At Home with Tech

It’s time to maximize the potential of all your gadgets.

Tag: Fringe

A Kid’s View from the Top of the Empire State Building

It’s hard not be inspired by this view from 102 stories up. But not all inspired visions can become reality…

My wife and I took our second grader to visit the Empire State Building last week. The iconic 1931 structure was once the tallest in the world and is now not even in the top 25 (it’s 28th). And it’s only the third tallest building in New York City, behind One World Trade Center and 432 Park Avenue. But like anything as classic and classy as this landmark, The Empire State Building is not going out of style anytime soon.

The view from so high up was magical for our son. He was blown away by how small everything below appeared. He proclaimed that the buildings looked like toys, the cars were like raisons, and the people seemed like ants or crumbs.

As a parent, witnessing a moment of pure awe in your child… it’s amazing, right? This experience is all about expanding a point of view, both figuratively and literally. It’s like superfood for the imagination.

And as it turned out, I had my own magical ‘aha’ moment as well.

The Airship Port that Never Was
We visited the 86th floor observation deck as well as the circular 102nd floor… which was actually designed to be part of a mooring mast for dirigibles.


The idea of walking down portable stairs 1,250 feet in the air onto the 103rd floor of this building and then being whisked down in an elevator to the heart of Manhattan seems positively fantastic.

But the mast section was never used as an airship port.
And why not?

Because the plan was more fantasy than fantastic…
The winds were too strong around the Empire State Building at that height to allow for a stable and safe mooring connection. And I imagine there really wasn’t that much time to work the problem, since airships went out of style for commercial passenger travel after the Hindenburg disaster in 1937.

The Fix of an Alternate Reality
After doing a little Googling, I discovered that the dirigible mooring station plan was flawed from the start and never fully researched. The design upgrade for the building with the 200-foot spire was a last-minute addition and probably more about unseating the Chrysler Building as the world’s tallest at the time. The few dirigible mooring attempts to dock at the new Empire State Building proved the absurdity of the idea, although there was one successful 3-minute test in 1931. But that was the only instance…

Still, how cool would it have been if the airship port had actually worked out? In another reality, flying airships as a standard transportation system might have quickly kicked in (assuming the Hindenburg had a better day).

And I’m not the only one who has enjoyed imagining alternate realities for the Empire State Building.. Science fiction film and TV writers have also had fun including zeppelins in their New York City visions. For example…

“Fringe,” Season 2, Episode 16 – “Peter” (2010)





“Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow” (2004)





Enjoying a Small Dose of RetroFuturism
The future promise of airships seemed so romantic and elegant… though in the end… not so practical or safe. Still, it’s fun to imagine.

And while my almost eight-year-old son marveled at the actual view from high up, I considered a ‘retrofuturistic’ glimpse populated by sleek zeppelins.

The promise of any radical technological innovation always carries its own level of inspirational force. Of course, sometimes that effort can’t live up to the limits of reality.

Because as you know, in the end… buildings as blimp airports ultimately went out of style due to the proliferation of commercially viable flying cars back in 1967.

Wait… whoops!
Confusing my alternate realities again!

Delay Your Return to the Ground Floor
It was time to take the elevator down from the clouds and back to reality.

We passed through the gift shop.

My son chose his mini Empire State Building souvenir.

And I cherished my own gift…
I was an inspired kid… on top of the world.

Have You Forgotten How to Make a Phone Call?

Imagine this: Aliens have landed, and you’ve got to make that call to hightail it to the crazy island on “Lost.” Wait a minute… The phone number isn’t on speed dial! And now the keys on your telephone are starting fade away!! Unlikely…? Well, you may want to start preparing for the disappearing keys part…

Imagine this: Aliens have landed, and you’ve got to make that call to hightail it to the crazy island on “Lost.” Wait a minute… The phone number isn’t on speed dial! And now the keys on your telephone are starting fade away!! Unlikely…? Well, you may want to start preparing for the disappearing keys part…

Have you ever wondered what an alternate universe would be like?
How about a place where people didn’t need digits on their telephone keys?

I found myself in that warped reality recently when I was squatting in a stranger’s office.
(No, this wasn’t a random act… just office sharing)

I turned to make a phone call, and bam!
I felt the space/time continuum shift slightly as I tried to focus.

