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RIP: The Haloid Company, the technological leader who ignored their own Cassandra geniuses

Discussion in 'BYTE ME: Technology discussion' started by Couperin47, Jan 31, 2018.

  1. Couperin47

    Couperin47 Member SoSH Member

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    Never heard of Haloid ? Yeah, founded in Rochester NY in 1906 in the shadow of another photographic company, they later changed their name...to Xerox. Their PARC labs in California invented it all: the idea of a gui, the mouse, pretty much everything about the way we interface, the 820 Bigboard Z80 8 bit computer which was the basis for most CP/M computers including the Kaypro. No matter what they came up with, the big boys back in Rochester ignored them, we make buggy whips and all that tinkering with combustion engines was smelly and noisy nonsense. None of it was ever allowed to become commercial products. Visitors to Palo Alto had other reactions to what they saw there, including some guys named Jobs and Gates...

    Today it effectively ceases to exist as it is absorbed into a Fuijifilm 'joint venture' which they will completely control. Sic transit gloria mundi
     
    #1 Couperin47, Jan 31, 2018
    Last edited: Jan 31, 2018
  2. HurstSoGood

    HurstSoGood Member SoSH Member

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    That is really amazing. I'm sure we all can look back in our individual lives and think "Man, I wish I took a chance with ___..." It's one thing to miss on a modest personal investment, but I cannot fathom being in charge of a big company that missed out on something revolutionary to their respective industry.
     
  3. maufman

    maufman Dope Staff Member Dope Gold Supporter

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    Here’s the NYT’s obituary for Xerox. Their take on PARC is a bit different from the OP’s.

    https://nyti.ms/2GwNh2h

     
  4. JimD

    JimD Member SoSH Member

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    Look at their neighbors. A 24-year-old engineer at Kodak, Steven Sasson, invented the first digital camera in 1975. It was patented in 1978 but Sasson was not allowed to talk about it or show it anywhere for fear of disrupting the company's lucrative film and processing business. Sasson himself recognized that the image quality of those early cameras was poor compared to even the cheapest 110 film cameras of the day and that it would likely take 15 to 20 years for a competitive digital camera to be developed. To the credit of Kodak management they allowed him and others to continue working on the technology. By 1989 Sasson and his colleague Robert Hills had developed the first modern digital single lens reflex camera (DSLR). Many other companies were also working on digital photography and some were already selling early cameras in the late 1980's but in retrospect the Kodak DSLR was a decade ahead of its time and could have positioned the company as the clear leader at the beginning of the digital photography age. Kodak management predictably had no interest in selling the camera and putting their analog photography profits at risk, though, and it never saw the light of day.

    Kodak's patents did generate billions for the company as digital photography took off, and it is certainly arguable that the company could have easily squandered such an early lead as its competitors pushed the technology far beyond what most would have dreamed possible. It is likely though that Kodak would today still be a player in the photography world if they had realized that the photography business was bigger than selling film, chemicals and developing services.
     
  5. Couperin47

    Couperin47 Member SoSH Member

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    The concepts had been around for a while, the first place you could actually see hardware that actually used these concepts and where there was active, serious research and development was in Palo Alto, that's why it had such a huge impact on those who visited....

    In fact the trackball (funny I'm using one right here, the Microsoft big trackball, still think it's superior to a mouse) was invented during WW II for use with early radar, patented and remained a military secret til after the war. Several places and folks developed what would be mice by turning it upside down and making it smaller and used them for various purposes. Palo Alto was probably the first place you could actually have one in your hand connected to something we'd recognize as a 'computer'.
     
  6. maufman

    maufman Dope Staff Member Dope Gold Supporter

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    As a general rule, in industries that are transformed by digital technology, incumbent brands have been losers. Whatever happened to Smith-Corona? How many MP3 players is Sony selling? I think that trend will change as the “internet of things” expands to more complex machines — despite their ambitions, Google and Uber aren’t going to displace Toyota and Ford — but I can’t envision a scenario where Kodak could have been anything other than the defunct consumer brand it is now.
     
  7. Saints Rest

    Saints Rest Well-Known Member Lifetime Member SoSH Member

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    Does that mean that when I need to photocopy something I have to say "I'm going to Fujifilm this document."???
     
  8. glasspusher

    glasspusher Member SoSH Member

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    Likewise, Steve Wozniak loved working at HP so much that he offered his idea for a personal computer to them first before striking out on his own to form Apple.

    My advisor in grad school spent 30 years at Bell Labs before becoming a professor. There was another amazing place, albeit it lived on the spoils of a regulated monopoly. They invented the transistor there but not the integrated circuit, the head guy for transistor manufacturing thought it was a dumb idea. Camelot never lasts.
     
  9. glasspusher

    glasspusher Member SoSH Member

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    Kind of funny how those internal combustion engines are now getting ready for the scrap heap of history. Porsche's first big design, which made him famous at the age of 24 in 1900, was an electric car with hubcap motors. I'm sure he'd be happy to see things coming back around.
     
  10. Couperin47

    Couperin47 Member SoSH Member

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    In the industrial age any technology that manages to remain relevant for 100 years is doing damn well. The phonograph record (mechanical grooves on a cylinder or disc going up/down or side to side) has had a hell of a run and it's current dumb-ass hipster 'revival' is just pathetic, but understandable in the Age of Trump. Even more amazing is the steam turbine engine which powers our Navy among other things.
     
  11. glasspusher

    glasspusher Member SoSH Member

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    Albeit steam heated by nuclear reactors, for our Navy! Agreed. I tell folks, if you're not working on the next thing, you're working on the wrong thing, or at the very least, keep up to date and aware of what's going on.
     
