314 results for “Designed-by-Evolution”

On the Origin of the Smartphone

Huub Ehlhardt
February 6th 2019

The first patent for the electric telephone was granted in 1876 to Alexander Graham Bell. However, there is disagreement about who should be given credit for the invention of the telephone as several pioneering inventors worked on devices to transmit spoken word.

In the following decades the network systems of landlines were built and use of telephones spread. The first telephones used were simple wooden boxes to which a speaker and mouthpiece were connected. From the initial box designs, the

On the origin of the LED lamp

Huub Ehlhardt
January 12th 2019

For thousands of years people used oil lamps and candles to illuminate their homes during the hours of darkness. Neither produced much light and both were inconvenient in use as their fuel needed to be regularly replenished. Besides that, open fire is notoriously dangerous. Then, at the start of the 19th century, gas lamps fueled by coal-gas distributed by a network of pipes turned out to be an innovative solution for the problem of illuminating the streets of European cities. …

On the origin of the e-bike

Huub Ehlhardt
October 25th 2018

The oldest known serious candidate forerunner for the bicycle is the ‘running machine’ built by the German Baron Karl von Drais. His two-wheeled machine became known as the Draisienne and was first shown to the public in 1817. Two decades later a Scottish blacksmith by the name of Kirkpatrick MacMillan allegedly made a first mechanically propelled bicycle. In 1842 a Glasgow newspaper reported “a gentleman from Dumfries-shire bestride a velocipede of ingenious design” knocked over a little girl and was …

On the origin of the word processor

Huub Ehlhardt
October 3rd 2018

Writing is recognised as one of mankind’s foremost inventions and the mechanization of writing is one of these developments that typify what is commonly regarded as the work of genius inventors. However, the typewriter was not ‘suddenly invented’, but emerged from the work of many inventors who all contributed inventive steps. …

Interview: Huub Ehlhardt on the evolution of products

Kelly Streekstra
September 14th 2018

"To understand why a product is the way it is today, you need to learn about its evolutionary background." Meet Huub Ehlhardt, an engineer with a PhD in product design. Huub believes that innovation is best not described as a sequence of disruptive inventions, but as a gradual evolution of products. Together with Arthur Eger, he wrote On the Origin of Products; The Evolution of Product Innovation and Design. Over the next few weeks, Huub takes us on an intellectual joyride …

Future AI may hallucinate and get depressed — just like the rest of us

Tristan Greene
April 23rd 2018

Scientists believe the introduction of a hormone-like system, such as the one found in the human brain, could give AI the ability to reason and make decisions like people do. Recent research indicates human emotion, to a certain extent, is the byproduct of learning. And that means machines may have to risk depression or worse if they ever want to think or feel.…

Interview: Designer Shahar Livne is geomimicing the future of plastics

Kelly Streekstra
April 18th 2018

What if plastics one day become a rare commodity that we desire and mine from the depths of the earth’s crust? By that time, plastic would be a rather different material. Shahar Livne offers a fast-forward to this next nature, by artificially geomimicing metamorphisms. She shares with us her speculative material: the “lithoplast”.

Scientists accidentally create mutant enzyme that eats plastic bottles

Damian Carrington
April 17th 2018

Scientists have created a mutant enzyme that breaks down plastic drinks bottles – by accident. The breakthrough could help solve the global plastic pollution crisis by enabling for the first time the full recycling of bottles.…

The Great Pacific garbage “patch” is now three times the size of France

Ruben Baart
March 26th 2018

Mon dieu! The swirling pile of trash in the Pacific Ocean is growing at an exponential rate. A recent study has estimated that the mass of the garbage island is four to sixteen times bigger than previously thought, and is now three times the size of France. …

Cruising Critters Travel the Ocean on Plastic

Charlotte Kuijpers
December 19th 2017
Tons of living animals have floated from Japan to the United States traveling across the ocean on plastic junk and debris.
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The telephone soon proved to be an indispensable tool for trade, fuelled economic development and had a large societal impact
Increased demand made landline networks evolve from hand-operated switchboards to mechanised pulse networks for which the telephone received a dial. Further increasing demands fuelled development towards tone networks which are operated by push buttons using the 12-digit keypad we still find on smartphones. Again driven by increasing demands, networks evolved to digital transmission.

Connected through the air: Mobile phones

Just like for landlines, the history of mobile phones is intertwined with a series of consecutive network technologies. The first experimental mobile networks developed to circumvent restrictions of landline-based telephones are collectively designated by the name 0G. These 0G networks could only handle few calls and were very expensive.[caption id="attachment_82160" align="alignnone" width="403"]Green apple and old brick style cell phone. The Motorola DynaTAC 8000X.[/caption]The first commercially operated wireless telephone networks are referred to as 1G and used analogue network technologies. These networks are made up of many cells, each with its own base station, which connects to the terrestrial phone network. The base stations allow connections being handed over from one cell to the next. Hence the used devices are also named cell phones. Without this cell network structure mobile phone users would not be able to travel while calling.The first 1G cellular network was launched in 1979 in Japan by the Nippon Telephone and Telegraph (NTT) company. The technology spread and in 1981 Denmark, Finland, Norway and Sweden received their Nordic Mobile Telephone system. Then in 1983 also in the USA a 1G network became operational using the Motorola DynaTAC 8000X mobile phone. Now referred to as the ‘brick phone’, this first of a kind weighted about 800 grams and was priced close to four thousand dollars or more than three times the average worker’s monthly salary. Nevertheless, because of its novelty soon after introduction there was already a waiting list. The following years Motorola developed into a leading mobile telephone manufacturer.The second generation of wireless telephone networks also referred to as 2G are based on a standard developed in Europe. The protocol used by 2G is based on the Global System for Mobile Communications and simply referred to as GSM. Deployed in Finland in December 1991, 2G was the first digital cellular network.
Short Message Service (SMS) soon became hugely popular and a cash cow for mobile operators around the world
Building on the success of early mobile phones additional text messaging services were developed using the same network technology. This became known as Short Message Service (SMS) and was commercially introduced in 1993 in Finland. SMS did not require any additional infrastructure and soon became hugely popular. This made it a cash cow for mobile operators around the world in the years to follow.The first mass-produced GSM telephone was the Nokia 1011 introduced in 1992. The popularity of the mobile phone opened a huge market and production numbers rose rapidly. Many other companies started producing mobile phones, however Nokia and Motorola dominated the market. The mobile phones later became known as feature phones (to distinguish them from smartphones). Feature phones have been produced in a few typical designs known as candy bar, clamshell and flip phone.
By 2002 the number of mobile phones had outgrown the number of landline phones in use
Feature phones became a huge success. Annual production amounts of feature phone handsets rose to well over hundred million a year by end of the 1990s. By 2002 the amount of mobile phones had outgrown the amount of landline phones in use. The wide availability of mobile phones changed our perception of what it means to ‘keep in touch’.It transpired that mobile phones could be used for other purposes than making phone calls and texting. Mobile banking is an example of a novel type of use for a mobile phone. In the Philippines, SMS has been used to transfer money since 2005. As many people in developing nations do not have access to banking systems, this new service was well received. Besides the cost of using traditional banking services are often too high for the poor effective excluding them. A same service started in 2007 in Kenya and has spread since then across the African continent. It has become known as SMS banking and can be used for various forms of money transfer e.g. like purchases, salary payments or cash redraws without bank offices or ATMs being around. In this way, mobile phone technology has contributed to the economic development and provided many new jobs in developing countries in a similar fashion as landlines did in North America and Europe more than a century earlier.
Mobile phone technology has contributed to economic development and provided lots of new jobs in developing countries
Over the years, users of mobile phones explored new types of use and expectations of our mobile devices rose. The networks also became used as a means to transport digital data next to voice. Again the developments placed increasing demands on mobile networks. In response, a set of new network technologies and standards collectively named 3G were developed. NTT DoCoMo launched this third generation network technology in Japan in 2001. Other countries and network operators soon followed. The availability of this new network standard spurred the development of many new applications like streaming media that required ever more bandwidth. As a result of the growing bandwidth-hunger the telecom industry began looking for ways to optimize network technologies for larger amounts of data. These new standards became known as 4G and are together with 3G in use at time of writing of this article. As the amount of data we use still increases, it is likely that new network technology (which is currently under development) will be made available in the future to cover increased demands. This new standard will then be known as 5G-network technology.
As a result of the growing bandwidth-hunger the telecom industry began looking for ways to optimize network technologies for larger amounts of data

Personal Digital Assistant

In the beginning of the 1980s, advancing technology provided mankind with new devices like the home computer; later was renamed to personal computer, or PC. The decreasing size of electronic components and improving battery technology allowed first experiments with mobile computing devices. An example of this is the Personal Digital Assistant or PDA, a small mobile computing device that was designed to help organizing business life by providing agenda, address books, calculator and memo functionality.[caption id="attachment_82161" align="alignnone" width="347"] The Psion Organiser model 2 from 1986.[/caption]The first PDA to be brought to the market was the Psion Organiser I introduced in 1984. It looked like a desktop calculator with a small display 6 by 6 keyboard and included a plastic sliding cover. The term PDA was first used for the Apple Newton, which was introduced in 1993. The Newton provided stylus to write on the touch screens. Special handwriting recognition software made it possible to transfer scribbles into digital text. Although the Newton was not a huge commercial success, it heralded the transition from mobile devices with full keyboard towards a touch screen and virtual keyboard. A range of competitors brought PDAs to the market of which the PalmPilot is one of the most notable.To synchronize agenda and email with the more elaborate versions of the same applications used on the PC early PDAs connected to the first by cable using the serial port which after some years was ousted by the USB (that was introduced in 1996). Later versions often use Bluetooth and or WiFi as means to synchronize data. Wireless connectivity made it possible that mobile email and Internet access functionality were added to the PDA.

Early hybrids

[caption id="attachment_82162" align="alignnone" width="287"] The Simon Personal Communicator introduced by IBM in 1994.[/caption]The Simon Personal Communicator introduced in 1994 by IBM, was the first mobile phone with touch screen and PDA functionality. It featured 11 built-in typical PDA applications including a calendar, appointment scheduler, to-do list, address book, calculator, world time clock, electronic note pad/sketch pad, handwritten annotations and stylus input screen keyboards. Being the first to combine mobile phone and PDA functionality, the Simon is now also dubbed the first smartphone although that name was not yet used at that time.
The Simon Personal Communicator, which was introduced in 1994 by IBM, is dubbed the first smartphone being the first mobile phone with a touch screen and PDA functionality
[caption id="attachment_82163" align="alignnone" width="640"] The Blackberry RIM 850 introduced in 1999.[/caption]PDAs appeared to be fertile platforms to experiment with hybrid variants. In 1999 Research In Motion (RIM) introduced a PDA annex two-way pager named BlackBerry 850. The device supported email, limited HTML browsing and featured a monochrome screen. From 2002 BlackBerry models featured mobile phone functionality. The BlackBerry still used a physical QWERTY keyboard and became a hit amongst business executives because of its secure email server.