There was nothing to see but twelve blank keys.
I closed my eyes and conjured the Force.

Tap. Tap…tap…tap. Tap…tap…tap. Tap…tap…tap…tap.


Phew… I recognized the voice on the other end…

Memory Wipe
But seriously, how does that happen?
Years of someone else dialing that same keypad?
(But there wasn’t even a sniff of identifying ink on any of the keys beyond the star and pound signs.)

And in a future that’s already here, complete with speed-dial and voice-activated dialing, I suppose you really don’t need to remember the numeric sequences anymore, let alone their location on a phone.

The question is… have you already forgotten how to make a phone call?
And without a visual assist … did you ever really know how?!

A Fringe Event
Perhaps my parallel universe keypad was accidentally left behind by an “Observer” from the future.
Maybe it’s purposely placed there as a warning…

‘Don’t Forget!’
Never forget how to make a phone call.
Memorize that keypad now!

Don’t succumb to DKS!
(Disappearing Keys Syndrome)

The future of this world may depend on it one day…

How Much Does It Cost to See the Light?

The new $5,000 LED bulb? Not quite. But that’s the price you’ll pay for bleeding-edge tech like Ultra HD. (And that’s a bargain compared to the beginning of the year!) The new Cree LED bulb just broke the $10 barrier. Any takers?

The new $5,000 LED bulb? Not quite. But that’s the price you’ll pay for bleeding-edge tech like Ultra HD. (And that’s a bargain compared to the beginning of the year!) The new Cree LED bulb just broke the $10 barrier. Any takers?

I’ve got two brilliant deals to report today.
One for $10.
The other… $5,000.

While you get back on your chair, consider this-
If there’s one constant surrounding the home tech industry,
it’s if you wait long enough, the price will plunge.

So every so often, it’s a smart idea to take another look at the pricey tech you covet, because you never know when it’s time to pull the trigger.

Already Prime Time for Ultra HD TV?
Last week, I ran into a colleague at work one morning, while waiting in the cafeteria line.
He’s quite comfortable with his home tech and likes to chat with me about current video trends.
(the same way I enjoy talking with cinematographers I work with about the lenses they prefer)

He asked me if I expected to be using Ultra HD tech in the near future.
Knowing this new, crazy-expensive TV format was still in its infancy, I shot him a look of doubt and said we were years away from that transition.

But he didn’t seem satisfied…
He reframed his question and focused on the TV screens I work with.
When would I be replacing my HD screens with Ultra HD versions?

Again, I responded it wasn’t on my radar and not an imminent purchase decision.
(I didn’t want to be rude by pointing out the teeny problem of the severe pricing.)

I paid for my oatmeal and was careful not to expose any non-verbal cues revealing my true position on how silly I thought this conversation really was.

When I first blogged about Ultra HD TVs three months ago, the prototype screens at the Consumer Electronics Show cost a whopping $20,000!
(I think we all agree that price was a real non-starter!)

So why was my friend even bringing it up?

Maybe he was just trying to strike up a conversation about the newest tech he’d read about.
Tech heads talk all the time about gear they can’t afford, right?
No harm in that.

75% Price Cut
The next morning, I was quickly reviewing my email in the precious
‘quiet hour’ before my preschooler wakes up.
I looked briefly at a marketing message from Best Buy promoting their new Sony 4K Ultra HD TVs.

Did some marketing guru figure I’d won the lottery?
How silly is that?
But I clicked on the link anyway.

My jaw dropped…
That’s how much Sony’s new 55” 4K Ultra HD TV, which went on ‘pre-order’ sale last week costs.

And its larger 65” cousin goes for a mere $7,000.


That’s a pretty significant price drop from three months ago.
Granted, these are smaller screens than their $20K cousins… but still!

I’m still not sure who’s going to drop everything to run down to their nearest Best Buy to pick up a 4K TV at these still exorbitant prices.
But in just ninety days, Ultra HD has evolved from science fiction to simply crazy money.
It’s no longer entirely out of reach for some well-heeled early adopters.

It is amazing to see how fast Ultra HD is taking hold.
My friend was right on target to be talking about it.

And if the prices keep dropping, I can guess what the must-have holiday tech item will be this year or next…

Moving LED Bulbs Away from the Fringe
A similar story is brewing on the other side of the tech-pricing spectrum.
Let’s review society’s pricey journey to replace the simple incandescent light bulb.

