A decade in review – Part 2

Here are other things that I felt was great about the past decade, from a personal techie point of view. Read part 1 here.

The death of film

KodakGoldFilm100-03[1] When did you last buy a box of this?

There will be photographers who will protest this statement, insisting that film is still alive and kicking because they still use it. Sorry guys, reality bites. Film photography, as we knew it, is now a niche hobby for the nostalgic.

In 2000, we were still imagining how many megapixels it would take for digicams to surpass film. And as a photographer, I was lugging over 10 rolls of film a day. I still remember what a hassle it was to get each roll processed and getting the strips of negatives carefully archived in plastic sleeves.

Little did we imagine how fast camera makers like Canon and Nikon would push the quality bar on dSLRs and bring full-frame technology to the masses. Today, a digital photo taken with my EOS 5D (made in 2005, 13MP. See my some early images on the 5D here.), far surpasses film stock in terms of sensitivity and low noise levels. I don’t feel any urge to upgrade to the 5D Mark II because the Mark I is still going so strong.

dSLRs have also become HD video camcorders in their own right, though it’ll take some re-engineering before they get up to par with real video cameras in terms of usability and ergonomics. Still, a great movie like The Fantastic Mr Fox was shot with a range of dSLRs, and if you see the film, it is truly a work of art.

I waited for a decade for dSLRs to get smaller and was thrilled to see the advent of the Micro Four-Thirds camera in 2009  (Olympus Pen and Panasonic GF-1). I strongly believe these small cameras will be the next wave of this new decade, as many consumers will reject the huge and heavy dSLR system for convenience. I also won’t be surprised if they cram a 35mm-sized sensor into the next wave of small dSLRs. C’mon Canon, stop mucking around with the G-series and give us a worthy competitor to the M4/3 bodies!

But the greatest thing that digital photography brought to the masses was not image quality, but the convenience digital archival. To date, I have shot tens of thousands of images of my two kids, and they are all stored on a hard drive and are easily backed up or shared. This would have not been possible with film, due to processing cost and having to keep physical media.

Facebook

facebook-logo I continue to resist using Twitter on a regular basis, because I simply do not see how it is better than Facebook when it comes to sharing multimedia content.

When I first signed up for FB a few years ago, I was so excited because I saw its potential in connecting people. For once, people were not hiding behind pseudonyms (I hate it when people don’t have the guts to use their real names when flaming on my blog), but using their real names and faces while sharing their information.

FB has become an Internet upon itself, separate (yet connected) to the millions of blogs, websites and other forum pages on the traditional Internet. And because of its advertising system, it has a sustainable source of revenue unlike Twitter. As long as FB continues to innovate without forgetting why people use it daily (or hourly for that matter), it will last well into the next decade.

FB has brought about an entirely new way of sharing thoughts, ideas and other personal stuff. Where people once had to toil over creating their own homepages, and later blogs, which would usually not garner a huge audience, they now had the ability to share their thoughts to the widest group of friends possible.

WordPress and other blogging tools

wordpress-logo-hoz-rgb[1] While FB is awesome, blogs still serve a great purpose. I used free homepage creators in the past like Geocities and Tripod, but they were either rudimentary or required you to do up your own HTML page design.

Boy, was it amazing to discover blogging software which is really a content management system for the masses. Today, WordPress offers an astounding range of plug-ins, themes and is so consumer-friendly now compared to just a few years ago. This blog runs on WordPress and I never ceased to be amazed with each new version upgrade.

And WordPress remains free of charge, whether you decide to get it hosted on wordpress.org or host it on your own server! Astounding, really.

LCD monitors and HDTVs

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An old Sony Trinitron tube

We all take LCD monitors for granted now because they are so cheap. Back in 2000, they still cost a bomb, and we were all still using heavy CRT monitors (I bet you guys also used a Sony Trinitron like I did, with those two annoying aperture grill threads on each screen).

Over the past decade, I’ve happily invested in LCD monitors as they got bigger, cheaper and more color-accurate. From a 17” model in 2005, I’m now on a 24” Dell which I bought in 2007 and it’s still performing very well with amazing color accuracy. The next wave will be LED computer screens, of which I own one called the Samsung XL2370. It has great color, is super slim, but suffers from a limited viewing angle like the early LCD monitors.

samsunglcd2 An old 2005 Samsung LCD product shot I took with Goy’s wedding photo on it 😀

The key advantage LCD monitors brought to everyone was lesser eyestrain. I believe one reason why so many adults are myopic today is because we had to watch flickering images with poor sharpness on CRT monitors. Today, I can play Xbox and PC games on end without feeling any eyestrain at all.

And of course, LCD technology also transformed televisions. A 32” LCD monitor for S$600? You couldn’t even get a 29” CRT TV at that price before they went extinct! I can’t wait when an LED HDTV that fills up my wall with 60” of visual goodness goes for just a thousand bucks, and I believer we’ll see that by 2019.

Game consoles

xbox 360

The whole PC gaming industry is a shadow of its former self, having been hit heavily by piracy. But taking over place are the current game consoles – Xbox 360, PS3 and the Wii – each having expanded the gaming industry to the masses in their own ways. We PC gaming geeks completely lost our exclusivity!

I remember a good part of 2002 was spent playing with my PS2 (GTA Vice City and its groovy 80s soundtrack), and that was later replaced with the original Xbox and then the Xbox 360. Online gaming, which used to be a hassle to set up on the PC, become really simplified with Xbox LIVE, and it’s amazing how digital distribution has grown on console platforms.

Today, you can download full retail Xbox 360 or Xbox LIVE Arcade games within minutes, without even leaving your couch. And I just finished Bayonetta, a HD game which is so awesome, I could not even have imagined in 2001 such an action game would be created.

And I bought my first Samsung HDTV in 2006 so I could play the Xbox 360 in HD!

Now I’m too lazy to cover other stuff like mobile phones, GPS, e-book readers, HD camcorders, thumb drives and uber-powerful graphic cards. But they’re all stuff I own and love too for their benefits.

There have been many great leaps in technology in the past ten years, and I’m glad to have lived through it with a brief tour as a tech journalist and now in Microsoft where I get to taste the latest MS software or hardware before it goes public.

The science fiction musings of yesterday is today’s reality. The next decade will rawk even more for us techies.

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