The Power of Presentation

Take a look at the above picture. If you cannot identify the item, find someone older than you and have them explain it to you. If you know what it is and remember using it, you must be old. If you think it’s a car air filter that sat in a large round can on top of an old V-8 engine — well, you’re older than you think.

For those of us who remember using the Kodak Carousal slide projector, it was a great innovation that made it much easier to sort slides for presentations. This was the era before software and computer projectors made slides obsolete. It was a time before digital cameras; a time when you took film to the drugstore to have it processed.

There was something poetic about the Carousal slide projector that was lost when computers took over presentations. When the projector lit up the screen, the lights in the room would go out. It felt like you were in a movie theater. Then as the presenter advanced each slide, you would hear the gentle clicking of one slide being replaced by another. The whirring of the cooling fan on the projector; the dimmed lights; the gentle clicking with each slide; all these elements together created a powerful cure for insomnia.

While the soothing sounds of the Carousal slide projector might be gone, computer presentations have at least carried forward the ability to put people to sleep. What still holds true, no matter what the presentation technology, is the content of the presentation and its power to persuade, inform or connect with an audience at an emotional level.

If you’ve never seen the Kodak Carousal pitch on the show Mad Men, follow this link It not only shows you the operation of the projector, but also the power of presentation.

Technology · The Last Half Century · The Next Half Century

Future Self Meets Past Self

I was thinking the other day about what it would be like if my future self visited me when I was in my twenties back in the 1980s. I imagined a conversation something like this:

“Hey, I’m your future self from the year 2020.”

“Whoa, dude! What’s up?” (Apologies to Bill and Ted and their “Excellent Adventure.”)

“Do you want to know how your life turns out?”

“Not really. That’s too scary. How about you tell me something else.”

“Okay. In the future we have smart phones.”

What are you talking about? How can a phone get smart?” My 1980s clueless, land line phone self asks.

“It’s a touchscreen phone that lets you use apps, take pictures, text and surf the Internet.”

“You can surf with your phone in the future? Wow, that must be a pretty big phone.”

“No. You surf the Internet with it.”

“What’s the Internet?”

“Well it’s this global network that let’s you connect with other people around the world.”

“Oh, like making a phone call?”

“Well, you can still do that, but you can also use social media.”

“Social media? In the future the government takes over the media?”

“No, it’s nothing like that. You use online platforms like Facebook to communicate.”

“Facebook? Why would you use a book instead of a phone to talk to people?”

“No, its online social media.”

“The future sounds very strange,” my 1980s self remarks.

“Maybe it’s better if I just leave and wait for you to catch up with me in a few decades. It might be easier to learn this stuff as you go.”

“Yeah, it sounds very complicated. Maybe the world will all make more sense in a few decades.”

“Well…” my future self hesitates.

“Well what?” My past self says with concern.

“Yeah sure, everything will make a lot more sense in a few decades,” my future self responds with a fake smile.

“Well, that’s good to hear,” my 1980s self says. “Things are pretty confusing now. I’m still trying to figure out how to record TV shows with my VCR.”

“Good luck with that,” my future self remarks before he leaves. “See you later, much later.”

“Later dude!” My past self replies as he plays an air guitar.

Current Musings · Technology

Not Everyone Wants an Intro

I have this thing about movie and television show introductions. I think they’re pointless. In a movie theater it seems intros drag on so long that my popcorn is gone before the movie starts. (Maybe that is by design. 🤔) Do I really need to see a bunch of flying production company logos or clips from the show before I watch the show? It’s like someone sitting down with you to tell you a story, but first they play dramatic music, tell you the names of production companies and producers, and tell you parts of the story before they start. “Can we just get to the story already!”

If I added up all the time I’ve spent watching movie and TV intros in the last half century, I’m guessing it would add up to a year of my life. What would we all do with an extra year added to our life — or all those minutes each day not watching introductions in front of news shows, sitcoms or movies. This is why I became so excited the other day when a show I was streaming actually gave me the option to skip the intro.

I sat down to watch the Apple original show “Home” and was shocked to see a “Skip Intro” button appear on the lower right corner of the screen. It’s the first time I’ve ever seen this button on any program. “At last, someone gets it!” I almost shouted. Someone finally understood not everyone wants to watch the intro, particularly when watching several episodes in one sitting. And they actually made it easy so I didn’t have to try to fast forward to the show. One quick click on the remote and I skipped the intro. This is a radical concept.

