Archive for the ‘gadgets’ Category

Apple’s iPad product team not feeling so Spring fresh

Thursday, January 28th, 2010

How, in the name of all that is holy (no pun intended), did the iPad brand name make it past the brand geniuses at Apple?  And, generally, I do think they are geniuses.

But, as noted by the New York Times, “In the hours after the iPad announcement on Wednesday, ‘iTampon’ became one of the most popular trending topics on Twitter.”  My office-mates and I were already cracking baffled jokes about it while the live Apple Event presentation on Wednesday was still in-progress.

According to the article, it gets even worse for Cupertino’s customers outside the USA.  Apparently the “a” in iPad is literally unpronounceable for a native Japanese speaker.

This must have been an executive decision from the top down.  It should have found itself wrapped in toilet paper and discreetly discarded in favor of common sense.

iPad, The Day After

Thursday, January 28th, 2010

Now that the dust has settled after Apple’s big “smartbook” iPad show-and-tell, I’ve had a little time to reflect on what we all saw and read the praise or scorn across a “few” sites.

My incorrect assumptions

I was expecting an inwardly facing camera, but I also assumed the iPad would run iChat (which it doesn’t, just like the iPod touch and iPhone).  Since there is no iChat, the iPad really isn’t first and foremost a communication device (iPhone) or horsepower machine (MacBook), so the camera isn’t really necessary. There is a “camera adapter” to plug in whatever camera you already have, and this likely syncs to iPhoto on your regular computer.  I would expect a camera to be added in future iterations, however, but only if Apple ever makes the iPhone OS capable of multi-tasking (which it absolutely must do).

My justifications for getting one… at least iteration 2

The iPad does intrigue me to use one on-the-go for movies, books, web, apps and some gaming.  This could be a very cool way to play chess with someone, or even larger versions of good iPhone games today (e.g. Fieldrunners, Spore, etc.) but a real directional pad will always destroy this iPad/iPod/iPhone consortium in certain genres.  Regardless, Sony and Nintendo’s current lineup feels quite dated.

Additionally, lugging a 5-pound MacBook onto a plane isn’t ideal, especially when the dude sitting in front of me eases his seat all the way back to where I can’t even open my laptop properly, let alone type.  I can see myself getting one of these, and slipping it into a larger real-wood bamboo case some day.

I currently see the iPad as a very “nice to have” device, where watching a movie or reading an eBbook or getting online is made a lot less cumbersome in many situations, and actually enhances the experience in many others.  I think all iPod/iPhone users were collectively, if not subconsciously, blown away the first time they went from landscape mode to portrait in mobile-Safari, double-tapped to zoom in, and read their favorite site (sans Flash, which was a hit, but which also meant sans most annoying ads).

Which other consumers might also want one of these?

I helped my Dad buy a $600 Dell laptop over the holidays.  He’s 70 years old and basically just wants to be online.  He doesn’t use his DVD player or his webcam, and barely uses the laptop’s processor.  The only time the computer seems to really work is when the machine boots.  Frankly, the iPad would have been a much better experience for him than Windows 7.  He doesn’t need to worry about how to use anything; press 1 button to launch Safari, adjust the font size, read the paper, or his Hotmail, or a book, etc.

I think, because of the relatively low price point, this could seriously disrupt the eBook and Netbook markets – over time. Sony, Amazon, HP, Dell – everyone is in the game.  However, Apple has the entire integrated package across multiple media, not just the hardware solution nor the single application.

“Don’t forget your history nor your destiny” – Bob Marley

We won’t fully recognize the industry impact until a few years from now.  The key to iPad’s success in this new market is its complete and utter integration into the entire Apple suite of products.  Google is scratching the surface of this right now with Android, and it is baffling how absent Microsoft is, and virtually irrelevant.

When you first saw the original iPod back in 2001, where you completely blown away?  Did you consider its potential long-term impact back then?  I didn’t.  It looked a lot like an old Gameboy, and “only played music.”  There were a lot of other MP3 players on the market when it was first released.  But the iPod was 10X easier to use and it stood out design-wise from the pack.  It made buying MP3s less painful via iTunes, and it ultimately single-handedly changed the music industry that was flailing (in vain) at dealing with illegal downloading.  Illegal downloading still goes on to this day, but Apple created a new model for everyone to embrace, and ultimately earn serious revenues.  Over time, the iPod also became a status symbol; it was cool to have white earbuds leading from your ears to your pocket.

250 Million iPods later …

Obligatory pining

Oh! For a 3rd-party Pen Device to let me digitally paint on the tablet in fine detail (like Wacom’s Cintiq 12WX), and actually store the files somewhere… or maybe I can?  If I can run iWork on the iPad, where do the files go?  Is there a rudimentary file system that is viewable with the naked eye, unlike current iPods/iPhones?  Or is iWork going to the cloud/MobileMe ether?

Yes, I want multi-tasking with 3rd-party apps.  I want to store and save files (even if it is in the cloud).  These all strike me as iteration 2 offerings, and is why, for now, I’m going to wait.  But I’m excited about where this is going, and how computing is evolving.