Smartphones

A decade after the Simon Personal Communicator was launched, many mobile electronic devices became available. One of these types was portable audio player for which the Walkman, introduced by Sony in 1979, marked the birth. The first of these devices used analogue tape cassettes, which later evolve towards digital versions using CDs or magnetic discs. Apple cunningly combined available electronic components in the iPod, a first successful mobile audio player using a small hard drive. The iPod became known for its handy user interface and iTunes store that was used to distribute audio and video. Then Apple integrated the iPod, Newton and mobile phone technology in a single device, the iPhone that it introduced in 2007.[caption id="attachment_82164" align="alignnone" width="640"] The first Apple iPhone.[/caption]The first model could only use 2G-network technology and is therefore sometimes referred to as the iPhone 2G. The App Store was not yet available. We now know it was not the first device to combine functionality we now associated with the smartphone. Nevertheless it is now looked upon as the decisive step in the evolution of the smartphone as it was the first to completely do away the fixed keyboard and use a touch screen allowing multiple gesture control on a touch screen and included a camera. Besides, it combined not only basic application like phone, agenda and email but also a range of new applications. The new design with touch screen and the built in many sensors became a sensation and changed industries involved.
Apple integrated the iPod, Newton and mobile phone technology into a single device, which became the iPhone, that was introduced in 2007
Since 3G-network technology became available the increased bandwidth allowed many data hungry mobile applications. Together with increasing computing power and ever more and better sensors this fuelled the amounts of applications available for smartphones, which now appear almost endless. When Apple’s App Store started in 2008 it offered 500 apps. Early 2017 the amount apps featured increased to a stunning 2.2 million. Google opened a same store for its Android OS in 2009 and now features a similar amount of apps.According to research done in 2012 by O2, a mobile telecom operator, the telephone functionality only ranks 5th after Internet browsing, social network use, playing games and listening to music. More recent research by Pew Research Centre (2015) shows a slightly different ranking of typical use of smartphones, but the trend is the same. Types of use we would associate a decade ago with PCs or PDAs are now most common on smartphones. Although we still refer to the device as a (smart)phone, making calls is not among the most frequent types of use anymore. In the meantime PDAs have become obsolete and the feature phone is being ousted by the smartphone. Smartphones have become indispensable tools for many types of communication, access to information, navigation and the functions provides by early PDAs. They have made us busier. However, it is debatable as to whether smartphones have made us more productive.
Although we still refer to the device as a (smart)phone, making calls is no longer one of the most frequent types of use

Mobile computing platform

Being a mobile computing platform, the smartphone heavily relies on its mobile operating system (OS). The OS is an essential part of a computing platform that manages computer hardware and software resources and is thus crucial for a smartphone allowing it to run third-part software. At time of writing Android was installed on nearly 82% of all sold smartphones and iOS on nearly 18%, leaving less than 1% for all other mobile operating systems. Android being provided by Google is an open source system being customised before installation by smartphone vendors like Samsung, Huawei and many others.Also for other mobile devices dedicated operating systems have been developed with Palm OS used on PDAs as a successful example. More recently also ‘smart watches’ have been marketed using a similar OS as smartphones.

Digital socializing

[caption id="attachment_82165" align="alignnone" width="640"]Social Network Flat Icons With Mobile Telephone Vector, Illustration The smartphone has become the platform of choice for social networking.[/caption]Smartphones together with the related tablets, have has become our favourite mobile device for accessing Internet. Social networks like Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn become heavily depending on their mobile access. Presence of high quality digital cameras on smartphones makes them the device of choice to use for interacting on social networks. In recent years Internet has contributed to changing social norms. Online dating has become commonplace and Tinder, a popular app launched in 2012 used to swipe through profiles on smartphone screens, had already over a million paid users in 2016 and at least an order of magnitude more unpaid accounts. With Tinder swiping left become the new normal for rejecting potential dates.
Smartphones have become addictive devices
Although it is known that the blue light produced by smartphone or computer screens makes it more difficult to fall asleep it is not uncommon for smartphones to be used in bed. During dinner and other social activities the use of smartphones is considered undesirable and stirs many discussions. And in traffic it is a known cause of accidents, unfortunately also with deadly consequences. Being social animals with a congenital urge to keep in touch with others, we must face that the smartphones have become addictive devices.Smartphones have become the platform of choice for many types of applications. What initially was regarded as a mobile phone with additional functionality has become more of a personal communication and computing hub. Just as it was hard to imagine two decades ago how we now use this device, it will be hard to imagine what will become of it in another two decades. Further increasing computing power and new technologies like artificial intelligence (AI), augmented- and virtual reality will probably fuel new application areas. As logic consequence types of use will continue to change in the future. It is obvious the evolution of smartphone has not by far come to a standstill. Socializing is set to continue to change. [caption id="attachment_82166" align="alignnone" width="640"] Timeline of the evolution from early telephone to smartphone.[/caption]
The evolution of smartphone has in no way come to a standstill yet and socializing will continue to change

On the origin of the smartphone

The smartphone could not have been invented if the mobile phone and the personal digital assistant had not been around before. These earlier products and other enabling technologies were conditional for the smartphone to emerge.Once the smartphone took off, it further evolved towards a personal communication and computing hub. The phone functionality moved to the background and new forms of socializing took command. Our desire to socialize is innate and surely not an effect of new technologies, rather a cause for their further development. It is therefore clear that the origin of the smartphone is not a self-contained and sudden invention. Earlier products and influences from the environment play a crucial role in the evolution of products as is shown here in the case of the smartphone.On the Origin of Products‘ is published by Cambridge University Press and co-authored by NNN member Huub Ehlhardt. Over the past few weeks, Huub took us on a intellectual joyride on the origins of the word processor, e-bike, LED lamp, and smartphone. [post_title] => On the Origin of the Smartphone [post_excerpt] => [post_status] => publish [comment_status] => open [ping_status] => closed [post_password] => [post_name] => on-the-origin-of-the-smartphone-2 [to_ping] => [pinged] => [post_modified] => 2019-02-07 15:54:02 [post_modified_gmt] => 2019-02-07 14:54:02 [post_content_filtered] => [post_parent] => 0 [guid] => https://nextnature.net/?p=82158 [menu_order] => 0 [post_type] => post [post_mime_type] => [comment_count] => 0 [filter] => raw [post_category] => 0 )[1] => WP_Post Object ( [ID] => 90867 [post_author] => 1764 [post_date] => 2019-01-12 12:00:00 [post_date_gmt] => 2019-01-12 11:00:00 [post_content] =>

For thousands of years people used oil lamps and candles to illuminate their homes during the hours of darkness. Neither produced much light and both were inconvenient in use as their fuel needed to be regularly replenished. Besides that, open fire is notoriously dangerous. Then, at the start of the 19th century, gas lamps fueled by coal-gas distributed by a network of pipes turned out to be an innovative solution for the problem of illuminating the streets of European cities. Gas lamps became a huge success, but also continued to be dangerous because of their open fire and toxic fumes. Numerous theaters illuminated by gas lamp burned down, killing many. The world longed for a safer type of light!

Gas lamps became a huge success, but also continued to be dangerous because of their open fire and toxic fumes

Gas lamp used for street lighting

How a dead frog led to electric light
Progress sometimes comes about as a result of bizarre experiments. That was surely the case with the Italian, Luigi Galvani, who once touched the leg of a dismembered dead frog with a metal object. The frog leg kicked as if alive. This drew people’s attention to the phenomenon of electricity. Alessandro Volta, also Italian, continued experiments in the hope of understanding the phenomenon and developed the first ever battery. This provided the first practical source of electricity, which was then used by David Humphrey for more electrifying experiments. He took huge numbers of batteries and a platinum strip and passed an electric current through it until it illuminated light. And there it was, electric light by incandescence!

No fewer than 19 inventors claimed patents on incandescent lamps before Swan and Edison

A second experiment that produced light used an arc between two carbon rods. The electric arc made it to a first commercialized version of electric light, known as the arc lamp. However, it was not ideal. The lamp produced an intense light that could not be dimmed. What is more, it still produced unpleasant fumes and the rods needed to be replaced regularly.

Incandescent light lit up the worlds electricity use
Decades of pioneering experiments finally delivered incandescent lamps. In 1879 two different inventors on both sides of the North Atlantic claimed a patent for a first incandescent lamp using thin carbon wires that lit up and glowed when sufficient electricity was conducted through them. The inventors in question were Joseph Swan in the UK and Thomas Alva Edison in the USA. They were by no means the first to experiment with these lamps. No fewer than 19 inventors claimed patents on incandescent lamps before Swan and Edison. However, all these pioneering predecessors failed to commercialize their inventions.

The first incandescent lamp by Swan

The incandescent lamp was the first large-scale application of electricity. Obviously this requires power stations to generate and networks to distribute the electricity. In the early days, dual current (DC) dominated and only short distances could be covered between the power station and point of use. At that point in time there was not yet any voltage standard in networks. It was only when networks started using alternating current (AC) that they could cover larger distances and the need arose to use same voltages in coupled AC networks. From that point on the world became divided into 110 Volt and 220 Volt networks, something that has not changed since.

The incandescent lamp was the first large-scale application of electricity

The incandescent lamp was a huge success. The first types with carbon filaments could only be used for about 40 hours. This meant that lamps had to be replaced quite often. As a result a major industry arose for the production of incandescent lamps. These new industrial companies started to employ inventors that experimented with all kinds of materials and constructions with the aim being to increase the lamp’s life. Once it had become clear how tungsten could be processed into ductile filaments, the lifespan of the incandescent lamp improved to approximately a thousand hours. However it still had to be regularly replaced, usually once a year, and the screw base interface was therefore designed and became a standard we still use today. The lamp that evolved in this way became known as the general lighting solution or GLS and continued to be the preferred type of electric light for consumers for almost a century.

The lamp that evolved became known as the general lighting solution or GLS

The origin of your cold office lights: Gas discharge 
Inventors in the mid 19th century discovered that light could be produced by making gas discharge into a glass tube. The process resembles the flash produced by lightning but than on a much smaller scale and in a contained and non-dangerous form. Again, decades of experimenting and some primitive applications were necessary before the elements needed for what became known as the tube lamp (TL) were ready in the early 1930s. Then World War II started and the greater illumination provided by the TLs was welcomed by the wartime manufacturing industry. The volume of TLs used quickly went up. Consumers in Europe and North America, who were used to the warm light of the GLS incandescent lamps, were not keen on lots of cold TL light in their houses. However, in regions where consumers had not yet grown used to incandescent light, the reception was much more positive and TLs swiftly became widely used.

How environmentalism inspired product evolution
Looming disaster proclaimed in ‘The limits to growth’, which was published in 1972 by a think tank named the Club of Rome, kick-started environmentalism. It changed the perspective of many towards the viability of the earth and the availability of natural resources. A year later the first oil crisis also demonstrated how access to oil could suddenly become a problem and people started to realize that it would be beneficial if we could reduce our energy consumption. As a result of these changing circumstances governments started stimulating research into more efficient types of lighting.

The changed perspective towards the viability of the earth and the availability of natural resources prompted governments to stimulate research into more efficient types of lighting

Then, once again, in the same year (1976) and on both sides of the Atlantic, a new type of electric lamp was patented. This time it was the Compact Fluorescent Lamps or CFL. Laboratories of both Philips based in the Netherlands and GE in the United States developed a more conveniently shaped version of the TL with the screw base so that it could be used in the same sockets that, until then, had only accommodated GLS incandescent lamps.

