Friday, November 11, 2016

BPN 1729: i-mode heads for history

The mobile information service i-mode will be ready for the history books next year. According to The Japan News, Japanese telecom company NTT DoCoMo announced that the production of  the customised mobile phones will stop, while the service itself will be phased out over 2017. At its peak in 2009 i-mode registered almost 49 million subscribers in Japan.

Technically i-mode was a web service for GSM telephones, using compact HTML protocol for surfing and e-mailing on customised mobile telephone devices with little memory. Interesting was the attention given to the part of content in this service. As the service needed specially edited pages, NTT DoCoMo parsed the content pages before releasing them for consultation. 

In Europe licenses were given to Dutch telecom operator KPN, the Greek operator cosmOTE and the British operator O2.In 2004 these operators clocked 2 million subscribers. KPN used its license in Germany with E-Plus, in Belgium with Base and in the Netherlands. The KPN services were launched in 2002. The telecom company officially held a license for 10 years, but the Dutch service was terminated in 2007; at its peak in 2003, the Dutch service counted 1 million subscribers. The German, the Belgian and British services in 2009.

The service has been overtaken by technology. Although mobile Internet was possible from 1995 onwards, installation of the settings was technically complicated; besides usage was very expensive, especially from abroad. NTT Docomo launched a content service with a special telecom protocol, which also needed special mobile phones. The service was also called teletext for mobile telecom. KPN claimed in 2004 that had 560 i-mode services provided by 400 national and international content providers.

In Japan the service has run from 1999 and will be terminated in 2017. NTT DoCoMo still has 17 million subscribers, which represent 30 per cent of the operator’s subscriber base. The long run of i-mode in Japan and the short run in Europe can perhaps be explained by the characters used in the Japanese language. Also the elderly segment of the subscribers loved the mobile phones customised for the segment, the service and the e-mail facilities.

(To enlarge tick on the illustration) 

Will i-mode leave  any historical trace? The special phone is being phased out, but a copy will undoubtedly be saved by a telecom museum. The content services will also be missing towards  the end of next year, unless NTT DoCoMo will make a copy of the services (which is usually forgotten). However, the e-mail service is maintained. And the telecom company has safeguarded the e-mail symbols, emoji ( 文字 in Japanese) by donating  the original set of e-mail symbols to the Modern Museum of Art. The set emoji was designed by Shigetaka Kurita, a designer in the i-mode development team. For the launch of i-mode he designed 176 emoji on the basis of the format of 12x12 pixels.

For more background see the following blogpostings on Buziaulane:

Friday, October 21, 2016

BPN 1728: Terror, an interactive TV drama from Germany

On October 17 the German television station ARD broadcasted the interactive TV drama Terror - Ihr Urteil (Terror - Your judgment). It was a social experiment in in which viewers could vote on the outcome.

The drama is positioned as an ethical and constitutional dilemma. A plane hijacked by terrorists, is heading to a football stadium to crash there. In the plane 164 people sit and in the stadium 70,000 football supporters are present. In crisis talks it must be decided whether the plane should be shot down before it reaches the football stadium. An Air Force  major  chooses to bring down the plane with 164 persons and thus sacrificing  the lives of a small group of innocent civilians over against 70,000 football supporters. In a lawsuit by the State vs. the Air Force major a verdict is asked from the court. Viewers are invited to act as a jury, asking whether the major was right? Although the voting by phone and by computer did not go smoothly the majority of viewers in Germany voted in favour of the Major of acting correctly. Nevertheless, under German law he was convicted, as he had destroyed the lives of innocent passengers.

The drama contains references to terrorist acts and threats from the immediate past. In 9/11, the question was raised whether a fighter jet should be in the air to shoot down a hijacked plane that was heading for the Pentagon. Also, the reference to the attack on Stade de France in2015 is visible, while also a reference is made to the crashed plane flown by the depressed Lufthansa pilot in France.

