Press-Republican

FYI...

January 3, 2014

In technology, 2013 was a more amazing year than you think

If you go by the headlines, the iPhone 5S and Google Glass were the big technology stories of 2013, and Twitter's IPO was the event of the year. The coverage of Glass focused mostly on its privacy implications — not its ability to change the world. And iPhone and Twitter were just more of the same. So we could end the year really disappointed because nothing dramatic seems to have happened on the technology front.

But look again, at the stories we missed. So much happened, in fact, that I believe we have set the stage for the transformation of entire industries.

Smaller has become cooler in computers. Tablets sales continued to increase and have eclipsed PCs and desktops. The iPad mini, which at first seemed to be a disappointment, was a major success. Prices are continuing to plunge as computing power and functionality grow exponentially. With the U.S. availability of the India-made $37.99 Datawind tablet, there will be greater downward pressure. It won't be long before Amazon gives you a free tablet for signing up for Amazon Prime.

This will spell disaster for old-line computer companies such as Dell, Acer and Microsoft.

Electric cars proved their mettle. Despite a disparaging review by The New York Times, which it later conceded had "problems with precision and judgment," and negative rumors about safely, range and reliability, Tesla achieved astonishing success. Its customers, who include me, lauded the car. Its stock rose to new heights. Consumer Reports gave Tesla's Model S its highest ranking ever. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration reaffirmed its 5-star safety ratings. Tesla has proven the viability of electric cars and demonstrated their superiority. All major car manufacturers are now developing electric cars for a market that will surely grow.

Technology is improving health care. Quantified Self devices such as Fitbit and Nike Fuelband are becoming widely available. You even see these on the shelves of Apple Stores. Companies are running contests using these devices to encourage employees to get more exercise. Smartphone add-ons such as the Alivecor heart monitor are being prescribed by doctors. Interestingly, Apple recently patented a heart monitor sensor for the iPhone. Our smartphones are destined to become our prime medical advisers. I expect they will one day chide us to get more exercise, drink less alcohol and watch our calorie intake. They will tell us when we are about to get sick and which medicines to take. We will only turn to our doctors for refuge.

Text Only | Photo Reprints
FYI...
  • Hospitals let patients schedule ER visits

    Three times within a week, 34-year-old Michael Granillo went to the emergency room at Northridge Hospital Medical Center in Los Angeles because of intense back pain. Each time, Granillo, who didn't have insurance, stayed for less than an hour before leaving without being seen by a doctor.

    July 23, 2014

  • Why it's basically impossible to delete those naked selfies you text

    If you're selling an old Android smartphone on an online auction site, you could be giving away rather more than you intend to, according to a recent investigation by anti-malware company Avast.

    July 21, 2014

  • Why does the Vatican need a bank?

    The Vatican Bank's history reads more like Dan Brown than the financial pages, but its worst -- and weirdest -- days may be behind it.

    July 18, 2014

  • Almost half of the world actually prefers instant coffee

    Americans' taste in coffee might be getting more high-end _with a growing fixation on perfectly roasted beans, pricier caffeinated concoctions, and artisan coffee brewers - but it turns out a surprisingly big part of the world is going in the opposite direction: toward instant coffee.

    July 17, 2014

  • ent_taylorswift.jpg There's less good music now — here's why

    Taylor Swift, the seven-time Grammy winner, is known for her articulate lyrics, so there was nothing surprising about her writing a long column for The Wall Street Journal about the future of the music industry. Yet there's reason to doubt the optimism of what she had to say.

    July 14, 2014 1 Photo

  • Can plants hear? Study finds that vibrations prompt some to boost their defenses

    They have no specialized structure to perceive sound as we do, but a new study has found that plants can discern the sound of predators through tiny vibrations of their leaves - and beef up their defenses in response.

    July 12, 2014

  • wheat1.jpg Backlash has begun against gluten-free dieters

    The swelling ranks of Americans adopting gluten-free diets have given rise to another hot trend: people calling the whole thing a bunch of baloney.

    July 11, 2014 1 Photo

  • 140516-recalls_1357_88cb85dbc81b724b4ae9c83db4426fd8.jpg Auto recalls break single-year US record with six months to go

    With six months left in 2014, automakers have already recalled more vehicles in the United States than in any other year on record.

    July 10, 2014 1 Photo

  • The science of shyness

    Shy people have quite a bit to contend with - not least the word itself. It has a number of different meanings, none of which are flattering. To "shy away" from something implies avoidance; to "shy" can also mean to move suddenly in fright; to "be shy of" something can mean to come up short, or be insufficient.

    July 8, 2014

  • Wanna write a pop song? Here's a foolproof equation

    Pop songs (generally) stay in one key, are in 4/4 time, last between three and five minutes, are organized into chunks of four or eight bars, have a repeating chorus played two to four times, include the title sung at least three times, and feature short melodic fragments that repeat a lot to help everyone to remember them.

    July 7, 2014