It’s been difficult to beat Mr. Edison’s invention, because his 19th century technology, though wildly inefficient, gets the job done and costs about a buck a bulb these days.

The CFL replacement program was largely a bust with those icky, slow-to-illuminate fluorescent bulbs that would wig out before their time and contaminate your house with mercury if they happened to break.

And they never really came down in price.

Now, LED tech is making a play to construct the Edison bulb killer:

  • It radiates a nice light quality
  • It has a life span spanning into two decades
  • No mercury
  • And has the same shape as the old incandescent bulbs you still love

But LED light bulbs have also been wicked expensive.

A year ago, I talked about Philips’ new LED dimmable light bulbs that were supposed to change the world.

Their wonder LED bulb, won the ‘L Prize Award’ from the U.S. Department of Energy.

But, the 12.5-watt champion is still selling for $50 at Home Depot!!
(of course less on Amazon- $29.00)
Nobody really wants to buy a light bulb at either price…

So I saved some money and settled for Philips’ ‘loser light bulb.‘
They were really called AmbientLEDs. But I gave them the loving nickname, because they weren’t quite as efficient as their mighty L Prize cousins.
(Otherwise, you wouldn’t notice any difference.)

I bought a few for $15.00
(supported by a temporary $10 discount)
…and declared victory.

Philips LED Bulbs: The Next Generation
Philips continued to improve on their LED light bulb tech, coming out with their next generation model this past January.

Called the A19 LED Bulb, (that’s a zinger!)
it no longer has that Cylon-looking metallic exterior.
It’s even more efficient, sucking only 11 watts, but it still costs a hefty $15.

I’ve got to admit, $15 for a 60-watt replacement bulb is better than $50, but I’m guessing the relatively high prices have limited LED bulb use as a fringe science experiment for tech geeks.

Cree Takes the Spotlight
Last week, I went to Home Depot’s website and noticed their homepage had been taken over by something called Cree.

I know…
Who or what the heck is ‘Cree?’
(sounds like a lawn disease)
(or a new Star Trek alien race… THE CREE!!)

Actually, it’s a North Carolina-based LED manufacturer that seemingly out of nowhere has shaken up the competition with their new consumer friendly LED bulbs.
Their design almost exactly matches their incandescent ancestors, and the pricing can’t be beat.

In fact, Cree has just broken the $10 LED bulb price barrier.

Home Depot is their big distributor right now.
Here’s the pricing lineup:

  • The 6-Watt (40W equivalent) LED bulb costs $9.97
  • The 9-Watt (60W equivalent) LED bulb goes for $12.97
  • The 9-Watt (60W equivalent) daylight LED bulb sets you back only $13.97

Cree LED Bulb with blue background
Using Fringe to Go Mainstream

I know it’s hard to get too excited over a light bulb, but I’ve got to give credit to the marketing team at Cree.

They’re putting the company on the map with a clever TV adverting campaign that features actor Lance Reddick, who played Agent Broyles on the sci-fi TV series, Fringe.

Reddick isn’t really spoofing his TV character, but by playing his pitch straight while delivering some intentionally silly lines, you feel like you might be watching outtakes from a Fringe episode in the alternate universe.

Of course, all of the commercials are available on YouTube:

• The fun tag line from one of the spots is
“Nostalgia is dumb.”

• Their Eulogy spot is also quite clever

Deal or No Deal?
$5,000 for a super sharp Ultra HD TV that can’t be beat?
$10 for a light bulb that’s 84% more efficient?

Anyone ready to pull the trigger on this brightest tech available?

I did!
…went to Home Depot yesterday to pick up a few Cree LED bulbs.

Okay, so it’s clearly easier to drop a sawbuck than take out a second mortgage to pay for an Ultra HD TV.

Even so… I’ll understand if you feel you haven’t seen the light yet,
even with THE CREE.
(pray the Borg don’t hear about this…)

We all know that tech pricing drops as technologies mature.
Still, it’s been remarkable to watch this economic model in action over the past few months.

Who said home tech innovations can’t be a spectator sport?

…though I must admit, it’s not quite as much fun as watching Reddick pay the bills while talking sternly about innovation.

“If you argue with math, you will lose!”

Thank you, Agent Broyles.

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