Case closed: the Moonraker SEIKO A158 (not A159)

Sunday, November 1st, 2009

Immediately following my previous post concerning the lack of proof tying the SEIKO A159 to the James Bond movie franchise, I received what appears to be the final word on the matter.

For the last week, I have been in close contact with Dell Deaton, owner and author of, to verify my assertion that the A159 was never associated with 007 in either movie or promotional form. Mr. Deaton was kind enough to scan and share what he believes to be the root source of the confusion – a Moonraker promotional advertisement featuring two SEIKO watches in conjunction with the 1979 film, starring Roger Moore.

The SEIKO A158 Moonraker promotional advertisement

In the image above, what you see are portions of the original advertisement, which clearly show the SEIKO A158-5030 T on the left (not the A159) and distant cousin A259-5010 T on the right. Obviously, the two watches are very, very similar in appearance and function to the A159. In particular, the A158 is a near match.

I would consider the A158 a blood relative of the A159 – nearly an identical twin – which is obviously the basis for so much confusion and, frankly, misinformation. The differences are subtle, yet they are there for all to see. Check out my earlier posts (1, 2) of the A159 to inspect the physical differences for yourself.

SEIKO A158 smoking gun

Let the record show that the A158 is indeed a “Bond watch,” albeit in a very tenuous fashion, and really only as directed from the SEIKO marketing department. Neither the A158 nor A259 ever made it into the Moonraker movie, yet were in one single marketing promotion prior to the film’s release. The similarly designed A159 was never in anything 007 related.

Case closed.

Oh, and if you get the chance, you might check out Mr. Deaton’s “Bond Watches, James Bond Watches” exhibit running from June 2010 through May 2011 at the National Watch and Clock Museum in Columbia, Pennsylvania, or his well-researched site.

Update: Seiko A159 not a James Bond watch, ever

Saturday, October 31st, 2009

I recently blogged about the Seiko A159 digital watch and its dubious ties to the James Bond movie franchise.

As I previously pointed out,

“According to one source, the watch was used in some promotional marketing materials to introduce the new relationship between Seiko and the 007 brand prior to the 1977 release of “The Spy Who Loved Me.”  I have not been able to verify this, but it is an interesting anecdote, if true.  If anyone has any of these materials, I would love to see them.  Nevertheless, it was never in the movie, nor any other Bond film.”

After much digging and a little luck, I’ve been able to locate what appears to be the shred of “proof” some use to link the watch to 007.

The marketing material in question is a movie poster which shows two Seiko watches in conjunction with Bob Peak’s iconic 007 painting (incidentally, Peak’s original artwork is available to anyone with an extra $130,000 to spare).


I have obtained a high-res version of the promo poster, and can report that the watch on the left is labeled in tiny text, “FB001 (£145)” and the watch on the right is labeled “DW001 (£128),” which I have called out in the image above. From what I can tell, the watch on the right is similar to the 2-button Seiko 0674, but it isn’t an exact match (the 0674 did make it into the movie). The watch on the left is similar to the A159, but it isn’t an exact match, either.

In the image above, I’ve placed my own A159 next to the rendering of the watch on the left in the poster to demonstrate, I think once and for all, that these are not the same watches.

My theory: the Seiko watches seen in the 007 promotional poster were renderings of future watches, possibly the A159 and 0674, which changed design treatments prior to production. The model numbers do not match, and the design details are obviously different. There are broad similarities, but that is it.

If anyone has evidence to refute or corroborate my evidence, I would welcome it. Until then, I believe I have proven with near certainty that the Seiko A159 is not, and never has been, related to James Bond in any way.

James Bond watches, and the mysterious Seiko outcast

Sunday, October 18th, 2009

I have an embarrassing confession to make.

Seiko A159 acquisition <br /><em>click for larger view</em>

Virgin Seiko A159 // click image to enlarge

I have a strange obsession (fetish?) with incredibly vintage and/or nerdy watches.  Watches so geek-laden, I might only wear them in public while wearing a long-sleeved shirt.  I focus mostly on watch designs from the 1970s and early 80s, which I appreciate for their clean lines and understated modernism.  I must admit a strong nostalgic attraction as well.

My most recent acquisition is a New Old Stock (NOS) Seiko A159 (to be precise, an A159-4029 T) digital Liquid Crystal Display (LCD) men’s wristwatch.

Somehow, this museum-worthy relic sat in a display case or box or coffin completely untouched for the past 32 years, never to be worn, or scratched, or nicked, or anything – until now.  It’s almost like a rare fruit fly that was thought to have been extinct decades ago thanks to man-made global warming is suddenly rediscovered.  Hovering lazily over my banana.  Incredible!  (Slap!)

In any case, for those out there interested in this type of timepiece and its origins, I thought I would share some of my research findings in addition to the photos I’ve taken (if you wish to reuse my photos for personal use, please ask permission first).