The TV drama Terror - ihr Urteil is probably one of the few interactive TVdrama programs. Interactive is a big term as there was little drama activity, existing of the invitation to the viewer to be part of the jury. However the TV drama is a new step in the history of interactive drama.

This type of drama goes back to 1934 when in a US theater Ayn Rand gave the audience the part of the jury in a murder drama in the play Night of January 16th; the public could pronounce the guilty or not guilty verdict. Night of January 16th was staged in different versions and also made into a movie in 1941; later also radio and television version were made.

In 1967, at the Expo in Montreal a Czech film collective presented the Kinoautomat with the movie One Man and his jury. The film is about residents of an apartment, who do not get on  together well. A woman who took a shower, comes out to see who is at the door of the apartment and unfortunately closes the door of her apartment. Then she calls for help on her neighbor. Will she help, as the caller for help is just wrapped in a towel? Throughout the film the audience makes choices on a box with two buttons, option 1 or option 2, but in the end always the question is asked: will the neighbor help: yes or no. During the expo all group voted yes, except once – so the rumor has it - when the voting was done by a large group of nuns. This movie was made in the Czech Republic during the communistic regime and underlying this experiment was the satirical thesis of the film director that you can vote what you want, but the result remains always the same.

After the theater and movie experiments, Philips announced in the early nineties, the CD-i as the interactive medium, with which a user could make choices about a good or bad outcome. But CD-I lived to short in order to attract such a drama production for the medium. So far there have not been any signals yet on the internet of an interactive drama. However, the principle of making interactive choices has really taken off in the game world.

Friday, October 14, 2016


These are the category winners chosen by the Grand Jury in Cyprus in September 2016. The Grand Jury event was kindly hosted by The Republic of Cyprus and the Digital Champion Cyprus  and facilitated by by the Uclan Cyprus university. The event was supported by CYTA, MTN, European Commission, CITEA, Cablenet and PrimeTel as well as by the Council of Europe.

Category: Healthy Life: (fitness | nutrition | healthcare | med tech)
Winning projects:  Be My Eyes | DayCape | Mira 

Category: Smart Learning (education | e-skills | open science | infotainment)
Winning projects: Animal Hero Universe | Unimersiv 

Connecting Cultures: (language | travelling | diversity | new communities)
Winning projects: VEASYT Live! 

Category: Go Green(sustainable energy | mobility | smart cities | climate change)
Winning projects: HAIZE | 

Category: Active Citizenship (citizen journalism | social cohesion | human rights | (wo)men empowerment)
Winning projects: FreeCom | 

Category: Money Matters (financial literacy | employment | fundraising | fin tech)
Winning projects: Poslonaut/HireApp 

Special Category: migration | integration | inclusion | refugee movement
Winner: to be announced on October 19, 2016 

Special category: know-center_knowawardKnow Award
Winner: to be announced on October 19, 2016

More information on the winning EYA projects and the EYA Festival Graz, go to:

Tuesday, October 11, 2016

Toen digitale media nog nieuw waren

NU €18,00
In dit fascinerende boek beschrijft mediaspecialist Jak Boumans het roerige tijdperk van de nieuwe media in Nederland van 1967 tot 1997. Alles moest nog worden uitgevonden: technologieën, concepten en markten.