The first Compact Fluorescent Lamp or CFL introduced by Philips in 1981

Initially only Philips commercialised the lamp that was introduced to the market in 1981. This first CFL weighed over half a kilogram and was so bulky it did not fit into many lampshades. Besides its pale light, it also flickered annoyingly during the three minutes it took to heat up and it was expensive. So it was no surprise that people did not really embrace this new lamp.

CFLs had become a viable alternative to the GLS incandescent lamps as a measure to reduce energy consumption to avert climate change

Thanks to lots of development and the ever-shrinking size of electrical components a second generation CFLs was introduced in the 1990s. This second generation became more efficient, more compact and eradicated the flickering. However, it took a second wave of environmentalism for CFLs to become more popular. This time the root cause was global warming induced by greenhouse gases that was discussed in the 1997 Kyoto protocol. Now governments were urged to take measures to reduce energy consumption to avert climate change. The much improved second generation CFLs had become a viable alternative to the GLS incandescent lamps and policymakers recognized the opportunity presented by this energy-efficient alternative. In short, this led to the banning and phasing out of the GLS incandescent lamp over a decade later. In the meantime an even better alternative became available.

The unanticipated better alternative: LED 
The semiconductor industry that emerged at the end of the 1950s gave us more than computer chips. The technology that provides microscopic magic on silicon wafers is also used to make what is called Light Emitting Diodes or LEDs. Officially the family of lighting technology of which the LED is part is called Solid State Lighting (SSL). The first well-known applications of LEDs were the tiny red indicators used on many electronic devices and the LED matrix displays on early desktop calculators. As is common in many fields of technology, initial applications are confined to a narrow set of not so demanding applications. Then, over time, development efforts by armies of scientists and engineers produce much-improved versions of the young technology, allowing it to spread to more demanding applications. The same happened to LED.

The HUE LED lamp that can be controlled via smartphone or tablet

When legislators drafted their plans to phase out the GLS incandescent lamp, they could not yet bank on the availability of the LED lamp. Hence, legislation trusted that the CFL could do the job. However, by the time the GLS incandescent phase-out legislation came into force between 2007 and 2012, the LED bulb had already entered the stage.

When legislators drafted their plans to phase out the GLS incandescent lamp, they could not yet bank on the availability of the LED lamp

Philips first introduced a 60W incandescent GLS equivalent LED bulb in 2009, to replace the old workhorse. At that time the LED bulb was still much more expensive than the CFL, but prices quickly eroded. The first LED bulbs on the market only produced a single light colour and were operated in the same way as traditional GLS incandescent lamps using on-off switches. Only a few years later, in 2012, Philips again introduced an amazing novelty, namely LED lamps that could produce millions of colours, change intensity and were ‘connected’ to the Internet of Things (IoT).

These new lamps can be controlled wireless using a smartphone, even if the user is a long way from home. What is more, apps can be programmed to change light intensity or color in many conditions, thereby expanding the number of possible uses. The incandescent lamp was the killer application of the electrification and now its final successor was set to become the first large-scale IoT application.

LED: the recipe for our future? 
It looks like the LED lamp is the future. Sockets left empty by incandescent lamps skip the CFL and are filled by LED bulbs. Illuminating large surfaces was once the domain of TLs. Now an LED-based alternative is being marketed for TL sockets as well.

The retrofit LED lamp seems to be much better positioned than the CFL to meet consumer desires and needs

The CFL was not very in tune with consumer tastes and, therefore, it could not oust the GLS incandescent lamp on its own merits. The retrofit LED lamp seems to be much better positioned to meet consumer desires and needs. How lamps will evolve in future will remain the topic of debate for some time to come. However, the retrofit use of screw based socket LED bulbs might not last forever. After all, what use is a screw base socket if the lamps are replaced 20 to 50 times less than was common for GLS incandescent lamps?

On the origin of the LED lamp
The LED lamp was made possible by advances in technology that provided LEDs and microelectronics. The available infrastructure of screw base sockets combined with the imminent phase out of the GLS incandescent lamps then provided the conditions for the LED lamp to emerge.

Timeline of the evolution from early gas lamp to LED lamp

The evolution of products like the LED lamp cannot be understood if described in technological terms only. A more comprehensive picture is provided by a description of the factors that influence the emergence and subsequent evolution of these products. In this case societal change created awareness amongst the general public that behavioral changes were needed to avert climate disaster. Policymakers provided legislation that enforced the phase-out of the GLS incandescent lamp, to the benefit of more energy-efficient alternatives. All in all these contextual factors appear to be part and parcel of the evolution of the LED lamp.

On the Origin of Products‘ is published by Cambridge University Press and co-authored by NNN member Huub Ehlhardt. Over the next few weeks, Huub takes us on a intellectual joyride on the origins of the word processor, e-bike, LED lamp, and smartphone. Stay tuned!

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The oldest known serious candidate forerunner for the bicycle is the ‘running machine’ built by the German Baron Karl von Drais. His two-wheeled machine became known as the Draisienne and was first shown to the public in 1817. Two decades later a Scottish blacksmith by the name of Kirkpatrick MacMillan allegedly made a first mechanically propelled bicycle. In 1842 a Glasgow newspaper reported “a gentleman from Dumfries-shire bestride a velocipede of ingenious design” knocked over a little girl and was fined five shillings. This was probably the first bicycle traffic incident and many associate it with MacMillan.

The Draisienne.

The first bicycle designs were made mainly out of wood. Then, in 1866, the Frenchman Michaud made a first completely steel frame bicycle. This was made possible by advances in manufacturing technologies provided by the industrial revolution that also influenced many other new products like the typewriter discussed in the previous article.

The second half of the 19th century witnessed the advent of many bicycle and tricycle designs with both direct and indirect transmission. Michaud’s velocipede was a first with a direct drive to the front wheel. Riding this apparatus was not at all comfortable and required lots of skill and force. This phenomenon was even more strongly apparent in the ‘Ariel’, a bicycle introduced in 1871 by James Starley, that also became known as the ‘High Bi’, ‘Ordinary’ or the ‘Penny-Farthing’. This bicycle was only intended to be ridden by higher middle class and upper class young men who used it to show off their athletic skills. Riding it was not without danger as the 125 cm diameter direct driven front wheel with solid rubber tires gave it a very high centre of gravity. There was as serious risk of toppling over. As these high bicycles were used for sports competitions, the front wheel evolved into larger versions allowing it to be cycled/move even faster. For women or elderly of that time, riding this extreme machine was clearly not seen as an option.

Penny-farthing, high wheel or ordinary.

The ‘Penny-Farthing’ was only intended to be ridden by higher middle class and upper class young men who used it to show off their athletic skills

Experiments with the many bicycle and tricycle designs eventually gave rise to the first modern bicycle that was introduced in 1885 by John Starley (related to the above namesake) and named the ‘Rover Safety Bicycle’. This new machine featured a chain driven rear wheel and a diamond shaped frame. Then in 1888 John Boyd Dunlop invented inflated rubber tires with the aim of damping vibrations. Pneumatic tires provided bicycles with much sought after comfort. It also transpired that the new bicycle design with pneumatic tires allowed for faster cycling than was practically possible with the bouncy High Bi. Besides that it proved to be less difficult to ride and that meant it was no longer only suitable for young and athletic men. Consequently, the iconic high-wheeled bicycle lost its appeal and disappeared from the scene. Soon also women and elderly started to cycle and, in this way, selection by the market favoured the Rover Safety Bicycle. All subsequent bicycles would retain its main design features and, as a result, it became the ‘mother-of-all-bicycles’.

The Rover Safety Bicycle design with pneumatic tires allowed for faster cycling and proved to be less difficult to ride as a result of which women and elderly started to cycle as well

Envisioning the first electric bike

In the 19th century, electricity sparked a lot of experimentation. Besides the incandescent lamp and telephones, electric automobiles were also introduced and commercially produced. An early patent for electric bicycles dates from 1895 when Ogden Bolton from the state of Ohio claimed an improvement in electric bicycles, meaning that they must have existed at the time. However, the electric bicycle did not flourish until more than a century later.

An early patent (US552271 A) for an electric bicycle filed on 19 September 1895 by Ogden Bolton.

New Electrics: the adoption of microelectronics

While the industrial revolution brought us steel in many shapes and types and allowed products like the bicycle to be made, the last half of the 20th century provided us with microelectronics. In the 1990s electronic components became available that enabled sensors and power controls to be made that are essential for a properly functioning e-bike. The advent of laptop computers and mobile telephones also boosted the development of battery types (nickel-cadmium (NiCad), nickel-metal hydride (NiMH) and thereafter lithium-ion polymer (Li-ion)) that were manufactured in huge volumes. This paved the way for new designs for the electric bicycle. Compared to the conventional bicycle it features two new subsystems, namely an electric motor to support propulsion and a battery to provide energy. An example of these new electric bicycles is the Sparta ION, which was introduced in 2003 and which was voted bicycle of the year in 2004. Nevertheless, the new electric bicycle was still met with scepticism and the claim that it was a product for the elderly certainly raised eyebrows.

Set of parts for electric bike construction on white background. Motor, switch and controller
Motor, switch and controller; new parts for electric bike.

Improvements in microelectronics and battery technology made properly functioning e-bikes possible a century after they were first introduced

However, this changed over time thanks to improving technology, more design variants and decreasing costs. The electric propulsion is used as a booster and extended the range of these bicycles. Soon people were using the e-bike to commute and it therefore started competing with other means of transport (mopeds, cars etc.). The sales of electric bicycles increased rapidly, accounting for 21% of new bicycles sold in the Netherlands in 2014, up from 10% in 2008. The increased use of (e)bikes has led to traffic jams and a shortage of parking space. As a consequence Dutch municipalities now anticipate that significant investments will be required to get the bicycle infrastructure up to the required level.

Competing solutions

At the time of writing the electric bicycle is a typical example of a product for which the design has not yet stabilized. There is still a lot of competition between the design variants for the e-motor and battery subsystems. The electric motor is currently offered in three positions, namely A-front wheel, B-rear wheel and C-crank axle. All solutions have their pros and cons.

Different configurations for e-motor (A, B, C) and battery (1, 2, 3) subsystems.

Having the motor in the front wheel (A) is technically the simplest and cheapest solution. However, this position has a negative effect on the controllability of steering as the e-motor kick is a bit abrupt and pulls the front wheel through corners. It is known that this has increased the number of fall incidents, especially amongst elderly people who sometimes have longer reaction times.

Installing the motor in the rear wheel (B) is more expensive as the construction of the rear wheel is more complicated. This position does not have the same drawbacks as the motor positioned in the front wheel. However, it does require a sophisticated mechanism to control the tension on the chain, which, in turn, controls the e-motor. A third, more recent, solution is to place the motor in the crank axle (C). This solution is the most radical in technology and design terms, as it requires the construction of the frame around the crank axle to be changed. This implies the use of a non-standard, and therefore more expensive, frame. However, the advantages of this solution are a more direct drive, robustness, position close to the centre of gravity and the use of cheaper conventional wheels.