Ohhhh, James …

Why an impact printer?  Why?

Seiko 0674 fortune cookie // photo © MGM

First off, the Seiko A159 has mistakenly been reported by some as a “James Bond Movie Watch.”  From what I can tell, this is technically not true.

According to one source, the watch was used in some promotional marketing materials to introduce the new relationship between Seiko and the 007 brand prior to the 1977 release of “The Spy Who Loved Me.”  I have not been able to verify this, but it is an interesting anecdote, if true.  If anyone has any of these materials, I would love to see them.  Nevertheless, it was never in the movie, or any other Bond film.

The watch made famous in the campy spy classic is in fact the unforgettable Seiko 0674 5009.  You remember, it’s the watch that ironically stamped out a secret message from HQ on narrow fortune cookie paper rather than alerting 007 on the digital screen of the watch.  Can you imagine trying to load the paper into the back of that thing?

The 0674 is quite rare these days and hard to find in excellent condition for less than $300.

Regardless of the A159’s suspect linkages to 007, it is still considered by some to be part of Seiko’s 1st-generation of LCD digital watches, which first hit the market in 1973.

The History

Seiko A159  starboard view <br /><em>click for larger view</em>

Seiko A159 starboard view // click image to enlarge

Prior to Seiko’s partnership with the Bond franchise in the late 70s, the movies had primarily been dominated by Rolex, although the it was by no means a monogamous relationship.

“By 1977 quartz prices had fallen to the point where they were accessible to anyone, and Hattori [Seiko] initiated one of the earliest examples of high-profile product placement via the popular (and evidently endless) James Bond film series … Roger Moore’s iteration of the character wore six [emphasis mine] different Seiko timepieces [if the A159 was included, it would be seven], appearances that were paralleled by extensive print ads featuring James Bond and his Seiko. Most of the Seikos James Bond wore were the flagship LCD watches of the period, and their latest development were quickly shifted to film.”

Having been born in ’77, the A159 was likely the end of that 1st-generation, right before the 1980s pummeled Seiko and its stock share price, as well as any remaining significant monetary value of stand-alone LCD digital watches from a public perception standpoint.

LCDs were, and still are, deemed fashionably acceptable when part of an analog/digital combo, or in pure sport or exercise related watches, but rarely as elegant fashion pieces particularly at the mid-level price range.  Due to their ease of manufacture, LCDs became “cheap” and easy to obtain.  With the LCD watch approaching four decades, the once cutting edge technology lost its ability to capture or impress the world’s imagination long ago.  Pan left, enter nostalgia!

Seiko A159 LCD closeup

Seiko A159 LCD closeup // click image to enlarge

There have been a multitude of  James Bond watches spotted over the decades (around 50), including Seikos.  With the exception of the occasional laser beam equipped watch, humorous 007 gadget watches appear to have taken a bit of a hiatus for several years.

As you can see, the Bond franchise has been dominated by the highly respectable Omega brand since 1995 (owned by the Swatch Group, which have also taken the Olympics away from Seiko under the Omega flag) .

The Seiko 007 list:

  • 1973, Live and Let Die, Hamilton Pulsar ‘P2 2900’ LED.  Not a Seiko at the time, but an interesting LED history, nevertheless.  Hamilton, a once innovative US-based watch manufacturer from the 1890s-1970s, has been a subsidiary of The Swatch Group since 1984.  The Pulsar brand is now owned by Seiko, however, “positioned below Seiko, but above Lorus.”  These days, Pulsar watches are mainly analog.
  • 1977 ‘The Spy Who Loved Me’ Seiko 0674 ‘Ticker Tape’ wristwatch, mentioned above
  • 1979 ‘Moonraker’ Seiko m354 Memory Bank ‘Plastique Explosive’ Wristwatch
  • 1981 ‘For Your Eyes Only’ Seiko H357 Analog Digital Display with scrolling LED message bar (now they get it!) and two-way radio
  • 1983 ‘Octopussy’ Seiko Liquid Crystal TV Watch
  • 1983 ‘Octopussy’ Seiko G757 Sports 100 (the ultimate collectible) Homing Device/Hidden Microphone Monitor
Seiko A159 PDF Manual

Seiko A159 PDF Manual // click image to download

The Manual

Back to my A159.  The watch arrived to my San Francisco Bay Area abode  after a long journey all the way from Budapest, Hungary – by blimp, no doubt.  It did not come in an original Seiko box, nor did it come with the instruction manual.  There are only 4 buttons, yet the usability of the buttons and the watch face labels is nonexistent, except perhaps for the quaint bulb-driven light (which works).

I contacted Seiko customer service to see if they had any of the manuals in their archive, and they politely sent me a full-color scan in PDF format, which you may also download from me if you’re so inclined (you won’t find it on their website).  The manual says it is for the A159 and its 1st cousin the A158.

Help yourself.

I’ve currently got my radar up for this jaw dropper, circa 1971.  But for now, I think I’ll close the blinds and put on my virgin Seiko A159.