There is nothing new under the sun…turn, turn, turn

Archive for the month “February, 2012”

When “a little company in Chicago” invented the cellular phone

Loren Feldman reshared a Verge interview on Google+, and as a former Motorola employee it was certainly interesting to me. In the interview, Chris Ziegler talked with Marty Cooper, who was involved with the creation of two notable phones – the DynaTAC, and the Jitterbug.

In this post, I’ll talk about the former. Even though back in 2010 I promised that I’d write a follow-up on the Jitterbug.

Cooper discussed a number of topics in the interview, but this is (some of) what he said about the DynaTAC:

I’m proud of having conceived of the first cellphone, but the idea of why that was done was much more a sense of pride. That was we had to beat AT&T — we had to beat the monopoly. And remember, that wasn’t the same AT&T as today. We took on, this little company in Chicago, took on the biggest company in the world by every measure. And we beat ’em. If AT&T had won and they would still be a monopoly — by the way, that’s starting to happen again, and I hope that doesn’t happen….

[H]ow could you ever imagine that in my lifetime there would be tens of millions of transistors in a cellphone? And doing all the things you could do with that computing power. It happened gradually enough so that I don’t think there was any moment of surprise, but I’m still amazed….

So we had been struggling with this drain thing, and even with that, the DynaTAC had a battery life of 20 minutes, 20 minutes of talking. And it took the best technology available to make that happen, and now we complain if you can’t get two days, and instead of running a couple thousand transistors, you’re running 10 or 20 million transistors. Quite incredible.

I strongly encourage you the read the rest of the interview, which includes more AT&T bashing (both the old and the new AT&T), some pre-cellphone stuff, and observations on Bob Galvin, Chris Galvin, Sanjay Jha, Google, and others.

Blogs, social networks, and what this means for tymshft

On Sunday, February 19, I started a blog. You’re reading it right now.

At the same time, I established a Google+ page (https://plus.google.com/b/110538760339914860505/#) for the blog, as well as a Facebook page (https://www.facebook.com/#!/pages/Tymshft/390937200923679?sk=wall). My idea at the time was that the Google+ and Facebook pages could be “outliers” for my blog, which would be the center of the tymshft universe (such as it is).

On Monday, February 20, Jesse Stay wrote something (My Official (and Obligatory) “Traditional Blogging is Dead” Post) that presented a different perspective. Excerpts:

As sad as I am to see it, I think blogging really is dying. It’s a really tough way to make a living, and will become even more difficult in the future, in favor of more traditional news sites and people able to share and post personal opinion on social networks such as Google+, Facebook, and Twitter….

Does this mean I’ll kill my blog? Of course not – it just means I have to adapt its focus….

It means my blog is now becoming an extension of the social networks, and not vice versa.

For the record, I saw Stay’s thoughts on Facebook before I saw the blog post in Google Reader. Sign of the…um…times?

As is often true in technology, this represents a swinging of the pendulum. Back in the 1990s, it was important to have a presence on America OnLine. Then, by the time I finally got around to blogging in late 2003, it became more important to have your own presence – your own webpage, your own blog, what have you. Now the pendulum is swinging back in the other direction, and both individuals and corporations are finding that it’s more important to have a Facebook/Twitter/Google+ presence than it is to have your own thing.

When I read Stay’s comments I had not yet formally announced the existence of this blog – actually, I STILL haven’t made a formal announcement – so I’ve been posting cryptic statements saying that this was an interesting time (heh) to read things such as Stay’s article.

As any good Lutheran would, I am now asking myself the question: WHAT DOES THIS MEAN? In this case, it means that I need to pay attention to the Facebook and Google+ “outliers” more. (I’ve established similar pages for some of my other Empoprises blogs, but have neglected them.) After all, the “outliers” may actually be “inliers.”

So, I encourage you to join the tymshft pages on Facebook and Google+.



And, more importantly, PARTICIPATE! Somehow we’ll all figure out how the blog and the Facebook page and the Google+ page can all work together as part of one happy family. Because I read something else last night – something from Kyle Lacy – that reminded me that the whole “comment fragmentation” issue hasn’t gone away.

Tech age discrimination, or something else? Reverse trends in the US and Japan

I have neglected to bring up Dave Winer’s January 30 post in which Winer, who is about the same age as I, discussed allegations of age discrimination at Google. Winer cited a New York Times artiicle that included the following:

Seth Williams, a director of staffing at Google, said his firm was looking for candidates who are “passionate” and “truly have a desire to change the world.”

After quoting similar statements from LinkedIn and Facebook, the article then states:

Some observers say much of this language is just code for age discrimination. They point to the case of Brian Reid, a 52-year-old manager who was fired by Google in 2004 — nine days before the company announced plans to go public — after his supervisors, including the company’s vice president for engineering operations, allegedly called him a poor “cultural fit,” an “old guy” and a “fuddy-duddy” with ideas “too old to matter.”

Winer notes that derogatory language is unacceptable in the workplace when speaking about race or gender, but that the language quoted above is completely acceptable.

But while age bias may be one of the EFFECTS of the practices of tech companies, I suspect that it’s not the underlying CAUSE. Something else is afoot.

I finally found the item that I referenced in the comments to Winer’s post. It’s something that was published a couple of weeks before Winer’s post. The item is entitled What It’s Really Like to Work at Google. Here are some relevant excerpts from the article:

There’s no doubt that working at Google comes with perks; not only does Google provide the traditional benefits like health insurance and extremely competitive pay, but Googlers are treated to free breakfast, lunch, dinner, snacks, free on-site massages, car detailing, on-site fitness centers, and even napping pods.