As far as the battery is concerned, three design solutions are available, namely 1-beneath the rear carrier, 2-between seat tube and rear wheel and 3-in the down tube. The battery position suggested in the 1895 patent, on the upper tube or the horizontal frame tube, is no longer considered viable. Position 1 beneath the rear carrier is often used. It has the advantages that the battery can easily be exchanged and enables a simple construction. However, it is the highest position used for batteries and significantly increases the centre of gravity, thereby making the bicycle less stable. The advantage of position 2 between seat tube and rear wheel is that it lowers the centre of gravity, thereby increasing stability. The battery can also be exchanged, although not as easily as in position 1. Besides that the frame needs to be adjusted in order to position a battery in position 2, as normally there is insufficient space for a battery here. Position 3 in the down tube also has the advantage that it lowers the centre point of gravity and thus enhances stability. A disadvantage is, however, that the down tube needs to be designed to house the battery, which implies a frame that is not standard and therefore more expensive.

The Flyer T8.1 Comfort.

The different design solutions for subsystems of electric bicycles are still competing in what is an evolutionary race

The Sparta Ion from 2003 was designed with its battery hidden in the down tube (3) in order to avoid looking alien. The e-motor was also visually hidden and placed in the rear wheel. A few years later, the growing popularity of e-bikes allows more design freedom. The e-bike pictured for 2017 in the Flyer T8.1 Comfort was rated ‘best tested’ by Consumentenbond, the Dutch consumers’ association. This e-bike features a large battery between the seat tube and the rear wheel (2) and an e-motor in the crank axle (C).

The different design solutions for subsystems of electric bicycles are still competing in what is an evolutionary race. Time will tell whether certain combinations of subsystems become dominant. Once the competition between different solutions for battery and motor systems is over, it will be easier for consumers to choose which e-bike to buy. What is more, economies of scale will be achieved and prices can go down. This will further boost e-bike sales.

Variants, naming and legislation

E-bikes are classified according to the amount of power support provided and the way this power is activated and controlled. E-bikes provided with up to 250 Watts commonly switch off the power support at speeds in excess of 25 km/h. Pedelec, which is short for pedal electric cycling, is a type of e-bike that is equipped sensors that switch on power support once cycling has started. Those pedelecs with motors rated above 250 Watts can attain much higher speeds and quite often reach 45 km/h or higher. Because of this, these speedy variants are named s-pedelecs.

In the event that the power is provided ‘on demand’ by a throttle, only the generic name e-bike is used. The use of a throttle to activate the power makes the bike behave more like a moped or motorbike. Often these variants have power ratings of over 250 Watts and sometimes even 750 Watts. It may come as no surprise that in many places these beefed up two-wheelers are legally regarded mopeds or motorbikes.

There is no international standard, regulations vary widely and many countries are still struggling with the legal status of e-bikes

The legal classification has consequences for the type of roads the vehicles are allowed on, license plate demands and age requirements. There is no international standard and regulations vary widely. Obviously many countries are still struggling with the legal status of e-bikes. In some settings legislation will influence the development of the specifications for new e-bikes. In other situations the development of legislation will follow the evolution of e-bikes. In any event the future of the e-bike will be affected by the interaction between advancing product and legislation.

Timeline of the evolution from early bicycle to e-bike.

The origin of the e-bike

The story of the origin of the e-bike shows that this product was not ‘suddenly invented’ but emerged from an evolutionary process in which many factors influenced each other. The first e-bike incarnations were conceived not long after the ‘mother-of-all-bicycles’ appeared at the end of the 19th century and built on that design. However, the required technologies for power storage and control first had to evolve before satisfactorily functioning e-bikes could be designed and manufactured. The developments in battery technology and microelectronics at the end of the 20th century have thus been crucial for the rebirth of the e-bike. Meanwhile, it seems that the evolution of e-bikes is still going on.

As happened to the old-fashioned bicycle, the product was initially frowned upon as something that was unsuitable for healthy young men. Soon, however, the product turned out to be quite useful for certain types of use, such as commuting, and even better than other products. This made the e-bike acceptable to larger groups of users and this greatly boosted sales and its further evolution. Social conditions like perception by consumers therefore play a significant role in shaping the evolution of products.

On the Origin of Products‘ is published by Cambridge University Press and co-authored by NNN member Huub Ehlhardt. Over the next few weeks, Huub takes us on a intellectual joyride on the origins of the word processor, LED lamp, e-bike and smartphone. Stay tuned!

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Writing is recognised as one of mankind’s foremost inventions and the mechanization of writing is one of these developments that typify what is commonly regarded as the work of genius inventors. However, the typewriter was not ‘suddenly invented’, but emerged from the work of many inventors who all contributed inventive steps.

Analogue introductions: the mechanical typewriter

In 1714 the English inventor Henry Mill patented a “machine for transcribing letters”. The industrial revolution that started some decades later provided a wide variety of manufacturing technologies that have supported the conception of many new types of useful products. From the beginning of the 19th century onwards there was an increase in inventive activities that led to the creation of the typewriter and these quickly provided the many small inventive steps that make up a leap. One of the many inventors working on a device to mechanise writing was Christopher Latham Sholes who, together with Glidden and Soule, patented a typewriter in 1868. After many improvements this led to a first typewriter with a QWERTY-based keyboard. Remington in the USA started manufacturing this typewriter in 1873. With this device the mechanisation of writing really took off.

The Sholes-Glidden-Soule typewriter

The typewriter was not ‘suddenly invented’, but emerged from the work of many inventors who all contributed inventive steps

The typewriter was developed on the basis of the promise that its operator would write faster and more clearly than was possible by hand. This gave the typewriter economic potential. Of course, one first had to go through a learning curve to master the keyboard and, as later transpired, that learning curve provided the reason why we still use the same layout. Mastering one type of keyboard requires time and effort, which goes to waste if you start using a different type. Hence, once a particular standard has been learned, people tend to stick to it and the more people use it, the more valuable it becomes. This self-reinforcing effect meant that QWERTY became the de facto standard typewriter keyboard layout and is now locked in to our capability set. Versions other than QWERTY have been developed to accommodate particular languages. The French use AZERTY and Germans use QWERTZ. For these layouts the same applies, namely that once people are used to it, they tend to stick to it. And for a reason. Just try a version you are not used to and you will quickly discover how confusing it is being lost on a keyboard.

The typewriter proliferated after the mid-1880s and soon it became an indispensable tool, particularly for business correspondence. New job types like secretary and telephone operator created opportunities for women to work beyond the confines of the home. The typewriter and its contemporary telephone became the secretary’s standard tools. Without answering the question of whether the typewriter and the telephone are a cause or an effect of social change, it is evident that the new technologies played a significant role in the liberation of women.

The typewriter soon it became an indispensable business tool and, together with the telephone, played a significant role in the liberation of women

Changing Environments: the rise of the electrical typewriters

The early day typewriters were quite cumbersome devices to use because of what was described as the “hammer and peck” method. This spurred inventors to look for solutions to overcome this problem in an attempt to provide ‘new and improved’ products. One of the solutions developed for the mechanical typewriter became known as touch-typing. Another solution to reduce the amount of force required to operate the mechanical typewriter was found in using electric power, a technology that was still in its infancy at the beginning of the 20th century.

The Blickensderfer Electric

The Blickensderfer Electric was introduced to the world at the Pan-American Exhibition in Buffalo as long ago as 1901. This first electric typewriter was ahead of its time. Indeed, it was so far ahead that electric power transmission had not even been standardized yet. The fact that voltages changed from one town to the next was a likely reason for its commercial failure. As electrification continued to develop, standards were set and the environment became receptive to electric typewriters. As a result numerous variants were developed and manufactured in the following decades.

It takes more than a good idea to be successful, circumstances need to be favourable as well

The International Business Machines Corporation, better known as IBM, was one of the many companies active in the development and manufacturing of office equipment. IBM became very successful with is Selectric line of electric typewriters. The first Selectric was introduced in 1961. Various models appeared on the market until IBM introduced a successor in 1984. The Selectric featured a ‘typeball’ instead of many separate typebars. This made it possible to change fonts and therefore increased the functionality of this particular machine. Remarkably, the first Blickensderfers had also featured a cylindrical typewheel which provided similar benefits to IBM’s typeball. Unfortunately for Blickensderfer their typewheel was short-lived. This shows that it takes more than a good idea to be successful. Circumstances need to be favourable as well.

Getting Electronic: combining product species of computers and typewriters

Once the electric typewriters had gained ground, and the first computers had been produced, inventors started combining the two. One of the first experiments in this field is the Colossal Typewriter introduced in 1960, which became known as one of the first text editors. It required an electric typewriter as input means, a display and a ‘computer’ like the Programmed Data Processor-1 which, as was common in those days, still had the size and looks of an office storage cabinet.

The Colossal typewriter

In any event, the primordial word processor had been born. In the 1970s, more compact electronic versions of the typewriter gained ground. The New York Times reports in 1971 that ‘word processing’ was the ‘buzz word’ of a business equipment trade show. According to manufacturers presenting at the show, it would ‘replace the traditional secretary and give women new administrative roles in business and industry’.

In the years that followed, the electronic typewriter became a more common phenomenon in the workplace.

Electronic typewriters enhanced with embedded software became known as word processors

The Brother-EP20, an early word processor.

One example of those machines is the Brother EP-20, which was introduced in 1983. This electronic typewriter featured a small dot matrix display on which typed text appeared. It also included a memory that allowed text to be stored and corrected where necessary. These electronic typewriters enhanced with embedded software became known as word processors. The use of a new name like this is typical for the emergence of a new type of product with new functionality well beyond that of its predecessor.

The hyping market of word processing software

Evolutionary pressures ensured that these early word processors soon received competition. The reason for this was the development of microcomputers in the 1970s that were introduced to fill niches that the mainframe computers of that age could not serve. Microcomputers were followed by home computers, which eventually became known as personal computers or PCs. As a result of ongoing miniaturization of microprocessors, the brains of these machines, PCs rapidly became more powerful.

The availability of these new small computers, displays and matrix printers made it possible to develop software applications for PCs that provided word processor functionality. With the advent of more software and stronger microprocessors, these PCs became more versatile and swiftly became commonplace throughout the business world. As a result the functionality first provided by electronic typewriters now shifted towards a software application on the PC and the digitalization of writing took off. Being a software application allowed the new word processor to evolve much faster than its ancestor that was trapped in a typewriter. As a result this functional shift signalled the end of the relevance of both the mechanical and electric typewriter.

The keyboard, however, survived and separated to become a new type of product in its own right. QWERTY and its variants still thrive today in these keyboards and their touch screen cousins.

Functionality first provided by electronic typewriters now shifted towards a software application on the PC

Word processor software became the one of the first popular applications on the PC and hugely improved office productivity. In 1971 a third of all working women in the USA were secretaries. The job type of secretary was closely linked to the existence of the typewriter. As few managers of that time acquired typing skills, the typist fulfilled an essential role in offices. However, the advent of word processors that not only allowed text to be corrected but also supported it with spell checker functionality meant that users only needed minimal typing skills. This too slowly but surely reduced the demand for typists.