Op 1 januari 1997 kwam er een einde aan het nieuwe-mediatijdperk, ook wel het pre-internet tijdperk genoemd. Dit tijdperk wordt door jongeren, de ‘digital natives’, vaak gezien als woest en leeg. Maar niets is minder waar. Vanaf 1967 is er in Nederland een industriesector rond nieuwe media opgebouwd. Dat begon met een verwarrende zoektocht naar technologieën, concepten en markten. Hoe nieuwe media te verkopen en aan wie? Vanaf 1980 begon de commercialisering van online-diensten zoals ASCII-databanken, teletekst, videotex, elektronische berichten en Bulletin Board Systems. In 1985 werd de jonge industriesector geconfronteerd met weer een nieuwe technologie, de CD-media, die het broze groeipatroon van de online-diensten dreigde te verstoren. Uiteindelijk kwamen er door de CD-media naast het assortiment aan online-diensten ook off-line producten bij, zoals elektronische boeken en multimediale CD-ROM's en CD-i’s. De industriesector rond nieuwe media groeide en professionaliseerde. Terwijl de sector zich opmaakte om een grootschalige videotexdienst in de markt te zetten, sloop internet geruisloos Nederland binnen via de academische wereld. In 1992 waren er nog geen 300 bedrijven aangesloten op internet en acties op de consumentenmarkt leverde niet direct veel nieuwe klanten op. Maar toen op 15 januari 1994 De Digitale Stad haar deuren opende, begeleid met voorlichting door de omroep VPRO, was er geen houden meer aan. In minder dan drie jaar, tussen 1994 en 1997, wist internet in Nederland het aantal abonnees meer dan te verdubbelen, vergeleken met de online-abonnees van videotex. Op 1 januari 1997 werd de omslag naar internet definitief. De dienst Videotex Nederland verdween geruisloos. De internetdienst World Access en de elektronische berichtendienst Memocom werden samengevoegd met Planet Internet. Het was het begin van de grote opmars van internet in Nederland en het was tevens het einde van de nieuwe media in Nederland. Het tijdperk van de digitale media was begonnen. 

Toen digitale media nog nieuw waren - Pre-internet in de polder (1967- 1997) 
Auteur: Jak Boumans 
Omvang: 320 pagina’s, 
Prijs € 18,00 
Full colour: ca.150 illustraties 
ISBN 9789078730057 

Wilt u het boek van Jak Boumans direct aanschaffen, stuur dan een bericht met vermelding van uw adres en de titel van het boek naar VOF Electronic Media Reporting. Het boek wordt u dan na betaling (in Nederland) zonder verzendkosten toegezonden. 
Voor scholen is op aanvraag een speciaal tarief aanwezig.

Behalve publicaties verzorgt Jak Boumans ook studies, presentaties, voordrachten en colleges. Voor aanvragen stuur een e-mail naar VOF Electronic Media Reporting.

Saturday, September 17, 2016

BPN 1727: The Jaguar of the real-time video phones

With some aplomb the device was put on the conference table. A company disposed of it with the message that it might have been used as a high-tech projector. The device was accompanied by a printed manual from 2003.

After some deep pondering, there was recognition: Exo'vision, a company founded by Eckart Wintzen, the early Dutch evangelist of sustainability. In 1976 Wintzen started the IT company BSO. It was not just a traditional computing company, organised in a holding, divisions, subsidiaries and departments. The management style of Wintzen was based on the principle of cell division. If a company had more than 50 employees, a new company had to be split off to preserve the creativity and independent thinking. In 1990 BSO merged with the IT division of Philips in BSO/Origin, later on part of ATOS.

After the merger Wintzen became a social serial entrepreneur and initiated several companies. Sustainability was one of the themes of his philosophy. He was irritated by the Dutch disease  of traffic congestion, promoted glass fibre infrastructures and put money in the car sharing project Greenwheels. And to reduce the traffic of the business sector he built the Jaguar under the real-time video phones: the Eye-catcher. This was in the second half of the nineties when just a start was made with separate cameras, which could be used in combination with laptops. Around 2000 Sony presented with a Vayo sub-notebook which featured a built-in camera. But the quality of these cameras was low. Eyecatcher, however, was a stand-alone device with a high resolution. The device could be connected to other low-grade video cameras, to PCs in different places. The Eye-catcher could present 1 to 4 people. Besides the visual and auditive contacts also  presentations and data could be transferred and shown.

