Wednesday, August 20, 2014

4 Dutch submissions made the shortlist: see

Sunday, August 17, 2014

BPN 1686: Packaged bandwidth

Presentation of the audio CD by Mr Sinjou holding up a vinyl record and a CD (© J. Sinjou)
On August 17, 1982 the first audio CD, Visitors by Abba, was pressed at the Philips factory in Langenhagen (Germany). The invention of the CD marked a step for the music industry, but a larger step for the information industry. For the music industry, the introduction of the audio CD was a switch from analogue to digital and a quality step with superior sound quality, scratch-free durability and portability of the product. But the audio CD also meant innovation in the digital entertainment industry, which ultimately led to the launch of the DVD and Blu-ray successor. And along the way, people were  taught multimedia skills.
Philips CD player  (© Philips)
Philips and Sony were voluntary partners in the CD project. After the videodisc was rejected in favour of the VHS videotape by the consumer, the two consumer electronics manufacturers sat together with their engineers to design and specify a new optical audio disc. The initial storage capacity of the disc targeted a hour of audio content and a disc diameter of 115 mm. Eventually a span of 74 minutes was set, enough to listen to Beethoven's Ninth Symphony. Regarding the size of the hole in the disk the engineers easily agreed: it would be as big as a Dutch dime coin. In 1980 the new standard of the CD was recorded in the Red Book.

Box cover (©  photograph Collection Jak Boumans, CD property of Collection Jak Boumans)
In the wake of the success of the optical audio disc Philips and Sony developed in 1984, a compact disk for data, the CD-ROM (Compact Disc - Read Only Memory). The disk had a storage capacity of 600Mb and became an attractive substitute for online. The CD-ROM was in fact packaged bandwidth on the one hand and a mega book on the other hand.

CD-ROM technology proved to be a temporary disruptive technology. In particular, the scientific online information viewed the phenomenon CD-ROM with the necessary suspicion. These services consisting of primarily textual information, especially ASCII databases, saw the optical disk as an attack on their services. Would online be for latest information and CD-ROM for less timely information?

Cover (©  photograph Collection Jak Boumans, CD property of Collection Jak Boumans)
But more happened between 1985 and 1997: multimedia was first introduced in 1988. Of course, there were already opportunities to bring graphic work, photographs and music online, but there were no standards and in many cases the capacity of the telephone line was very limited. The CD-ROM appeared to be the new carrier for a combined stream of text, image and sound. The CD-ROM just filled the lack of bandwidth. Thus, the CD-ROM played a key role in the introduction of multimedia and interactivity. Then in 1990, a multimedia standard for PCs (MPC) was adopted, making CD-ROM the carrier for a combined stream of text, image and sound.

This led to a technological format struggle within the data compact disc world. About the CD-ROM format the industry was quick to agree; in an unusually short time for standardization procedures an industry standard was created (High Sierra), followed by ISO standard 9660. But with the potential of multimedia consumer electronic manufacturers saw market opportunities for living room products. Most had little chance of survival.

Box cover (©  photograph Collection Jak Boumans, CD property of Collection Jak Boumans)
The greatest confusion in the multimedia formats was created by Philips. Philips started to develop the compact disc interactive (CD-I) as a format that was to bring living room entertainment such as movies, games and documentaries. Philips CD-i set up even a publishing company for consumer titles. At the same time Sony created the electronic book, consisting of an electronic reader and a mini-disc of 200Mb. But the interest worldwide was not great and by 1966 the product was off the market again, except for Japan.

A prototype DVD as movie carrier with The Netherlands, a movie by Bert Haanstra, 1996 (©  photograph Collection Jak Boumans, CD property of Collection Jak Boumans)
The CD-ROM, however, did not really disappear from view. The commercial CD-ROM products, text or multimedia did as the bandwidth did increase fast.  CD-ROM is still a carrier of software and personal archive material. The CD-i eventually became the forerunner of the Digital Video Disc (DVD). By 2000 CD media tapered off as online came back into full force with the introduction of the Internet for consumers. Interactive games, movies and music were distributed through internet.