The usage of word processor software rapidly increased, with lots of different designs and vendors competing. In around 1980 dozens of software brands were selling word processor software. WordStar became the first market leader in 1979, a role that was taken over by WordPerfect in 1985. In 1986 PC Magazine featured a review comparing a stunning total of no fewer than 57 different word processor software brands. This was clearly the heyday of word processor software. Incremental features were added such as multiple font sets, spell checking, grammar checking, thesaurus, formatting options and different formats to save text. WordPerfect used a text markup method not very unlike HTML code. The 5.1 release from WordPerfect featured a print preview mode showing text without the markup code. At the time the print preview mode was referred to as WYSIWYG (what you see is what you get), a quite unique feature at a time that the graphical interface was not yet standard.

Word processing software. The left figure is WordStar marketed since 1978 and the first market leader. In the middle WordPerfect marketed since 1979. Its R4.2 overtook WordStar as most popular. R5.1 (1989) was most popular version and the dominant design for Word Processor software from 1985 till 1991. The Right figure is the logo used for Microsoft Word, which took over the role of most popular Word Processor software after 1991 when Microsoft had launched Windows 3.0.

Over the years more and more features were introduced into word processor software, further advancing the productivity of its users. These include collaborative editing, table of content formatting, version control and document statistics.

More and more features were introduced into word processor software, further advancing the productivity of its users

Together with the advance of the PC and word processor software, printers also become more affordable. In particular, the spread of laser and inkjet printers allowed users to print sharp and versatile fonts. This led to the decline of the typewriter. Although typewriters have not disappeared completely, they have lost their significance. The introduction of retro models functioning only as computer keyboards underlines their status as museum pieces.

The next evolutionary development: AI and word processing

Professionals like lawyers, doctors and translators have used software that converts spoken word into written text to increase their productivity for some years now. Recently, artificial intelligence (AI) entered the domain of writing and enabled a functionality named ‘predictive text input’. A software application ‘learns’ from previous texts and uses neural networks to predict which next word a writer is working on. This application first appeared on smartphones where it is particularly useful as the small screens leave little room for full size keyboards. Using this application can both hugely increase speed or productivity and produce strange sentences. Users have to be wary and check what has been entered before sending messages. An example of this software is SwiftKey. The company started operating in 2008 and was acquired by Microsoft in 2016. This makes one wonder whether predictive text input might soon feature in word processor software. Whatever Microsoft’s intentions are with the acquisition of this predictive text input software, there is no reason to expect that the evolution of writing will stop there. As AI is the big new thing, it seems fair to assume that it will somehow affect the further evolution of writing. It is only a matter of time before a new name and a new type of (software) product will surely emerge.

Timeline of the evolution from early typewriter to word processor.

It seems fair to assume that AI will somehow affect the further evolution of writing

The origin of the word processor

The word processor did not simply come from nowhere. It originated from a series of innovations that improved writing productivity. The original mechanical typewriter was an important ancestor in its line of origin. The typewriter evolved further, while making good use of technologies that were originally developed for other purposes. Over the period of a century many intermediate products evolved and, without this being pre-planned, paved the way, step-by-step, for the word processor.

Just as in speciation of natural organisms, the environment played a crucial role in the evolution of the word processor. Social economic developments like women’s liberation went hand in hand with the advent of new products like the typewriter and telephone. Later, the advent of the personal computer and, in its wake, the word processor again changed the labour market. The office environment in which many people work thus affected the emergence and evolution of these products. This environment appears to be part and parcel of the evolution of both the typewriter and the word processor.

On the Origin of Products‘ is published by Cambridge University Press and co-authored by NNN member Huub Ehlhardt. Over the next few weeks, Huub takes us on a intellectual joyride on the origins of the word processor, LED lamp, e-bike and smartphone. Stay tuned!

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"To understand why a product is the way it is today, you need to learn about its evolutionary background." Meet Huub Ehlhardt, an engineer with a PhD in product design. Huub believes that innovation is best not described as a sequence of disruptive inventions, but as a gradual evolution of products. Together with Arthur Eger, he wrote On the Origin of Products; The Evolution of Product Innovation and Design. Over the next few weeks, Huub takes us on an intellectual joyride on the origins of the word processor, LED lamp, e-bike and smartphone. Kicking off the series, we sat down with Huub to learn what he's all about.

The evolution of this book

“Publishing and writing this book became a life-mission and hobbythat has gotten way out of hand,” Huub explains. More than enthusiastic, he tells me about the evolution of his own product, this book.

“I used to doubt between studying biology and technical engineering. In the end, I got to combine them. Long after I had written my first essay on evolutionary patterns I saw in technological developments, I got to meet professor Arthur Eger and soon started my PhD with him. By then, Arthur had written his dissertation about the same idea; our two dissertations combined became the basis of this book. Many of our students contributed to the work as well.”

An evolutionary 'tree of products'

"First we had candle light, then the incandescent light, next the energy-saving Compact Fluorescent Lamp or CFL, and now the LED lamp." Huub shows me the carefully crafted figures in his book, filled with mad-induced evolutionary 'trees of technology'. “Seeing this pattern of evolutionary development within the history of products, allows us to gain a more holistic view of innovation."

“People often think innovation needs to be disruptive and radical to be any good, suggesting that every invention should be entirely new and special. I think this is a fallacy. Innovation is way more nuanced.”

"We follow the tree branches of technological descent down to their roots, from the highest complexities we see around us nowadays, to the simplicity of early human tools. At some points in the trees, branches sprout, this is where a disruptive new technology emerged, upon which many others were built, like the high variety of products that came after we discovered and enabled electricity, or the world wide web. A speciation event of technology, one might say.”

Genes for biology, memes for technology

Information travels through the biological trees of life (similar to the one Darwin drew many years ago) stored in our genetics, our DNA. How does that work for technology?

“In biology, you have genes that contain masses of stored information. In technology, you don’t have genes but knowledge. I recognize two types of knowledge: the 'know-how', the knowledge of how to make something, and the 'know-what', the knowledge of functionality, the ‘why’ you make your design. This knowledge accumulates over time and manifests in a product.”

“Darwin, at the time of writing his book ‘On the Origin of Species’, had no idea there was such a thing as DNA or genetics; he showed that knowledge of this small carrier of biological information is not needed to get a good sense of the patterns of evolution. Nowadays we also don’t have a clear idea of the smallest ‘carrier’ of our knowledge within technology.”

Today, if we would try to approach an understanding of this carrier, the term ‘memetics’ comes to mind.

“Richard Dawkins, the English evolutionary biologist, brought the idea of memes into the world as a sidetrack of his book ‘The Selfish Gene’. The concept of the meme as a unit of knowledge, information and ideas has become a widely used term. However, it did not lead to scientific breakthrough, as we cannot measure this unit of information yet."

On reproduction, extinction and niches

“Memes live in the minds of the people, in books, in photos. They’re in that sense not inextricably connected to products, like genes are tied to organisms. It is therefore hard for product-species to go extinct: as long as memories of the products exist, you can reproduce them - unlike in biology, where you need the species to be alive to reproduce.”

Memes are traveling further and faster as global communication has flourished over the last few decades. “This ever faster spread of information is probably responsible for increasing the speed of evolution of products across the globe, but it also made certain products more uniform across the world. Nevertheless, I think the variety in cultures will keep causing differences in the products. You’ll find large cars in America where towns were laid out for cars, and small cars in the centuries old cities of Europe that have more narrow roads, and moreover, levy more tax on fuel.”

The Darwin of products?

Combining biology and technology is most strongly articulated in the title of the publication, a clear nod towards Darwin’s revolutionary book 'On the Origin of Species'. “The title of the book was more of a joke to us in the long list of titles we send to the publisher. But they immediately went for it.”

After publishing the book, Huub was eager to make sure the knowledge wouldn’t remain within the pages. “A dream of mine is to spark a new educational system around this perspective. A question would be, if we can find a way to minimize negative technologies and simulate positive technologies through the lens of it - I sure hope so.”

“I hope that through reading these stories, people will gain a fascination for technological evolution. Technology and society adapt to each other continuously. Technological development manifests itself more as gradual evolution, not a sequence of brilliant discoveries of genius inventors, but an interaction of the environment, ideas, many people, and a rich evolution that builds on previous developments.”

'On the Origin of Products' is published by Cambridge University Press and co-authored by NNN member Huub Ehlhardt. Over the next few weeks, Huub takes us on a intellectual joyride on the origins of the word processor, LED lamp, e-bike and smartphone. Stay tuned!

Cover art by Cyanne van den Houten.