If you grew up watching television in the era before video recorders, you had no choice but to watch the introduction. With the advent of the VCR, for the first time you could fast forward past the intro on videos. There was some guess work in getting to the correct point in the movie or show, but for the first time the viewer had control. Now with streaming services, it is so much easier to get to the story without having to first watch flying logos and credits. Maybe others are doing what Apple offers — the “skip intro” button — but I have yet to see it. None-the-less, this should be the industry standard. After all, at my age, I can’t afford to waste any more time watching intros.

The “Skip Intro” button on the Apple Original series “Home”. Quick and easy. One click and you’re into the show.

When Phones Stayed at Home

Phones are an interesting device. During this time of COVID-19 and stay-at-home orders, they provide a vital link to our family and friends. Video chat, texting and even talking give us the next best thing to being with someone. Our phones have become a vital link to information and people around the world. It’s hard for me to remember when phones, not people, were under a stay-at-home order.

It seems so long ago, but then again it was a long time ago when I was still in grade school. In those days the phone was a fixture in the home. You could never lose your phone because it was tethered to a land line. Our phone sat on its own little table like a piece of art in the dining room in full view of everyone. Which also made it difficult to have a private conversation. That made it rough being a teenager.

When my older sisters received a call from a boyfriend, us younger siblings just couldn’t help but want to listen in. What saved them from embarrassment was the long cord on the phone that allowed them to take it into a closet for privacy. Of course that privacy was often enforced by my mom guarding the closet door to keep us away while she listened in.

In those days when you left home you left the phone behind. We didn’t even have an answering machine so no one could leave a message when they called while we were gone. When we did answer the phone, no one wondered about our location because the phone and it’s number were tied to the house.

Now it seems phones are connected to people no matter where they are located — which for many of us now means being homebound. Which makes me grateful we are able to connect with people with our phones in ways that were not possible a few decades ago.

© 2020 CGThelen


And The Password Is?

Passwords. When did they get to be such a major headache? Seems today everyone wants a secret password or special code word so they can know it’s the true me and not some double agent. I mean really, some days I don’t know if I’m really me or not. Sometimes I feel like I’m not really me — that I’m just pretending to be me to get through the day.

When I was a kid, passwords and secret codes were a fun thing we did with my cousins to gain access to a secret hideout or to communicate secret plans for our day’s activities. Perhaps we watched one too many spy movies or TV shows with CIA and KGB agents trying to outsmart each other with encrypted messages and cloak and dagger methods. Today when I try to access my account on everything from social media to shopping websites, they request a “User id and password.” It’s their way of determining if you are from the dark side of Internet.

By some estimates, almost half of Internet traffic is generated by humans, the rest is mostly malicious. That’s a lot of traffic traveling across the networked globe consisting of hackers, spammers, malware, and others from the dark side of the Internet. Online companies are trying to ensure that you are really who you say you are and not Darth Vader. It sounds like a good thing, but in reality they don’t have a clue who we are beyond online transactions and status updates. In the small town I grew up in it seems everyone knew everybody’s business. They knew if you were trustworthy enough for a business transaction. We did not need passwords and user ids.

It’s seems unreal when I think about a trip I took with my parents my senior year in high school in the 1970s to visit an out-of-state college. We traveled to Wisconsin and after we touched down at the airport my dad went to rent a car. He did not have a credit card and the man behind the desk told him that he couldn’t rent a car without a credit card. My dad offered to pay cash for the rental upfront, but that wasn’t acceptable. My dad was growing more and more frustrated when something incredible happened.

“Is there someone I can call to vouch for you?” The man behind the counter finally asked my dad.

My dad thought a moment. “Yeah, you can call my bank.”

My dad gave the man the phone number to the bank in our small town. We watched with anticipation as he called the number and explained the situation.

“They’re putting me through to the president of the bank,” the man said to us as he waited to be connected.

“Oh good. I know him quite well,” my dad said.

The man behind the counter raised an eyebrow. He must have envisioned my dad as being one of the bigger depositors in the bank since the president of the bank knew him. He had no idea that this was a tiny little bank with no more than 10 employees and the president of the bank knew all his depositors by their first name.

The rental agent explained the situation to the bank president. I could see him smile as he held the phone receiver to my dad. “He told me you’re very trustworthy and he wants to talk to you.”

“Hey, how ya doing?” My dad said into the phone. “Yeah we’re out here looking at a school my son is interested in going to.”

They carried on a conversation for a few minutes. Then my dad smiled and handed the receiver back to the rental agent. He thanked the president of the bank for his time and hung up the phone.

“I’m sorry sir,” the rental agent said to my dad. Then he proceeded to write-up the rental agreement. He had verified that we were not from the Dark Side trying to steal one of his cars for interplanetary warfare.

© 2020, CGThelen