Thursday, August 07, 2014

BPN 1685: Cloud Chamber launched

Today the massive multiplayer story game Cloud Chamber will be released, after four years of hard work by a Danish team. The game is a innovative mix of story explanation and collaborative investigation.
In the game the investigations of a young scientist Kathleen Petersen are followed, who works in the Petersen Institute, one of Europe’s most prestigious centres. While investigating the suspicious circumstances of her mother’s death, Kathleen discovers a string of revelations about her father, the institute and the existence of communicative rhythms in the fabric of space. Soon she is faced with an impossible choice between loyalty to her family and a duty to pass on what seems to be a mysterious warning to mankind.
In Cloud Chamber players work together to unravel a mystery of murder, music and astrophysics. They navigate through a series of 3D datascapes and film fragments, starring Gethin Anthony (Games of Thrones) and Jesper Christensen (Quantum of Solace). Players collect nodes of information and discuss them with other players. As they progress, players piece together what actually happened from fragments of found film footage, science journals, video diary entries, actual space footage and astrophotography. Only by working together with other players the truth about Kathleen’s parents and the universe can be uncovered.

So far the press release. Why do I draw attention to the game? So far, no one has been able to recognise a fanatic gamer in me. In the short description and the trailer, however, I see basic elements of suspense. And I am pretty sure that the game will be most interesting, given its creative director: Christian Fonnesbech. I met him in 2002 as a colleague on the Europrix jury in Salzburg. I remember him explaining the suspense graph in a movie: tell the story in summary in some five to ten minutes and then start to elaborate on the main story and the sub themes. Up to that point Christian Fonnesbech was a producer of interactive entertainment, advertising and educational content. He has directed and written for TV, created short films and worked as a script consultant for both TV and film companies. In Denmark he was one of the early cross media pioneers, combining internet with television and new papers ads for a bank. From 2000-2002, he co-founded and ran the interactive content studio Sjuzet and managed Congin from 2003 onwards. Since 2012 Christian Fonnesbech is creative director and partner in  Investigate North and worked on the development of the game Cloud Chamber for four years.

Convince yourself and have a look at the trailer and an earlier trailer.
The game will be available by Steam or digital distributors and cost 19,99 euro.

Wednesday, August 06, 2014

BPN: 1684: WWW code in the open 23 years ago

© 2003, Jak Boumans Collection

On August 6, 1991 Tim Berners-Lee brought the www code into the open. Here is the relevant document:

In article <> (Nari  Kannan) writes:
>    Is anyone reading this newsgroup aware of research or development efforts in
> the
>    following areas:
>     1. Hypertext links enabling retrieval from multiple heterogeneous sources of
> information?
The WorldWideWeb (WWW) project aims to allow links to be made to any information anywhere. The address format includes an access method (=namespace), and for most name spaces a hostname and some sort of path.
We have a prototype hypertext editor for the NeXT, and a browser for line mode terminals which runs on almost anything. These can access files either locally, NFS mounted, or via anonymous FTP. They can also go out using a simple protocol (HTTP) to a server which interprets some other data and returns equivalent hypertext files. For example, we have a server running on our mainframe( in WWW syntax) which makes all the CERN computer center documentation available. The HTTP protocol allows for a keyword search on an index, which generates a list of matching documents as annother virtual hypertext document. If you're interested in using the code, mail me.  It's very prototype, but available by anonymous FTP from It's copyright CERN but free distribution and use is not normally a problem. The NeXTstep editor can also browse news. If you are using it to read this, then click on this: <> to find out more about the project. We haven't put the news access into the line mode browser yet. We also have code for a hypertext server. You can use this to make files available (like anonymous FTP but faster because it only uses one connection). You can also hack it to take a hypertext address and generate a virtual hypertext document from any other data you have - database, live data etc. It's just a question of generating plain text or SGML (ugh! but standard) mark-up on the fly. The browsers then parse it on the fly.  The WWW project was started to allow high energy physicists to share data, news, and documentation. We are very interested in spreading the web to other areas, and having gateway servers for other data.  Collaborators welcome! I'll post a short summary as a separate article.  
Tim Berners-Lee                      
World Wide Web project                        Tel: +41(22)767 3755     
CERN                                        Fax: +41(22)767 7155
1211 Geneva 23, Switzerland                 (usual disclaimer)

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Tuesday, July 08, 2014

We take you to a global stage in Brazil  – 10 more days to submit your social project
World Summit Youth Award
Logo Facebook Logo Twitter Logo YouTube

Need promotion for you social initiative? –Winning the Youth Award will help! Don’t miss the chance to apply!
WSYA winners have the unique opportunity to be part of an international high-energy networking event. This year the winners’ celebration will take place in Brazil, Sao Paulo, Nov 28th – Dec 1st.
Meet and discuss with young social activists from all over the world about what happens after the UN MDGs. How will they work post 2015?