[post_title] => Interview: Huub Ehlhardt on the evolution of products [post_excerpt] => [post_status] => publish [comment_status] => open [ping_status] => closed [post_password] => [post_name] => interview-huub-ehlhardt-on-the-origin-of-products-2 [to_ping] => [pinged] => [post_modified] => 2018-12-07 13:15:34 [post_modified_gmt] => 2018-12-07 12:15:34 [post_content_filtered] => [post_parent] => 0 [guid] => https://nextnature.net/?p=91126 [menu_order] => 0 [post_type] => post [post_mime_type] => [comment_count] => 0 [filter] => raw [post_category] => 0 )[5] => WP_Post Object ( [ID] => 81412 [post_author] => 1613 [post_date] => 2018-04-23 08:27:40 [post_date_gmt] => 2018-04-23 07:27:40 [post_content] => Scientists believe the introduction of a hormone-like system, such as the one found in the human brain, could give AI the ability to reason and make decisions like people do. Recent research indicates human emotion, to a certain extent, is the byproduct of learning. And that means machines may have to risk depression or worse if they ever want to think or feel.Zachary Mainen, a neuroscientist at the Champalimaud Centre for the Unknown in Lisbon, speaking at the Canonical Computation in Brains and Machines symposium, discussed the implications of recent experiments to discover the effects serotonin has on decision making.[youtube]https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dMHhcf3jAPE[/youtube]According to Mainen and his team, serotonin may not be related to ‘mood’ or emotional states such as happiness, but instead is a neuro-modulator designed to update and change learning parameters in the brain.He even opines that such mechanisms may be necessary for machine learning, despite some potentially disturbing side effects, namely the ones people suffer from. In an interview with Science, he said:"Depression and hallucinations appear to depend on a chemical in the brain called serotonin. It may be that serotonin is just a biological quirk. But if serotonin is helping solve a more general problem for intelligent systems, then machines might implement a similar function, and if serotonin goes wrong in humans, the equivalent in a machine could also go wrong."The research is still fairly nascent and requires further testing, but experiments conducted on mice indicate serotonin plays a large role in what ‘data’ the brain chooses to keep and how much weight it’s given. In essence, the results of the research show serotonin and dopamine may be intrinsic to the facilitation of a developing intelligence.In order to determine how serotonin affects decision making, scientists gave mice a choice between two paths, left or right. At the end of one path they placed a reward in the form of water. Once the mice were familiar with the location of the reward the team was able to trigger a serotonin response in the rodents by moving the water and surprising them. Whether the mice found the water wasn’t much of a factor in whether serotonin levels spiked or not, but whether it was surprised was.When Mainen’s team conducted further experiments, including manually activating serotonin production in an animal running around in a field, they found subjects would slow down and consider the situation almost immediately after a spike. This, according to Mainen, indicates serotonin causes a learning system to place less value on things that just happened (the previous input), instead working to change previous assumptions. This is something that could greatly benefit AI.The researchers also injected the same mice with a serotonin inhibitor and found that learning became delayed. With the hormone, or neurotransmitter as it’s often referred to as,  it only took a couple of days for their brains to normalize new data. That time was increased when the mice weren’t able to naturally release serotonin. And that means serotonin (and its effects) may be crucial for human learning.Whether or not this is useful to machine learning developers depends on how closely they intend to mimic the human brain. Some scientists argue that chemical imbalances in an organic brain are anomalous, but Mainen’s research seems to indicate otherwise. His team hypothesizes that hyper-modulators, similar to serotonin, could be used as ‘shortcuts’ to keep autonomous systems from becoming stuck in outdated models.Designing robots to deal with a static environment using supervised learning likely won’t prepare machines to deal with the constantly changing real world. But giving them emotions and the capacity to hallucinate things that aren’t real doesn’t seem like a good idea either.Nobody has time to talk their Tesla out of the garage before work because it thinks the Ford Focus next door is secretly plotting against it.This story is published in partnership with The Next Web. Read the original piece here.Cover image via YouTube: Sad Robot Song. [post_title] => Future AI may hallucinate and get depressed — just like the rest of us [post_excerpt] => [post_status] => publish [comment_status] => open [ping_status] => closed [post_password] => [post_name] => future-ai-may-hallucinate [to_ping] => [pinged] => [post_modified] => 2018-04-23 08:28:29 [post_modified_gmt] => 2018-04-23 07:28:29 [post_content_filtered] => [post_parent] => 0 [guid] => https://nextnature.net/?p=81412 [menu_order] => 0 [post_type] => post [post_mime_type] => [comment_count] => 0 [filter] => raw [post_category] => 0 )[6] => WP_Post Object ( [ID] => 81354 [post_author] => 1510 [post_date] => 2018-04-18 11:35:27 [post_date_gmt] => 2018-04-18 10:35:27 [post_content] => What if plastics one day become a rare commodity that we desire and mine from the depths of the earth’s crust? By that time, plastic would be a rather different material. Shahar Livne offers a fast-forward to this next nature, by artificially geomimicing metamorphisms. She shares with us her speculative material: the “lithoplast”.We sat down with Shahar Livne, an Israeli-born designer who graduated from the Design Academy in Eindhoven. This week, she is showcasing her work at the Milan Design week. We spoke about her research into metamorphism as a design tool, and how this led her to envision the future of plastics. 

Material narratives through metamorphism

“I’m a material designer. I’m interested in the philosophical and cultural aspects of materials. I aim to use them to tell a story.” One of the many materials that may tell a story, are rocks. “Over time, rocks go through a lot of transformations inside the Earth.” One of these transformations, is metamorphism. “This is a natural process, resulting in natural rocks, through which I am uniquely able to tell a story.”The Earth’s history is told by the rock-layering of the earth’s crust. Humanity is uniquely present in that story, by leaving a global mark on our technosphere. The most prominent material-marker of humanity, are plastics.[caption id="attachment_81355" align="alignnone" width="640"] A lithoplast rock made by Shahar Livne[/caption]

Exploring plastics

“Plastic is the first man-made material that we have changed on a molecular level. Plastics are made from the natural material of oil, and were developed to imitate and enhance nature." “I drew upon an essay by Koert van Mensvoort, and was particularly inspired by the concept of Hypernature. I think plastic is a hypernatural material. With plastics, we’re able to model and control nature.”Plastics are made to be durable, and may survive much longer than we had imagined. There is no place in the world that is free from plastics anymore.” Despite our efforts of recycling, and cleaning up the oceans, plastics will most likely be a future fossil. Shahar dares to accept this scenario and explores what this future may look like.
"Plastic is a hypernatural material"
Nature is already taking plastic into itself. At some point, plastic hybridized with natural materials.” The first example of this hybrid material, are ‘plastic conglomerates’. These are nature-made-rocks that harbor pieces of plastic within them. These have gone through the earliest stages of the rock-cycle, similar to the process by which dead shellfish pressurize into limestone, making up the iconic white cliffs of England. However, it's possible that materials like rock or plastic stay within the earth’s crust for longer. This is when the natural process of metamorphism takes place. Under high pressures and temperatures, limestone may turn into marble, or charcoal turns into diamonds.“I wondered, could plastics last through the full rock-cycle? So, I started talking to geologists. They agreed that our plastics will most probably one day be metamorphosed.”“That vision of the future, is what grasped me. That’s how I got to my speculative material version of the future. A newly created material: the lithoplast.”
"Nature is already taking plastic into itself. At some point, plastic hybridized with natural materials"
[caption id="attachment_81362" align="alignnone" width="640"] Shahar shares: “I had never expected that people would be so eager to touch the lithoplasts. The moment they pick it up their faces are almost always fully surprised. People expect a heavy material like a stone, but plastic is a lot lighter.”[/caption]

Presenting the future of plastics

“To make the lithoplast, I’m geomimicing something that doesn’t happen in nature just yet.”“In natural settings, I expect that all kinds of plastics will metamorphose together with other minerals. To mimic this, I mix the plastics with minestone and marble dust. This distinguishes my method from 3D printing, where you can only use certain types of plastics and have to divide them yourself.”“To mimic metamorphism, I have access to a huge press. This machine can expose my mix to such high pressures and temperatures that the material completely changes. The material stretches, and becomes malleable.”Malleability is a celebrated characteristic of plastics; you can make it into any form you like. “However, the timespan for molding plastics in traditional methods, industrial plastics and 3D printers, only lasts a few seconds. This time-frame makes plastic inherently a machine-made material.”
"In the future, we may rediscover this beautiful material of our wasted plastics, and start mining them"
“What I discovered, is that through my method of metamorphism, the lithoplast stays malleable for much longer. We think this happens due to the mixture I use.  This unique aspect allows me to mold the material by hand - as if it is clay. This interaction with the material, is much more like craftmanship.” Her next-material may envision a goldsmith of the future: the plastic smith!Her work envisions a more positive view on our waste culture. “What I think will happen, is that we will reach a point where we won’t be able to make plastics anymore. At that point, we may rediscover this beautiful material of our wasted plastics, and start mining them.”“When I tell people that I’m not recycling plastics, but envisioning a far future with fossilized plastics in it, some people may get angry. I think that makes sense: many of us put a lot of effort into recycling our plastics, we simply don’t want to see our plastic waste become a part of nature. I want people to start thinking differently about plastics, on a larger timescale.”[caption id="attachment_81363" align="alignnone" width="640"] The malleability of the lithoplasts, allows Shahar to hand-make objects, like a craftsman.[/caption]

Milan design week

Shahar is excited to present her work during Milan design week. She’ll be doing two exhibitions as part of her metamorphism research. “Firstly, I’m invited by the organization of Ventura Future to exhibit in their collection on future materials and technologies. Here, I will be treating the lithoplasts like clay, and make vases with them, that either are ‘rough’ or really ‘fine’. So, the vases change in meaning from looking really natural to looking really synthetic.”“I’m also exhibiting with Dutch Invirtuals, a design collective. One of their exhibits is exploring the future of mining, and is part of the exhibition “Mutant Matter”. Here I will present the lithoplast like altars, to illustrate the idea that we could also be worshipping plastics instead of wasting them.”

