Is It The Right Time?
Those of us that live for The New face a challenge that never changes: When is it the right time? I’m a fan of all things technological and it’s difficult- sometimes outright painful -to come to terms with a new development while the majority of the population still doesn’t “get it”. The trick is to equip your Robot Army with the Cutting Edge, then implement it when the rest of the world is ready.
Example 1: Virtual Reality
Remember Virtual Reality? If you weren’t around to witness the 90’s, just read the Wikipedia article. Otherwise, you’re well aware of the big hype that kinda went nowhere. VR hit pop culture like the Hula Hoop, from Nintendo’s migraine-seeding Virtual Boy to Stephen King’s The Lawnmower Man to the thank-God-it-was-never-widely-adopted Quicktime VR. All this at a time when the hottest Power Mac sported a whopping 110 MHz processor and could hold up to 264 MB of RAM.Here we are in 2011. High-resolution LCD screens are so ubiquitous we’re turning iPods into digital watches with them, yet you can’t find VR goggles in the gaming peripherals at Best Buy. CPU’s, memory, and graphics technology have improved to the point where fully-rendered 3D games exist on your iPhone. Broadband internet now makes it possible for dizzyingly complex render files to travel across the world in milliseconds.
Shit, we actually invented Virtual Reality the way it was hyped up 20 years ago. For real. Virtual people, virtual objects, virtual sex, prims, and rock and roll. And the majority of the public couldn’t give a shit. Why? Because the hype happened 20 years too early. We saw the potential on the horizon and had our party before the birthday boy actually arrived. Now that he’s here, we’re all sick of cake and booze. Virtual Reality happened at the wrong time and now it’s merely a toy that lonely geeks and marketers play with.
And most of the marketers have already left.
Example 2: PodcastingIf only there was a way to listen to new music, talk shows, fiction, and all that cool radio stuff without having to schedule a time to sit in front of the magical talking antenna-box. Imagine it’s 2005 and Apple’s iPod has been out for 4 years. Everyone had one by 2003. Yes, everyone. Don’t argue with me, Steve is watching.
More importantly, blogs existed and circulated via something called RSS. By 2005 RSS had been around for six years and most people today still don’t even know what it is. Then someone (maybe Adam Curry) decided to test if an audio file could ride on that RSS feed. MP3’s started floating around college campuses five or ten years before iPods did. All three of these technologies had been invented, circulated, and field-tested for years. Unlike VR, they had no sex appeal. Stephen King didn’t write any short stories of crazed men killing people through blog feeds (at least, not that I know of anyway). Duke Nukem wasn’t reprogrammed and brought to video arcades as an XML stream.I won’t say Apple started it (hi, Steve, I love you), but it certainly hit the public consciousness when iTunes added a little extra icon on the left side of the screen. Suddenly there’s a feeding frenzy: Podcasting companies open, rise, fall, and dissolve faster than sand castles. Companies throw marketing budgets at podcasting with a fervor rivaling a squid orgy. The RIAA sends out CDL’s to anyone who even thinks about the possibility of maybe considering the merits of planning to play big-label music on their own little show.
And because of that last part, guys like me suddenly have a career. Thank you.
Now it’s six years later and anyone with an iPod knows what a podcast is. NPR re-broadcasts all their content this way, formerly unknown authors are now well-known among the podcast-listening public. Some of us musicians are earning most of our living through podcasting. And we didn’t even need Pierce Brosnan and Jeff Fahey in rubber suits to pull it off.
Is It The Right Time?
I’ve ditched cable TV and watch all the same programming I used to via HD broadcast, iTunes, and web streams. I only torrent shows when their producers are too stupid to give me a legitimate means of buying them directly- but I still get the shows I want. Is it the right time for everyone to do this? Maybe, I’d give it another 2 years before everyone’s got a Mac Mini replacing their cable box.
I’ve stopped listening to commercial radio and find much better quality music with far fewer commercials via Pandora Radio and, of course, Podcasting. Is it the right time for everyone else to get their music digitally? Absolutely. The variety is much wider, the barrier to entry much lower. Services like Pandora and some podcasts ensure that musicians get paid every time their songs are played. Radio doesn’t do that, yet they run 1 minute of commercials for every 2 minutes of music.
I live on a spaceship somewhere just outside the Earth’s atmosphere and live on a diet of squid meat and quinoa. Is it time for everyone else to follow me? Hell no, will someone please send up a steak and some ice cream? It’s definitely the right time for that.