It’s almost as if you could live on campus and never leave.

Hold that thought.

Google features full showers and locker rooms, enabling Googlers to work as hard as they want, potentially for days at a time. A former contractor for Google noted that many of the engineers and sales teams “are always pushing themselves and each other. I saw a lot of really determined, competitive people there,” to the point that they would stay on campus for several days at a time.

Brilliantly, Google has designed all of its offices so its employees can stay at work overnight, without having to worry about a thing — such as their hunger, health, or hygiene.

Now at the time that I read the Winer post, I noted that the only people who could “live and breathe” Google were people without families. And since people who have families tend to be older than those without families, one can see the potential for age bias.

But if you look at the history of business, you’ll find that people who “lived and breathed” companies in the past weren’t necessarily young. Remember the salaryman?

When Akira got married, he recalls, he invited his bucho, or division chief, to the wedding, as all salarymen did. And during the reception the boss made a speech to the bride, as he always did. “Your new husband is a very good worker,” he began. “He is important to the company. So please understand that he may need to work many long hours.” All the guests nodded silently. “And when he is at home, please take care of him.”

Akira says that his bride—the marriage was largely arranged by their families—was not upset by the bucho’s remarks: her role of housewife was taken for granted. “But later she thought something must be wrong with the system,” he confides. Akira would return home in the small hours stumbling drunk; dutifully she would wait up, angered. The dinner is put away and the bath is cold, she might say. As he grew older, he no longer stayed out so late. But he did not share her reservations about his evening activities. “In Japan entertaining clients is a part of the job,” he explains.

A salaryman arrives in the office at 9am and ends his working day late, often around midnight. He does not dare leave the office before his supervisor—and managers stay late to show their loyalty. Is any work going on? Rarely. But long hours remain the norm.

In Japan, it’s the younger workers who have rebelled against the salaryman system.

Late-night carousing is becoming less common these days: younger colleagues treat the hours after work as their own, not the company’s. Nobu, an ambitious 31-year-old salaryman, is one such. He chose a job at an American company in part so that he could work reasonable hours. He didn’t count on having a manager of the old school, who kept the team in the office or in the bars. “My first year, I didn’t get more than three or four hours of sleep a day,” he says. Changing jobs was not an option. “I didn’t want to quit—because it was so tough,” he says. “Then I would have ‘lost’.” When he got a new manager, Nobu was able to relish his free time.

So in Japan, it’s the old people who give everything to the company, and the young ones who maintain a life of their own. In Silicon Valley, it’s the opposite – the older workers have tended to “get a life,” while the younger workers are more inclined to be the “salarypeople” for Google or LinkedIn or Facebook or whoever.

While the age discrimination that Winer rails against is probably real, it’s probably an accident of the times. If Google could get the fifty somethings to stay on campus all night, then perhaps it would be the college grads who would complain about an inability to get hired by Google, since Google hiring people would use code words such as “experienced” and “seasoned” to describe the people they want.

And who knows? Perhaps 10-20 years from now, when the current Google workforce starts having grandkids, those young people may be undesirable hires.

What is “tymshft”? And what is “empoprises”?

What is “tymshft”? And what is “empoprises”?

I’ll address these questions in reverse order. (As you will see, we’re used to all sorts of time permutations here.)

“Empoprises” is the umbrella name that I (John E. Bredehoft) use for my current series of blogs. The four blogs that were created before this one include the Empoprise-BI business blog at http://empoprise-bi.blogspot.com/, the Empoprise-IE Inland Empire blog at http://empoprise-ie.blogspot.com/, the Empoprise-MU music blog at http://empoprise-mu.blogspot.com/, and the Empoprise-NTN NTN Buzztime blog at http://empoprise-ntn.blogspot.com/. I’ve had blogs before these ones – I’ve actually been blogging since October 2003 – but the Empoprises series of blogs was set up to provide deep dives into various topics. And for the last several years – 2009, 2010, 2011, and now 2012 – I’ve pretty much kept with the same blog set-up.

But I’ve found that there are topics that cross across these various vertical blogs. One of these is time. For example, people talk about new things and assume that they are new. Take the cloud. For some people, it’s a wondrous new thing, this ability to store data in the cloud and access it from anywhere. Some misguided souls probably even think that Steve Jobs invented the cloud. But some of the features of the cloud were present decades ago, in old time-sharing systems. iCloud is a CompuServe that begins with a vowel. (I wrote about this under the empo-tymshft label back in 2009.)

At the same time, there are things that have changed significantly over the years. For example, I remember when a “phone” was something that was attached to the wall, and came from “the phone company.” (I wrote about that in 2009 also, under that same label.)

I’ve been using the “empo-tymshft” label on my Empoprises blogs to discuss these issues since August 2009. And it hasn’t been limited to the business blog.

But after three years of talking about tymshft on these vertical blogs, I’ve finally decided that I’m going to devote an entire blog to the topic. So, welcome to tymshft – the new thing that’s in its fourth year of existence.

As you may have noticed, this blog is slightly different from the previous four. For one, it’s called “tymshft,” not “empoprise-tm” or something like that. In addition, I’m using WordPress rather than Blogger for this particular blog. And there may be more changes in the future.

In conclusion, welcome to tymshft. And enjoy the tym travel.

In the beginning

There is nothing new under the sun.

(Ecclesiastes 1:9)

Turn, turn, turn

(Pete Seeger)

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