Wednesday, September 18, 2013

How did they know?

We may think we’re seeing pretty amazing new stuff these days, but there are fingerprints of the past on everything.

The question is: How did “they” know? Was it precognition…connecting dots…reading tea leaves.

  • In “All Tomorrow’s Parties,” by William Gibson, Colin Laney uses “bulky, old-fashioned eyephones” to view streams of Internet data. Eyephones? More than an iPhone, think Google Glass – but a generation of Google Glass not even possible today.
    [This book was first published in 1999.]

  • “I will follow you. Will you follow me?”
    Well before Twitter cemented a superficial social-media context to this exchange, it was a romantic expression and pledge of faith. “Follow You Follow Me” was a hit single for the British rock band Genesis in 1978.

  • Wearable tech is supposed to be the next big thing, with the Apple iWatch and with Sony and other smart watches. But watches with some form of smarts have been around for decades. Seiko has several brands that, back in 1982, began to smarten up with data storage, docks and thermal printers, and memory slots. There was even a 1982 Seiko TV watch that was smart enough to allow viewers to see live broadcast TV (albeit on a teeny LCD screen on the watch face.)
Maybe there’s truth to the saying “everything old is new again.”

Only this time, the new stuff seems to be much, much cooler.

Tuesday, September 3, 2013

Down the shore…without the drive (or the shore)

Whether you say you’re going “to the beach” or “down the shore,” you probably mean some large expanse of sandy ground near an even larger expanse of water. 

This summer, the beach took on completely new meanings in places not terribly near the sea.

Take Paris, for example. Yes, Paris. That city far, far from sea or bay or channel. It’s basically landlocked, except for the Seine River.

In 2002, the mayor of Paris began a novel experiment that has lasted to this day. For four weeks each summer, from 8:00 am till midnight, people in the city are treated to a Seine-side holiday.

The Paris Plages (Paris Beaches) are for those who flock to or can’t leave the city during late summer. The banks of the Seine become a pedestrian walkway, with sand beaches, deckchairs, recreational areas, refreshment stands, and above-ground pools (because you can’t swim in the Seine – and, really, who would want to).

Since then, other European cities have followed suit.

Berlin opens beach bars on the Spree, where “[p]alm trees, swimming pools and canopied beach chairs stand in the middle of the city.”

In the U.K., there’s the Bristol urban beach, Birmingham’s urban beach in nearby Northfield, and the Nottingham Riviera, among others.

Now the trend has jumped the pond, and “urban beaches” are hitting home. Not just in the U.S., but right in my backyard of Philadelphia.

For the first time this year, Philadelphia opened a pop-up beach on the Benjamin Franklin Parkway.

The site, about the size of a football field, was open from July 19 through August 18, allowing kids to dig in the sand at Eakins Oval, with the iconic Art Museum as a backdrop.

These pop-up, urban oases are a refreshing concept.

Even without the roar of the surf in the background, they bring a little bit of beach bliss to those in a hot town. Summer in the city.