The future of the lithoplast

In the future, Shahar hopes to publish her research on metamorphism in book form. Her graduation research will be a part of this. “This research will explore our perceptions on the natural-born and man-made, our cultural uses of plastics, and I’ll research the idea of craftsmanship.” Her favorite part of her designs, lies in the dialogue it invites. “I'm now developing a methodology on material research and design, whilst doing my residency at the ‘materials experience lab’ at TU Delft. I realized that what I like most about my materials such as the lithoplasts, is how I can ask people lots of questions with it.”“One of my favorite questions I like to ask people about my work is: 'If we are natural, and we are making plastic, then is plastic not a natural material?' Think about it.Thank you Shahar Livne, for sharing your viewpoints with us! We are looking forward to your exhibit in Milan, and the many more next-materials you may make. [post_title] => Interview: Designer Shahar Livne is geomimicing the future of plastics [post_excerpt] => [post_status] => publish [comment_status] => open [ping_status] => closed [post_password] => [post_name] => interview-shahar-livne [to_ping] => [pinged] => [post_modified] => 2018-04-20 10:53:30 [post_modified_gmt] => 2018-04-20 09:53:30 [post_content_filtered] => [post_parent] => 0 [guid] => https://nextnature.net/?p=81354 [menu_order] => 0 [post_type] => post [post_mime_type] => [comment_count] => 0 [filter] => raw [post_category] => 0 )[7] => WP_Post Object ( [ID] => 81346 [post_author] => 1605 [post_date] => 2018-04-17 08:36:53 [post_date_gmt] => 2018-04-17 07:36:53 [post_content] => Scientists have created a mutant enzyme that breaks down plastic drinks bottles – by accident. The breakthrough could help solve the global plastic pollution crisis by enabling for the first time the full recycling of bottles.The new research was spurred by the discovery in 2016 of the first bacterium that had naturally evolved to eat plastic, at a waste dump in Japan. Scientists have now revealed the detailed structure of the crucial enzyme produced by the bug.The international team then tweaked the enzyme to see how it had evolved, but tests showed they had inadvertently made the molecule even better at breaking down the PET (polyethylene terephthalate) plastic used for soft drink bottles. “What actually turned out was we improved the enzyme, which was a bit of a shock,” said Prof John McGeehan, at the University of Portsmouth, UK, who led the research. “It’s great and a real finding.”The mutant enzyme takes a few days to start breaking down the plastic – far faster than the centuries it takes in the oceans. But the researchers are optimistic this can be speeded up even further and become a viable large-scale process.“What we are hoping to do is use this enzyme to turn this plastic back into its original components, so we can literally recycle it back to plastic,” said McGeehan. “It means we won’t need to dig up any more oil and, fundamentally, it should reduce the amount of plastic in the environment.”About 1m plastic bottles are sold each minute around the globe and, with just 14% recycled, many end up in the oceans where they have polluted even the remotest parts, harming marine life and potentially people who eat seafood. “It is incredibly resistant to degradation. Some of those images are horrific,” said McGeehan. “It is one of these wonder materials that has been made a little bit too well.”However, currently even those bottles that are recycled can only be turned into opaque fibres for clothing or carpets. The new enzyme indicates a way to recycle clear plastic bottles back into clear plastic bottles, which could slash the need to produce new plastic.“You are always up against the fact that oil is cheap, so virgin PET is cheap,” said McGeehan. “It is so easy for manufacturers to generate more of that stuff, rather than even try to recycle. But I believe there is a public driver here: perception is changing so much that companies are starting to look at how they can properly recycle these.”The new research, published in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, began by determining the precise structure of the enzyme produced by the Japanese bug. The team used the Diamond Light Source, near Oxford, UK, an intense beam of X-rays that is 10bn times brighter than the sun and can reveal individual atoms.The structure of the enzyme looked very similar to one evolved by many bacteria to break down cutin, a natural polymer used as a protective coating by plants. But when the team manipulated the enzyme to explore this connection, they accidentally improved its ability to eat PET.“It is a modest improvement – 20% better – but that is not the point,” said McGeehan. “It’s incredible because it tells us that the enzyme is not yet optimised. It gives us scope to use all the technology used in other enzyme development for years and years and make a super-fast enzyme.”Industrial enzymes are widely used in, for example, washing powders and biofuel production, They have been made to work up to 1,000 times faster in a few years, the same timescale McGeehan envisages for the plastic-eating enzyme. A patent has been filed on the specific mutant enzyme by the Portsmouth researchers and those from the US National Renewable Energy Laboratory in Colorado.One possible improvement being explored is to transplant the mutant enzyme into an “extremophile bacteria” that can survive temperatures above the 70C melting point of PET – the plastic is likely to degrade 10-100 times faster when molten.Earlier work had shown that some fungi can break down PET plastic, which makes up about 20% of global plastic production. But bacteria are far easier to harness for industrial uses.Other types of plastic could be broken down by bacteria currently evolving in the environment, McGeehan said: “People are now searching vigorously for those.” PET sinks in seawater but some scientists have conjectured that plastic-eating bugs might one day be sprayed on the huge plastic garbage patches in the oceans to clean them up.“I think [the new research] is very exciting work, showing there is strong potential to use enzyme technology to help with society’s growing waste problem,” said Oliver Jones, a chemist at RMIT University in Melbourne, Australia, and not part of the research team.“Enzymes are non-toxic, biodegradable and can be produced in large amounts by microorganisms,” he said. “There is still a way to go before you could recycle large amounts of plastic with enzymes, and reducing the amount of plastic produced in the first place might, perhaps, be preferable. [But] this is certainly a step in a positive direction.”Prof Adisa Azapagic, at the University of Manchester in the UK, agreed the enzyme could be useful but added: “A full life-cycle assessment would be needed to ensure the technology does not solve one environmental problem – waste – at the expense of others, including additional greenhouse gas emissions.”This story is republished from The Guardian. Read the original piece here. [post_title] => Scientists accidentally create mutant enzyme that eats plastic bottles [post_excerpt] => [post_status] => publish [comment_status] => open [ping_status] => closed [post_password] => [post_name] => mutant-enzyme [to_ping] => [pinged] => [post_modified] => 2018-04-19 11:46:09 [post_modified_gmt] => 2018-04-19 10:46:09 [post_content_filtered] => [post_parent] => 0 [guid] => https://nextnature.net/?p=81346 [menu_order] => 0 [post_type] => post [post_mime_type] => [comment_count] => 0 [filter] => raw [post_category] => 0 )[8] => WP_Post Object ( [ID] => 81132 [post_author] => 873 [post_date] => 2018-03-26 09:09:41 [post_date_gmt] => 2018-03-26 08:09:41 [post_content] => Mon dieu! The swirling pile of trash in the Pacific Ocean is growing at an exponential rate. A recent study has estimated that the mass of the garbage island is four to sixteen times bigger than previously thought, and is now three times the size of France.From its invention in 1907, plastic and plastic-derived chemicals have worked their way into the rungs of every food chain on Earth. Plastic might be the newest nutrient in the planet’s ecosystems, but so far, nature has yet to find a use for it.Watch the explainer below and learn more about the exponential growth of this plastic superpower. [embed]http://www.youtube.com/watch?time_continue=160&v=0EyaTqezSzs[/embed] The only sensible way to think of plastic is as a raw Next Nature material, waiting for its balancing counterpart to evolve.Nature changes along with us, and nature made by people is as wild and unpredictable as the old nature preceding us. Yet, in line with our position as catalysts of evolution, it seems sensible to endeavor to steer towards a balance that is considerate of our own interests and those of our fellow species. Designing plastic eating microbes, if we must.Have thoughts? Let us know in the comments below! [post_title] => The Great Pacific garbage "patch" is now three times the size of France [post_excerpt] => [post_status] => publish [comment_status] => open [ping_status] => closed [post_password] => [post_name] => plastic-patch-france [to_ping] => [pinged] => [post_modified] => 2018-04-17 11:38:14 [post_modified_gmt] => 2018-04-17 10:38:14 [post_content_filtered] => [post_parent] => 0 [guid] => https://nextnature.net/?p=81132 [menu_order] => 0 [post_type] => post [post_mime_type] => [comment_count] => 0 [filter] => raw [post_category] => 0 )[9] => WP_Post Object ( [ID] => 78470 [post_author] => 1433 [post_date] => 2017-12-19 10:00:01 [post_date_gmt] => 2017-12-19 09:00:01 [post_content] => In 2011, a massive tsunami in Japan swept all kind of objects from the land out to the sea. Now, a huge amount of plastic and other debris pollute the shoreline along the Pacific Ocean. Although 70 percent of the trash sank to the sea bottom, many debris remained afloat and eventually reached as far as Alaska, Canada and the US.While on the water, these chunks of plastic have been colonized by different kinds of Asian invertebrates and even some fish. This way, the floating piles of junk became cruise ships for sea creatures to travel across the ocean. And fast, too. The piles started to appear on the US coastlines about eight months after they left Japan.Although it’s a cool fact that this trash now functions as a floating home for animals, the consequences might not be as fun. The travelling Asian organisms could pose a threat to indigenous ecosystems and it is likely that the plastic trash could transport organisms to other places as well.The expat-critters will not invade and wreck the existing ecosystems upon arrival, or in the subsequent several years. But after a certain amount of time, these newcomers can be thriving in an environment without natural predator.Sea organisms will have enough to surf on for the next decades, as there are over 4.8 million tons of plastic polluting oceans all over the planet. So, species will be able to travel the world on floating, human-made trash, for some time. Who knew our litter could connect continents?Source: Popular Science. Image: The Verge [post_title] => Cruising Critters Travel the Ocean on Plastic [post_excerpt] => Tons of living animals have floated from Japan to the United States traveling across the ocean on plastic junk and debris. [post_status] => publish [comment_status] => open [ping_status] => closed [post_password] => [post_name] => critters-travel-ocean-plastic [to_ping] => [pinged] => [post_modified] => 2017-12-18 11:15:47 [post_modified_gmt] => 2017-12-18 10:15:47 [post_content_filtered] => [post_parent] => 0 [guid] => https://nextnature.net/?p=78470/ [menu_order] => 0 [post_type] => post [post_mime_type] => [comment_count] => 0 [filter] => raw [post_category] => 0 ))[post_count] => 10 [current_post] => -1 [in_the_loop] => [post] => WP_Post Object ( [ID] => 82158 [post_author] => 1764 [post_date] => 2019-02-06 11:14:28 [post_date_gmt] => 2019-02-06 10:14:28 [post_content] => The first patent for the electric telephone was granted in 1876 to Alexander Graham Bell. However, there is disagreement about who should be given credit for the invention of the telephone as several pioneering inventors worked on devices to transmit spoken word.[caption id="attachment_82159" align="alignnone" width="640"]Vintage black telephone on white isolated background The candle-stick-phone.[/caption]In the following decades the network systems of landlines were built and use of telephones spread. The first telephones used were simple wooden boxes to which a speaker and mouthpiece were connected. From the initial box designs, the so-called candlestick telephone evolved in the 1890s and became hugely popular. It still consisted of a separate mouthpiece and speaker but got rid of the box. In these days the telephone exchange required manually operated switchboards to make connections. This opened up new job opportunities for women as switchboard operators. The telephone soon proved to be an indispensable tool for trade and fuelled economic development. All in all the telephone and its network system had a large societal impact.
The telephone soon proved to be an indispensable tool for trade, fuelled economic development and had a large societal impact
Increased demand made landline networks evolve from hand-operated switchboards to mechanised pulse networks for which the telephone received a dial. Further increasing demands fuelled development towards tone networks which are operated by push buttons using the 12-digit keypad we still find on smartphones. Again driven by increasing demands, networks evolved to digital transmission.

Connected through the air: Mobile phones

Just like for landlines, the history of mobile phones is intertwined with a series of consecutive network technologies. The first experimental mobile networks developed to circumvent restrictions of landline-based telephones are collectively designated by the name 0G. These 0G networks could only handle few calls and were very expensive.[caption id="attachment_82160" align="alignnone" width="403"]Green apple and old brick style cell phone. The Motorola DynaTAC 8000X.[/caption]The first commercially operated wireless telephone networks are referred to as 1G and used analogue network technologies. These networks are made up of many cells, each with its own base station, which connects to the terrestrial phone network. The base stations allow connections being handed over from one cell to the next. Hence the used devices are also named cell phones. Without this cell network structure mobile phone users would not be able to travel while calling.The first 1G cellular network was launched in 1979 in Japan by the Nippon Telephone and Telegraph (NTT) company. The technology spread and in 1981 Denmark, Finland, Norway and Sweden received their Nordic Mobile Telephone system. Then in 1983 also in the USA a 1G network became operational using the Motorola DynaTAC 8000X mobile phone. Now referred to as the ‘brick phone’, this first of a kind weighted about 800 grams and was priced close to four thousand dollars or more than three times the average worker’s monthly salary. Nevertheless, because of its novelty soon after introduction there was already a waiting list. The following years Motorola developed into a leading mobile telephone manufacturer.The second generation of wireless telephone networks also referred to as 2G are based on a standard developed in Europe. The protocol used by 2G is based on the Global System for Mobile Communications and simply referred to as GSM. Deployed in Finland in December 1991, 2G was the first digital cellular network.
Short Message Service (SMS) soon became hugely popular and a cash cow for mobile operators around the world
Building on the success of early mobile phones additional text messaging services were developed using the same network technology. This became known as Short Message Service (SMS) and was commercially introduced in 1993 in Finland. SMS did not require any additional infrastructure and soon became hugely popular. This made it a cash cow for mobile operators around the world in the years to follow.The first mass-produced GSM telephone was the Nokia 1011 introduced in 1992. The popularity of the mobile phone opened a huge market and production numbers rose rapidly. Many other companies started producing mobile phones, however Nokia and Motorola dominated the market. The mobile phones later became known as feature phones (to distinguish them from smartphones). Feature phones have been produced in a few typical designs known as candy bar, clamshell and flip phone.
By 2002 the number of mobile phones had outgrown the number of landline phones in use
Feature phones became a huge success. Annual production amounts of feature phone handsets rose to well over hundred million a year by end of the 1990s. By 2002 the amount of mobile phones had outgrown the amount of landline phones in use. The wide availability of mobile phones changed our perception of what it means to ‘keep in touch’.It transpired that mobile phones could be used for other purposes than making phone calls and texting. Mobile banking is an example of a novel type of use for a mobile phone. In the Philippines, SMS has been used to transfer money since 2005. As many people in developing nations do not have access to banking systems, this new service was well received. Besides the cost of using traditional banking services are often too high for the poor effective excluding them. A same service started in 2007 in Kenya and has spread since then across the African continent. It has become known as SMS banking and can be used for various forms of money transfer e.g. like purchases, salary payments or cash redraws without bank offices or ATMs being around. In this way, mobile phone technology has contributed to the economic development and provided many new jobs in developing countries in a similar fashion as landlines did in North America and Europe more than a century earlier.
Mobile phone technology has contributed to economic development and provided lots of new jobs in developing countries
Over the years, users of mobile phones explored new types of use and expectations of our mobile devices rose. The networks also became used as a means to transport digital data next to voice. Again the developments placed increasing demands on mobile networks. In response, a set of new network technologies and standards collectively named 3G were developed. NTT DoCoMo launched this third generation network technology in Japan in 2001. Other countries and network operators soon followed. The availability of this new network standard spurred the development of many new applications like streaming media that required ever more bandwidth. As a result of the growing bandwidth-hunger the telecom industry began looking for ways to optimize network technologies for larger amounts of data. These new standards became known as 4G and are together with 3G in use at time of writing of this article. As the amount of data we use still increases, it is likely that new network technology (which is currently under development) will be made available in the future to cover increased demands. This new standard will then be known as 5G-network technology.
As a result of the growing bandwidth-hunger the telecom industry began looking for ways to optimize network technologies for larger amounts of data

