Is This The Demise of the 3.5mm Audio Jack?

The 3.5mm jack has become one of the most basic pieces of technology in the digital world today with almost everyone knowing what it is and what it is used for. The audio jack first came about in the late 19th century when people operated the telephone switchboards. These original, large designs were one-quarter of an inch (or 6.35mm) and are still in use today but they are less common than the widely used approximately one-eighth of an inch 3.5mm audio jack (Grover, 2015). This technology was revolutionary at the time as it allowed people to get in contact with each other with the help of the people in the telephone exchange who used these 6.35mm jacks to connect callers. Since this time, this type of audio jack has grown immensely in popularity.

Sony Walkman TPS-L2

The introduction of Sony’s first Walkman, the TPS-L2, saw the 3.5mm jack connected to a pair of headphones became a necessary piece of electronics for the masses as the companies new product gained popularity (Wells, 2016). In the years that followed many other companies added 3.5mm audio ports to their products. The number of products with these ports only increased with the introduction of the MP3 player and later mobile phones that had the capability to hold music and therefore play this through headphones. While many companies tried to rival this design with their own audio ports, such as Samsung with their 20-pin connector and Sony Ericsson with their own FastPort (Eden, 2016), the 3.5mm audio jack and port design held strong to be one of the most used audio connectors within many electronics worldwide due to its universal nature.

Although this technology has been around for nearly two centuries, it seems that it may be losing traction in today’s constantly advancing world. With the likes of multi-national companies such as Apple announcing that their new flagship phone, the iPhone 7, does not have a conventional audio port but instead uses the Lightning Port or wireless Bluetooth connection for headphones (Thielman, 2016), it’s clear that the 3.5 audio port my be fighting a losing battle. Also, with USB-IF, the group behind the USB connector standard, having recently announced the Audio Device Class 3.0 specification which offers a more specific set of instruction on how to transfer audio over USB Type-C ports which has over taken micro USB ports in many new Android phones such as Samsung’s Galaxy Note 7, it could be possible that Android phones could be the next pieces of technology to rid themselves of the audio port to achieve a slimmer design (Triggs, 2016).

This seems to be the first time in it’s lifetime that the humble 3.5mm jack has truly been rivalled. This truly could be the end of this type of audio connection.
 

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Virtual Reality – Life Changing or Just Another Fad?

Virtual Reality (or VR as it’s more widely known) has been a topic that any technologically minded person has thought about in their lifetime, albeit it’s often pushed to the back of one’s mind. Since the first real advancements in VR technology with products such as Morton Heilig’s “Sensorama” in the 1950s people have had a fascination with this type of entertainment (VRS, 2015). This particular product allowed people to fully immerse themselves in a short film using a box which the viewer would put their head into and this allowed the stimulation of their senses while watching the film by using stereo speakers, a vibrating chair, a 3D display, and smell generators (VRS, 2015).

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As time has gone on, many companies have come along with their own ideas relating to VR such as VR gaming. However, not many of these took off as they contained many flaws within their design and pricing causing them to fail after hitting the market. An example of such a product was Nintendo’s “Virtual Boy” which was released in 1995 (Edwards, 2015). Despite what Nintendo was trying to achieve this was not true VR. It was originally designed as a headset but this never panned out and instead became a visor of sorts on stilts. The display for this product was in red and black which people complained caused headaches which also contributed to the discontinuation of this product. This idea, it would seem, was beyond its time as the technology 20 years ago could not produce the immersive effect that VR is supposed to offer and after only a few months on the market with disappointing sales it was discontinued (Edwards, 2015).

For the early parts of the 21st century, VR seemed to somewhat fade into the background but in recent years many advancements have been made such as the rise of the Oculus VR company which was bought by Mark Zuckerburg’s Facebook group in March 2014 for $2 billion (Soloman, 2014). Oculus have since released the Oculus Rift that has amassed a rather large following of people interested in VR gaming. While being rather expensive at around $599, the Rift has gained a lot of popularity with its ability to be able to hooked up to the player’s Xbox One to provide a more immersive gaming experience (Oculus, 2016). This has caused many other companies to follow suit in creating their own VR headsets such as Sony with their Playstation VR headset which is due to be released on the 13th October this year (Playstation, 2016) and HTC with their “Vive” headset with is a partnership with the popular gaming company, Valve, with will run their Steam technology on the headset (Vive, 2016).

