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As 2007 comes to an end . . . we look back

December 24, 2007

by Mark Ollig

Over the course of this year we have learned about incredible new technologies and reviewed some amazing websites.

In January this column published an interview I had with Sarah Szabo, who was the Public Relations Event Manager for the 40th Consumer Electronics Association (CES) show that was held in Las Vegas, Nevada. The main speaker was Microsoft’s Bill Gates.

A February column took me on a personal journey, as I wrote about finding former Senator Eugene McCarthy’s “lost magic” on the Internet.

It happened I was browsing through the Vanderbilt Television News Archives website reading about their television news footage from 1971.

While glancing over a CBS news story about the former Senator, I remembered something regarding one of my siblings – something that had a direct link to McCarthy’s 1972 presidential campaign.

I was able to find that specific VHS tape of the Walter Cronkite CBS Evening News broadcast from December 2, 1971. Vanderbilt sent me the tape (on loan) for thirty days.

I watched the tape of Eugene McCarthy finishing his campaign speech inside the auditorium at Mankato State College. The TV camera then switched outside where groups of students were gathered. CBS News reporter Jeff Williams is interviewing a young college student by the name of Tom Ollig, my brother.

This nationally broadcasted CBS television news footage had never been seen by any members of my family.

In the column, I included the processes I went through for converting this VHS tape into the proper media format so I could upload it to the Google video website. Family members were able to see and listen to this video for the first time over the Internet.

You can still view it by going to http://video.google.com and in the search term enter “Eugene McCarthy.” It is the first video on the list.

A column published in March focused on the popular online encyclopedia called “Wikipedia” which started on January 15, 2001.

The idea of Wikipedia was to encourage the public to collaborate on articles that are then saved in the Wikipedia “encyclopedia” database.

In that column I asked the question, “Is Wikipedia a credible source for research?”

Since then, I have discovered other opinions about Wikipedia. One of them comes from the Answers.com website located at http://educator.answers.com. They stated “ . . . the breadth of Wikipedia coverage is unsurpassed . . . most feedback that we have received indicates that teachers and students use Wikipedia as a source and appreciate having easy access to it. . . ”

Answers.com ends their statement with “If students access and use Wikipedia content with this background in mind – cross-checking facts when appropriate – they will certainly benefit from the diligence and the devotion of the Wikipedia community.”

An April column described my beta testing of Google’s toll-free information number: 800-466-4411 or 800-GOOG-411.

The service runs on computers and uses no human operators.

I recall being greeted with a friendly sounding computerized voice that announced, “Calls recorded for quality . . . GOOG 411 . . . experimental . . . what city and state?”

I asked for Delano, Minnesota. I then inquired about a particular restaurant. After a moment I was told by the computerized voice: “I’ll connect you, hold on . . .” Then the phone in the restaurant rings. The nice thing about this was I did not have to pay for the call. In addition, it did not matter which town or state the business was located in, it was a free phone call placed by Google.

I checked and the 800-GOOG-411 number is still up and working.

In mid July of 2007, CNN told us about an upcoming “first ever,” and “revolutionary” experiment that we would witness. It was being called a “Presidential debate first.”

A week later, Democratic Presidential candidates answered 39 of 3,000 online video questions uploaded by ordinary citizens to the YouTube website. One video in particular received a great deal of attention. Yes, I am referring to the famous global warming video question asked by “Billiam the Snowman,” which was sent in by two brothers from Minnesota.

Also during July of 2007, we learned about wireless electricity. Specifically, how we can use a portable wireless charging pad and place chargeable devices on it, instead of having to plug each chargeable device into an outlet.

A company called “WildCharge” holds the patents on this wireless conduction method of re-charging. Their website displays a detailed photograph showing a plastic charging pad with several “wirelessly-chargeable” devices (cell phones, PDA’s digital recorders) placed upon it.

Their website has been updated and I encourage you to visit it and see this promising new technology in action at http://www.wildcharge.com.

In August, we discovered nano-engineered paper batteries and celebrated the 25th anniversary of the compact disc. This month Bits & Bytes also reviewed the Microsoft table-top “surface computer.”

A September column featured Richard Skrenta, who 25 years ago, invented the first replicating computer virus.

In October we learned about a new technology using Earth orbiting satellite signals that are stopping car thieves.

A November column discussed watching television and Googling for directions while at the gas pump. We also learned about “Pico-Projectors.”

This past month of December I wrote a couple nostalgic columns. The first was about my childhood Christmas without the “high-tech” and the other featured your humble columnist when he started a dial-up computer bulletin board service.

For the archived list of Bits & Bytes columns from this past year, visit http://herald-journal.com/news/bits.html.