Personal Digital Assistant

In the beginning of the 1980s, advancing technology provided mankind with new devices like the home computer; later was renamed to personal computer, or PC. The decreasing size of electronic components and improving battery technology allowed first experiments with mobile computing devices. An example of this is the Personal Digital Assistant or PDA, a small mobile computing device that was designed to help organizing business life by providing agenda, address books, calculator and memo functionality.[caption id="attachment_82161" align="alignnone" width="347"] The Psion Organiser model 2 from 1986.[/caption]The first PDA to be brought to the market was the Psion Organiser I introduced in 1984. It looked like a desktop calculator with a small display 6 by 6 keyboard and included a plastic sliding cover. The term PDA was first used for the Apple Newton, which was introduced in 1993. The Newton provided stylus to write on the touch screens. Special handwriting recognition software made it possible to transfer scribbles into digital text. Although the Newton was not a huge commercial success, it heralded the transition from mobile devices with full keyboard towards a touch screen and virtual keyboard. A range of competitors brought PDAs to the market of which the PalmPilot is one of the most notable.To synchronize agenda and email with the more elaborate versions of the same applications used on the PC early PDAs connected to the first by cable using the serial port which after some years was ousted by the USB (that was introduced in 1996). Later versions often use Bluetooth and or WiFi as means to synchronize data. Wireless connectivity made it possible that mobile email and Internet access functionality were added to the PDA.

Early hybrids

[caption id="attachment_82162" align="alignnone" width="287"] The Simon Personal Communicator introduced by IBM in 1994.[/caption]The Simon Personal Communicator introduced in 1994 by IBM, was the first mobile phone with touch screen and PDA functionality. It featured 11 built-in typical PDA applications including a calendar, appointment scheduler, to-do list, address book, calculator, world time clock, electronic note pad/sketch pad, handwritten annotations and stylus input screen keyboards. Being the first to combine mobile phone and PDA functionality, the Simon is now also dubbed the first smartphone although that name was not yet used at that time.
The Simon Personal Communicator, which was introduced in 1994 by IBM, is dubbed the first smartphone being the first mobile phone with a touch screen and PDA functionality
[caption id="attachment_82163" align="alignnone" width="640"] The Blackberry RIM 850 introduced in 1999.[/caption]PDAs appeared to be fertile platforms to experiment with hybrid variants. In 1999 Research In Motion (RIM) introduced a PDA annex two-way pager named BlackBerry 850. The device supported email, limited HTML browsing and featured a monochrome screen. From 2002 BlackBerry models featured mobile phone functionality. The BlackBerry still used a physical QWERTY keyboard and became a hit amongst business executives because of its secure email server.

Smartphones

A decade after the Simon Personal Communicator was launched, many mobile electronic devices became available. One of these types was portable audio player for which the Walkman, introduced by Sony in 1979, marked the birth. The first of these devices used analogue tape cassettes, which later evolve towards digital versions using CDs or magnetic discs. Apple cunningly combined available electronic components in the iPod, a first successful mobile audio player using a small hard drive. The iPod became known for its handy user interface and iTunes store that was used to distribute audio and video. Then Apple integrated the iPod, Newton and mobile phone technology in a single device, the iPhone that it introduced in 2007.[caption id="attachment_82164" align="alignnone" width="640"] The first Apple iPhone.[/caption]The first model could only use 2G-network technology and is therefore sometimes referred to as the iPhone 2G. The App Store was not yet available. We now know it was not the first device to combine functionality we now associated with the smartphone. Nevertheless it is now looked upon as the decisive step in the evolution of the smartphone as it was the first to completely do away the fixed keyboard and use a touch screen allowing multiple gesture control on a touch screen and included a camera. Besides, it combined not only basic application like phone, agenda and email but also a range of new applications. The new design with touch screen and the built in many sensors became a sensation and changed industries involved.
Apple integrated the iPod, Newton and mobile phone technology into a single device, which became the iPhone, that was introduced in 2007
Since 3G-network technology became available the increased bandwidth allowed many data hungry mobile applications. Together with increasing computing power and ever more and better sensors this fuelled the amounts of applications available for smartphones, which now appear almost endless. When Apple’s App Store started in 2008 it offered 500 apps. Early 2017 the amount apps featured increased to a stunning 2.2 million. Google opened a same store for its Android OS in 2009 and now features a similar amount of apps.According to research done in 2012 by O2, a mobile telecom operator, the telephone functionality only ranks 5th after Internet browsing, social network use, playing games and listening to music. More recent research by Pew Research Centre (2015) shows a slightly different ranking of typical use of smartphones, but the trend is the same. Types of use we would associate a decade ago with PCs or PDAs are now most common on smartphones. Although we still refer to the device as a (smart)phone, making calls is not among the most frequent types of use anymore. In the meantime PDAs have become obsolete and the feature phone is being ousted by the smartphone. Smartphones have become indispensable tools for many types of communication, access to information, navigation and the functions provides by early PDAs. They have made us busier. However, it is debatable as to whether smartphones have made us more productive.
Although we still refer to the device as a (smart)phone, making calls is no longer one of the most frequent types of use

Mobile computing platform

Being a mobile computing platform, the smartphone heavily relies on its mobile operating system (OS). The OS is an essential part of a computing platform that manages computer hardware and software resources and is thus crucial for a smartphone allowing it to run third-part software. At time of writing Android was installed on nearly 82% of all sold smartphones and iOS on nearly 18%, leaving less than 1% for all other mobile operating systems. Android being provided by Google is an open source system being customised before installation by smartphone vendors like Samsung, Huawei and many others.Also for other mobile devices dedicated operating systems have been developed with Palm OS used on PDAs as a successful example. More recently also ‘smart watches’ have been marketed using a similar OS as smartphones.

Digital socializing

[caption id="attachment_82165" align="alignnone" width="640"]Social Network Flat Icons With Mobile Telephone Vector, Illustration The smartphone has become the platform of choice for social networking.[/caption]Smartphones together with the related tablets, have has become our favourite mobile device for accessing Internet. Social networks like Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn become heavily depending on their mobile access. Presence of high quality digital cameras on smartphones makes them the device of choice to use for interacting on social networks. In recent years Internet has contributed to changing social norms. Online dating has become commonplace and Tinder, a popular app launched in 2012 used to swipe through profiles on smartphone screens, had already over a million paid users in 2016 and at least an order of magnitude more unpaid accounts. With Tinder swiping left become the new normal for rejecting potential dates.
Smartphones have become addictive devices
Although it is known that the blue light produced by smartphone or computer screens makes it more difficult to fall asleep it is not uncommon for smartphones to be used in bed. During dinner and other social activities the use of smartphones is considered undesirable and stirs many discussions. And in traffic it is a known cause of accidents, unfortunately also with deadly consequences. Being social animals with a congenital urge to keep in touch with others, we must face that the smartphones have become addictive devices.Smartphones have become the platform of choice for many types of applications. What initially was regarded as a mobile phone with additional functionality has become more of a personal communication and computing hub. Just as it was hard to imagine two decades ago how we now use this device, it will be hard to imagine what will become of it in another two decades. Further increasing computing power and new technologies like artificial intelligence (AI), augmented- and virtual reality will probably fuel new application areas. As logic consequence types of use will continue to change in the future. It is obvious the evolution of smartphone has not by far come to a standstill. Socializing is set to continue to change. [caption id="attachment_82166" align="alignnone" width="640"] Timeline of the evolution from early telephone to smartphone.[/caption]
The evolution of smartphone has in no way come to a standstill yet and socializing will continue to change

On the origin of the smartphone

The smartphone could not have been invented if the mobile phone and the personal digital assistant had not been around before. These earlier products and other enabling technologies were conditional for the smartphone to emerge.Once the smartphone took off, it further evolved towards a personal communication and computing hub. The phone functionality moved to the background and new forms of socializing took command. Our desire to socialize is innate and surely not an effect of new technologies, rather a cause for their further development. It is therefore clear that the origin of the smartphone is not a self-contained and sudden invention. Earlier products and influences from the environment play a crucial role in the evolution of products as is shown here in the case of the smartphone.On the Origin of Products‘ is published by Cambridge University Press and co-authored by NNN member Huub Ehlhardt. Over the past few weeks, Huub took us on a intellectual joyride on the origins of the word processor, e-bike, LED lamp, and smartphone. [post_title] => On the Origin of the Smartphone [post_excerpt] => [post_status] => publish [comment_status] => open [ping_status] => closed [post_password] => [post_name] => on-the-origin-of-the-smartphone-2 [to_ping] => [pinged] => [post_modified] => 2019-02-07 15:54:02 [post_modified_gmt] => 2019-02-07 14:54:02 [post_content_filtered] => [post_parent] => 0 [guid] => https://nextnature.net/?p=82158 [menu_order] => 0 [post_type] => post [post_mime_type] => [comment_count] => 0 [filter] => raw [post_category] => 0 )[comment_count] => 0 [current_comment] => -1 [found_posts] => 296 [max_num_pages] => 30 [max_num_comment_pages] => 0 [is_single] => [is_preview] => [is_page] => [is_archive] => 1 [is_date] => [is_year] => [is_month] => [is_day] => [is_time] => [is_author] => [is_category] => [is_tag] => 1 [is_tax] => [is_search] => [is_feed] => [is_comment_feed] => [is_trackback] => [is_home] => [is_privacy_policy] => [is_404] => [is_embed] => [is_paged] => [is_admin] => [is_attachment] => [is_singular] => [is_robots] => [is_posts_page] => [is_post_type_archive] => [query_vars_hash:WP_Query:private] => 4dbca4c34fc37ad1f7d53a09b9fe8932 [query_vars_changed:WP_Query:private] => [thumbnails_cached] => [stopwords:WP_Query:private] => [compat_fields:WP_Query:private] => Array ( [0] => query_vars_hash [1] => query_vars_changed )[compat_methods:WP_Query:private] => Array ( [0] => init_query_flags [1] => parse_tax_query ))
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