  12. charlieoscar

    charlieoscar lurker

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    And why is the revival of wax pathetic? The sound quality certainly beats that coming from tape or out of my computer, CD/DVD or phone. Yes, the primary reason for that is digitization but that does not mean there aren't people who wouldn't prefer to listen to the non-"JPEG"/"GIF" version (to borrow a reason why digital photographers prefer to use the RAW format from their camera).
     
  13. Couperin47

    Couperin47 Member SoSH Member

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    Mechanical records are inferior to digital in every measurable way: better S/N ratio, far better dynamic range, does not degrade and there is NO, I repeat NO measurable quality in which the record is not inferior. It's current revival is not fact or science, it's fashion and religion and the supposed benefits of analog are nostalgia, bullshit and when it comes to idiocy like tube amplifiers a preference for the 'warmth' of even order harmonic distortion.

    and I should point out, being the age I am, there's 4,000 records downstairs in my collection, 3 turntables, 7 high end cartridges, a Burwin TNE 7000a denoiser, a DBX 119 to add back dynamic range and a Nitty Gritty washer .
     
    #13 Couperin47, Feb 1, 2018
    Last edited: Feb 1, 2018
  14. SumnerH

    SumnerH Malt Liquor Picker Dope

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    IBM was already killing them in the typewriter business, weren't they? And they transitioned to the digital age successfully.
     
  15. Couperin47

    Couperin47 Member SoSH Member

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    I was a Senior in college, gulp, 1969, when I was offered and acquired what I was pretty sure was a 'very warm' salmon colored IBM Selectric from a friend. With the film ribbon and perfect ability to correct, it was heaven. OTOH, I had, during the year before, worked in an office that had IBM Executives, which didn't use a ball, produced even more impressive output since it actually spaced letters proportionally, but made corrections, ANY corrections a goddamn nightmare.

    Also, Smith Corona was never a serious player in the business typewriter market. The rival/predecessor to the office IBM was always Underwood, which never made a successful transition to electricity....
     
    #15 Couperin47, Feb 1, 2018
    Last edited: Feb 1, 2018
  16. maufman

    maufman Dope Staff Member Dope Gold Supporter

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    I thought IBM was a computer company since before the word “computer” existed — from punch cards, to mainframes, to PCs. They got into typewriters somewhere along the way, but I’m not sure that was ever their mainstay. I certainly wouldn’t describe them as a typewriter company that managed to anticipate and lead the changes that led their core product to be obsolete.

    I’m not quite sure how IBM survived the collapse of their PC business and reinvented itself as an AI and professional services company. That was a hell of a feat, but is something different than what Kodak (and dozens of other once-iconic companies) failed to do.
     
  17. johnmd20

    johnmd20 voice of soccer Lifetime Member Gold Supporter SoSH Member

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    They survived but the early 90s were extremely bad for the company. I think it was IBM in the early 90s who, at the time, announced the single biggest quarterly dollar loss in history. They didn't have that much debt, which is why they didn't go under. Kind of like Apple in the mid to late 90s. Apple got their clocks cleaned but they weren't overly leveraged, so they hung around and hung around until the iPod came out.

    As they say. (or maybe I just say it) Bad business doesn't bankrupt a company. Bad debts bankrupt a company.

    IBM limped along, got lean and mean, and figured out the move was away from the PC and into services. Not that IBM killed it like Apple, but their turnaround story is pretty good. I imagine GE would go gaga over having a similar experience in the coming years.
     
  18. maufman

    maufman Dope Staff Member Dope Gold Supporter

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    Absolutely — but GE actually has some healthy businesses, so the degree of difficulty is significantly lower. Kind of like Apple, which always had a profitable niche business. What IBM achieved was on a whole other level — they didn’t become what Apple became, but they were roadkill 25 years ago.
     
  19. charlieoscar

    charlieoscar lurker

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    Three words: Lossy File Compression.
     
  20. AlNipper49

    AlNipper49 Huge Member Dope

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    People have them so much shit at the time, too. Amazing that it worked out so well for them.
     
  21. Couperin47

    Couperin47 Member SoSH Member

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    The fact that there are ways to create shitty digital just means you have to have some intelligence in what you choose. I was talking about redbook cd standard digital (at the very least). Most digital available on-line is substandard as the prime consumers are loading them into smartphones to be 'enjoyed' via $20 earbuds. So much for 'high fidelity'. Your response is patent nonsense.
     
  22. timlinin8th

    timlinin8th Member SoSH Member

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    There are lossless digital formats for audio which is the same as your own example of JPEG and GIF vs RAW, both are digital media types. A more accurate comparison of lossy compressed audio vs analog would be JPEG or GIF vs a Polaroid photo.
     
  23. Joe Sixpack

    Joe Sixpack Well-Known Member Lifetime Member SoSH Member

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    GIF is lossless compression.
     
  24. charlieoscar

    charlieoscar lurker

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    768
    However, GIFs store image data using indexed color, meaning a standard GIF image can include a maximum of 256 (8-bit) colors. My Nikon DSLR will take 14-bit images.

    A GIF image can include multiple image blocks, each of which can have its own 256-color palette, and the blocks can be tiled to create a complete image. A complete image can be created by layering image blocks with the visible portion of each layer showing through the transparent portions of the layers, i.e., it uses an animated GIF format.
     
  25. SumnerH

    SumnerH Malt Liquor Picker Dope

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    25,155
    GIFs are limited to 256 colors, but that's not what indexed color means. There are indexed color formats that smaller and larger palettes than 256.
     
  26. Couperin47

    Couperin47 Member SoSH Member

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    So he tries to, not just move the goalposts, but shuttle from audio to video and it turns out he's equally clueless in any technology....but I bet his RAW format images sound wonderful.
     

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