Overall, the future seems bright for VR technology with lots of large companies investing money in this medium. This is a truly exciting time for VR enthusiasts.

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The Evolution of the Desk

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I was trolling through Reddit recently, as I do when I have free time, and I came across a GIF that was simply titled “the evolution of the desk”. It really caught my attention and got me thinking about all the technological advances we, as humankind, have made in the last in 30 years or so. It’s really fascinating to think of how each of the above day-to-day necessities are now all available to us in one handheld device whereas the generation before us had to go through a rigmarole to access the same information and how now we have access to even more information that they would not have had.

From the founding of technological giants Microsoft in 1975 by Bill Gates and Paul Allen (Microsoft, 2015) and Apple in 1976 by Steve Jobs, Steve Wozniak and Ronald Wayne (Blumenthal, 2012) we have seen the world transformed. With the advances made with the Internet from 1983 onwards and a “network of networks” being created and then with the invention of the World Wide Web by Tim Berners-Lee in 1990 we began to see the online world taking a more recognisable form that we are well accustomed to today (Andrews, 2013).

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For myself and a lot of people who grew up in the Internet era, we cannot imagine life without access to any information source we may need at our fingertips. It was this need to have everything easily accessible that saw this new generation of tech savvy children make countless new advances. This can be seen especially with the likes of YouTube, Twitter, and Facebook which were all formed in the mid-noughties creating a space where people could share news, inform their loved ones and people similar to them of what’s going on in their lives, and create new things to be seen by anyone who may want to view it. It was this phenomenon of sharing new ideas and news about yourself that influenced the likes of Instagram to be launched which allowed people to share their lives in photo format with small captions and therefore creating somewhat of a online photo album with unlimited space.

All-iPhones

However, it’s not just new companies that are growing and creating new things for the world to enjoy. The founders of this age are still continuing to break boundaries and bring new ideas to the table. This is truly the case with Apple and their 2007 launch of the Apple iPhone, one of the world’s first smartphones which ran on Apple OS (iOS) which allowed people to connect with people through calls and text while also having the capability to surf the web and take pictures, hold music, and store applications (Wikipedia, 2015). This was truly a revolutionary step as it took everything a person would need in their everyday lives and put it into a compact, handheld device. iPhone’s still do very well in the market today even with competition from other companies such as HTC, LG, and Samsung who release products running Android OS at similar intervals to that of Apple. Each year Apple release a new product with even more functionality and a user friendly interface that brings customers back to them year after year. It could be a case of original is best that causes customers to come back time and time again or in fact, the products are so good that they continue to be sought after. All we know for certain is that the Apple iPhone will be seen as a milestone in the technological age for years to come.

Overall, all of these things and more have seen the average person’s desk be transformed from a hub of files, magazines, diaries, fax machines, and papers to simply a laptop, mobile phone, and a few pens strewn here and there. I suppose you could say “Simplicity is the ultimate sophistication”.

 

Bibliography;

  • Andrews, E. (2013). Who invented the internet?. Available at: http://www.history.com/news/ask-history/who-invented-the-internet [Accessed 31 December 2015].
  • BestReviews.com (2015). The Evolution of the Desk.gif. Available at: http://bestreviews.com/ %5BAccessed 31 December 2015].
  • betanews.com (2015). All-iPhones.jpg. Available at: http://betanews.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/09/All-iPhones.jpg [Accessed 31 December 2015].
  • Blumenthal, K. (2012). Steve Jobs; The Man Who Thought Different. New York: Feiwel and Friends, p.61.
  • Microsoft (2015). A history of Windows. Available at: http://windows.microsoft.com/en-IE/windows/history#T1=era0 [Accessed 31 December 2015].
  • Wikipedia (2015). iPhone (1st generation). Available at: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/IPhone_(1st_generation) [Accessed 31 December 2015]
  • worldomep.org (2014). 96259.png. Available at: http://www.worldomep.org/wp-content/uploads/2014/03/96259-1.png [Accessed 31 December 2015].