The Eye-catcher was a slick device with a wonderful picture quality. Yet it never became a hit. That had to do with the crossing of the technological paths. Telecom was in the transition from ISDN to broadband. The low quality cameras for PCs were installed and the configuration became common. Eyecatcher became a device for niches in the business market, broadcast market and for companies with a large geographical footprint. The development of the technology was also costly. In short, the company and the device were not given a long commercial life.

This Eyecatcher device came from a warehouse, where the manager did not recognise the device and thought that it looked like a projector. In the meantime we avail ourselves of real-time low resolution video traffic via Skype and FaceTime. 

See the presentation of the Eyecatcher 3.0 by Grootlicht from 2004.

Monday, September 12, 2016

BPN 1726: Farewell to my pre-computing era

This month it is 50 years ago that I flew for the first time, with a second primer  I flew to the USA. I was going to study theology at Notre dame Seminary in New Orleans, Louisiana. The flight was a long one, from the old Schiphol Airport near Amsterdam, to London, Washington DC and Atlanta for a transfer to New Orleans. Some 13 hours. The first leg to London was with BEA, British European Airways, the precursor of British Airways, the rest of the flight was made with Delta Airlines. In  Washington the passengers were picked up by a bus which looked like it was made for the moon surface, before being unloaded to pass passport control and immigration authorities.

I studied four years in New Orleans and picked a Bachelor and Master. The study was rather traditional. The lectures were listened to. Only the homiletics (preaching and public speech) were done with new media by recording with a video camera.For the rest, you used notebooks, read books and typed your papers. Books could be borrowed from the extensive library, these days called the Rev. Robert J. Stahl S.M. Memorial Library, named after the librarian during my stay.

During my study, I noticed that my scholarship was paying for my tuition and campus facilities. Yet there were other costs to be covered, So I looked around what I could do to create an income. I came up with a solution. As Dutch theology was hot at that time I got in touch with a publisher of religious books, the Paulist Press in New York, and offered my services. And I was accepted as a lector delivering reading reports about new Dutch books and after a while as translator from Dutch into English. These functions had an additional advantage; by passing on the lector’s reports and eventually the translated books to the staff, I picked up extra merits.

Above the translations: left: The sacrament of the Eucharist by G.T.H. Liesting S.S.S.; above right: The Prophet in the Nearness of God by H. Renckens S.J. (note that on the cover there is a misspelling: Renkens without a -c-); below not a translation of my hand, but I acted as the foreign rights consultant. In the USA I used as my name James M. Boumans.

During the translation work, I became acquainted with the newest piece of office appliance at that time: the IBM Selectric, a typewriter with the golf ball. Jesse R. Ortego, a fellow student, typed the manuscripts on this device. The Selectric mechanism was notable for using internal mechanical binary coding and two mechanical digital-to-analog converters to select the character to be typed. The Selectric was faster, the correction mechanism was efficient and a range of letter fonts could be used by changing the golfballs.

The Selectric was the closest device to the beaconing era of computing. For the rest life still was analogue. Television and radio were still analogue. Contact with my parents and friends was done by handwritten airmail letters. Stamps had to be bough at the post office and be licked before applying them to the envelop. Sometimes I sent an audio-cassette as a spoken letter and seldom a photograph, as development was critical of a full roll of film. Tickets for flights had to be ordered from a travel bureau. You had to dial a fixed line telephone number and for speedy messages you sent a telegram. If you wanted to know something, you had to look it up in an outdated printed encyclopaedia and for telephone numbers you had to consult a printed telephone directory.

Having completed my studies in 1970, I decided to return to the Netherlands and after some months picked up a job as editor Humanities in a reference department of a publishing company, which just had started a publishing project of 25 volumes of a general encyclopaedia. Not the regular way with library cards with references and the clippings of the last edition.This encyclopaedia project did not have a precursor and became the first European encyclopaedia project using a (mini-)computer to assist the editorial staff. For me this became my entrance into the digital world and, without being really aware of it, the farewell to the analogue world.