A Kodak Moment

I recently had the good fortune (if that is the right term for it) to inherit a couple of vintage (1950's and 1960's) cameras. One is a Kodak Retina 35mm Rangefinder with a classic leather case like the one pictured above the post here. The other is an Ikoflex twin lens reflex camera (the type that you see people looking down and into to compose a picture - see http://www.zeissikonrolleirepair.com/page04.html if you'd like to see what these look like). The cameras may or may not work and the Ikoflex takes film that is no longer manufactured but they are lovely as works of precision engineering if nothing else.

The thing that most struck me though was one of the leaflets that were with the Kodak Camera. This was a leaflet that was published in 1981 and was a 'helpful hints' type instruction which explained how to take photographs of your television screen to best record memories of the British Royal Wedding that year between Prince Charles and Lady Diana Spencer. The hints included making sure you did not use the flash as that would cause wash out of the recorded image and on best distance for focus, exposure times etc.

This was all very interesting but mainly it made me think about how much things have changed in such a short space of time. My first thought was 'Why take photos of your TV?' but then I reconsidered and back in 1981, only very very few people had VHS video machines; which had been introduced in 1978 at a cost of £799 which is equivalent to over £4,200 as we write in 2016.

Fast Forward to today (sorry for the pun) and the VHS recorder is now seen as obsolete equipment that you likely have one of in your house if you've not moved in a while, but equally likely to be gathering dust. So in 1981 very few had a VHS recorder, it then became pervasive until recently when hard drive recorders and streaming services have taken over and, now that analogue TV transmitters have been turned off in favour of digital FreeView services, your old VHS recorder would not be able to tune to any of the channels it used to. The digital age has crept up on us in the same way that you don't particularly notice a child growing day to day, but Aunty always says 'My how you've grown!' when visiting. Small steps have made for big change and sometimes it pays to step back and consider this.

It is the same everywhere; things change and continue to change and the pace of change will only increase. I was at a client's offices at a West London architectural practice a few weeks back and talking to one of the chaps there whilst looking at (and fixing) a problem on a computer.  We got on to drafting tables and the nefarious tools and rulers that go with these and how the whole process of architectural practice has changed over a similar time frame, to the use of modern CAD workstations that allow for 3D visualisations of how a building will look that can now be sent for review in a 3D PDF, for example. Have a look at http://www.pdf3d.com/gallery.php if you've not yet seen one of these; there is a certain 'Wow!' to them which mainly comes from our conditioning that a PDF should be a representation of what is on paper.

We digress though; the key is to look forward and we can see a lot of how things will change a little at a time still to make the future. One of the big 'take aways' that I got from my time at university was that we should plan not for what is possible now, but for what will be possible in the future. This is probably one of the greatest insights that I got from any of my lecturers, in a university workshop . At the time we were studying streaming media techniques in what was then the age of the modem and 56Kbps Internet connections if you had the latest tech; so the concept of streaming media seemed somewhat academic as the accessible technology of a modem would give a particularly poor experience and be far from economic. To use a modem to download a 30 minute program that we now enjoy in real time 'on demand' with bandwidth to spare would have taken about 6.5 days to download back then continuously at 56kbps and then you'd have needed a high-end computer to play the files (if you had enough hard drive space for them!). Point made here; I apologise that we are looking back again when we should be looking forward.

What will the future hold? Some we can see, some we can't. The trick is to find the gaps and fill them to be part of making the future.

Cue some insight and predictions...

Generally if you can imagine it, progress and technology dictate that it will happen and much of what is to come is not terribly hard to imagine.

In the 1960's and 1970's Science Fiction writer Arthur C Clark defined his three laws related to predictions:

Clarke's first law:
When a distinguished but elderly scientist states that something is possible, he is almost certainly right. When he states that something is impossible, he is very probably wrong.

Clarke's second law
The only way of discovering the limits of the possible is to venture a little way past them into the impossible.

Clarke's third law
Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic

Here at Onega we like to understand first principles and the history of technology as much as the present day implementations of these and in turn this allows us to connect the dots and see some of this, some such projects we've worked on and some we continue to work on.  

Technologies that may sound fanciful like gravity power for cars (we call this Hybrid Gravity Drive) are in fact practical and possible today and is most likely to be introduced to the masses by the likes of Toyota to our everyday drives well before 2020.  

The times we live in continue to witness some of the most significant changes ever witnessed in history and this will continue unabated in rate of change in the immediate foreseeable future. How we each choose to embrace this is up to us...