To submit a project go to

Sunday, July 06, 2014

BPN 1683: The Finnish Prime Minister is wrong

Finnish Prime Minister Alexander Stubb accused Apple's late founder Steve Jobs of crushing his Nordic country's job market by selling innovations that caught Finland's companies off guard. "We had two pillars we stood on: one was the IT industry, the other one was the paper industry," Stubb told Swedish financial newspaper Dagens Industri.

However, the Finnish Prime Minister is crying over spilled milk. There was nothing wrong with the innovations of the Finnish and in particular Nokia. The company had the brick, the Communicator phone and mobile internet since 1997. And in 2000 Nokia had a prototype of a tablet in its US laboratory (Which company did not have a prototype? HP was working on its PC/hybrid turnstile screen).

Problem with the Nordic countries and particularly Finland was that despite the famous glass and clothes design, the IT companies did not have the design ability, which Apple celebrated as part of its company policy. Nokia was technically well advanced with its Communicator and shelved in 2000 the beta-development of the tablet for another five years due to the economic downturn.

My observation
In 1999 I was in Finland at the first Scholars’ Network Conference in Tampere, hosted by the Hypermedialaboratory of Tampere University in Tampere, the home of my friends Jarmo, Cai and Sohvi. As I had been studying the second wave of electronic books with Rocket Books, I presented an overview to the audience of the history and the near future.

I divided the history in two waves. Sony hijacked the term Electronic Book in 1990 and introduced a adapted discman plus a minidisk. The first device weighted 450 grams, had a black and white screen, but it rendered text, drawings and photographs as well as music. E-Books were produced for it and in fact the American novel Sliver was first published on e-Book and later in print. The device was introduced in The Netherlands in 1993 and a consortium of publishers and producers bundled reference works like a dictionary and hotel guide. The e-book adventure of Sony did not catch on. In my opinion for the singular function of reading books (no games, no diary), only the electronic cover was too expensive.

The second wave came in 1997 when internet was there as a distribution mechanism for e-books to be downloaded on a small tablet. Again, it was experienced as an exciting proposition for distributing and storing a number of book. But in my opinion it failed again by the louzy design, black/white screen and the single functionality. So in 1999 I projected that smart phones and smart tablets would meet e-book functionality. There were not too many smart phones around at that time, while tablets were just around the corner.

Invitation by Nokia
After the presentation a manager of the Nokia Venture Company came up to me and invited me to Helsinki to speak to the people of Nokia Research and Business Development. They wanted to discover the world of e-books, the production and the copyright issues.

By April 2000 we had set a date and I travelled to Helsinki. I was told that I was going to be picked up by cab and that I would travel with a Nokia researcher in the States. So at 8.30h we were ready and waiting for the cab. In the meantime we had gotten into a discussion on e-book, smartphones and tablets. So in the cab he opened his attaché case and took a demonstration tablet out. It was clear to me that this tablet was for games and e-books. Later on it appeared that the tablet should not have been shown to me. But I had had a peep into the future of Nokia; little did I know that the tablet would be on the market some 4 or 5 years later.

It was not innovation, but design
Looking at the statement of the Finnish Prime Minister, I conclude that Nokia missed the design ability of Apple and not the innovation capability. If Nokia had been able to apply more design to the Communicator, they would have been a competitor or Apple. Nokia launched some designs of future Communicators, but did not carry out further laboratory work. And Nokia stopped developing the tablet due to the economic downturn. These days we know that during low economic tides innovative development should not get shelved, but should get priority in laboratories.  

I also conclude that the Nordic countries did not take the threat of e-book serious enough and thought that dead trees would be the basic material for newspapers, magazines and books for centuries to come. At a meeting in Stockholm in 2000 on e-books, many directors of the pulp industry were present. My advice to them was to invest in e-readers and e-books like their American colleague pulp company Mead Corp had done in the seventies with Mead Data Central, the originator of the Lexis-Nexis online information service, now a Reed-Elsevier company. The Nordic directors did not. So, the North American companies like Amazon and Kobe are now dominating the e-reader and e-book market.

Despite the misinterpretation of corporate history, the Finnish Prime Minister is looking at the bright side of the Nordic development. The Nordic pulp industry is now at least investing in bio-technology, bringing in its pulp knowledge. And the Finnish IT industry is putting money on the game industry with companies as Rovio with Angry Birds and many app developers.