of politics and technology in a Fast Company article, featuring some rare vintage screenshots.
harrymcc writes: David Bunnell has passed away. He stumbled into a job at PC pioneer MITS in the 1970s and went on to create the first PC magazine and first PC conference--and, later on, PC Magazine, PC World, Macworld, and Macworld Expo. He was a remarkable guy on multiple fronts, and I shared some thoughts about why he mattered so much at Fast Company.
harrymcc writes: The third season of AMC's "Halt and Catch Fire," a drama about the tech industry in the 1980s, debuted this week. The new episodes are set in San Francisco and Silicon Valley in 1986, and are rich with carefully-researched plot points, dialog, and sets full of vintage technology (including a startup equipped with real Commodore 64s and a recreated IBM mainframe). I visited the soundstage in Atlanta where the producers have recreated Northern California in the 80s, and spoke with the show's creators and stars about the loving attention they devote to getting things right.
harrymcc writes: It now seems all but certain that the next iPhones, to be announced next month, will ditch the standard headphone jack. Fast Company's Mark Sullivan talked about the switch with author and EFF adviser Cory Doctorow, who thinks it could lead to music companies leveraging DRM to exert more control over what consumers can do with their music.
harrymcc writes: Over at Fast Company, I profiled two London entrepeneurs who loved the legacy of Polaroid instant photography so much that they moved to San Francisco and started a company around it. Their app, Polaroid Swing, captures a second of high-frame-rate, interactive imagery--and the goal is less about satisfying nostalgia than creating a future for a beloved American brand.
harrymcc writes: On the web, there may be no such thing as a bad idea for a business--only concepts that are purely executed or arrive before their time. Over at Fast Company, Glenn Fleishman looked at grocery delivery, tip jars, annotation, and other categories which failed and then bounced back, sometimes in unexpected ways.
harrymcc writes: Until now, as far as we knew, Windows Holographic was the software for Microsoft's upcoming HoloLens augmented-reality headset. But at Computex in Taipei, the company just announced that it will offer it as an operating system for third-party AR and VR devices-- a bigger bet with more long-term potential to impact both AR/VR and Microsoft's own future. Big names from the PC industry such as Acer, Dell, HP, and Lenovo are on board.
harrymcc writes: Apple, which was established as a partnership on April 1, 1976, officially turns 40 today. Over at Fast Company, I wrote about its original marketing guru, Regis McKenna, and the notes he took when he was formulating a marketing plan for the company that year. They're an amazing snapshot of where the tiny startup was and where it hoped to go.
harrymcc writes: Polaroid stopped making film for its instant cameras in 2008. Thanks to Polaroid-compatible film from FujiFilm, many fans of instant photography kept on shooting with classic models such as the Big Shot, which Andy Warhol used in the 1970s. But FujiFilm has announced that it's discontinuing production of peel-apart instant film, which means that an array of cameras which survived Polaroid's own exit from instant photography will finally be orphaned.
harrymcc writes: As this year's Grammy ceremony next week, the trophies presented to winners will have embedded cameras--Grammycams--which will live-stream the action from the perspective of the award itself. The new twist was made possible by building disassembled GoPro cameras, modified for RF wireless transmission, into the base of the iconic gramophone-shaped awards.
harrymcc writes: In 1995, the consumer web was new and Benj Edwards, age 14, decided to build his own homepage. He bought a book on Mosaic, downloaded and configured a TCP/IP stack for Windows 3.1, found an ISP which gave him 1MB of disk space, and got to work. Over at Fast Company, he provides a detailed, copiously illustrated walkthrough of the process--almost every step of which is charmingly archaic in the age of Facebook and Twitter.
harrymcc writes: Night Dive Studios is successfully reviving old video games--not the highest-profile best-sellers of the past, but cult classics such as System Shock 2, The 7th Guest, Strife, and I Have No Mouth and I Must Scream. It's a job that involves an enormous amount of detective work to track down rights holders as well as the expected technical challenges. Over at Fast Company, Jared Newman tells the story of how the company stumbled upon its thriving business.
harrymcc writes: GoDaddy, the world's biggest domain registrar, remains most famous for its tacky Super Bowl ads and controversial founder, Bob Parsons. But in recent years, the company was sold, hired a CEO from Microsoft and Yahoo, and has made a major effort to reinvent itself as a serious, uncontroversial, technologically-savvy outfit. And now it's partnered with MIT's Media Lab in an ambitious experiment--which I wrote about over at Fast Company--involving placing sensors around downtown Boston to collect big data that could help the small businesses which line the city's streets.
harrymcc writes: In 1972--years before Betamax and VHS--a Silicon Valley startup called Cartrivision started selling VCRs built into color TVs. They offered movies for sale and rent--everything from blockbusters to porn--using an analog form of DRM, and also let you record broadcast TV. There was also an optional video camera. And it was a spectacular flop. Over at Fast Company, Ross Rubin tells the fascinating story of this ambitious failure.