by Ed Driscoll, Jr.
A Stellar Book ... but With Many Minor Flaws
On April 3, 2000, when President Clinton’s Justice
Department issued its ruling that Microsoft had violated US antitrust laws and the NASDAQ plummeted
349 points (or 7.64%) — its worst single-day performance
ever — it signaled the end of the Internet bubble. The next
year, the horrific terrorist attacks on the US occurred on
September 11th. As a result, we’ve seen much less of
what Tom Wolfe once dubbed the “digibabble and fairy
dust” that ruled the 1990s and, somehow, technology has
slipped a bit below America’s collective radar screen.
Yet, in many ways, the rapid speed of technological
progress hasn’t abated. In the late 1970s, we saw the birth
of the personal computer, the VCR, and the laser disc. In
the 1980s, compact discs, cell phones, and fax machines
entered the picture. Today, average consumers are
surrounded by more technological goodies than we know
what to do with and keeping pace with what’s available
and their benefits can be a daunting task.
The Digital Consumer Technology Handbook is a
new book (published by Newnes, go to www.xilinx.
com/esp/ dct_handbook.htm) written by Amit Dhir, a
manager in the strategic solutions marketing group at
Xilinx — a 20-year-old, San Jose-based semiconductor
manufacturer. Dhir has a Bachelor of Science in Electronic
Engineering from Purdue University and a master’s degree
in the same field from San Jose State University.
NUTS & VOLTS
At 656 pages, The Handbook would make a heck of
a doorstop or paperweight, but it does a pretty nifty job as
an encyclopedic look at just about every major technology
that competes for your money, time, and living space.
Not Bad — but Not Perfect
It’s not perfect, however, and its minor flaws only
serve to highlight how — with a little more work — this
book could have been flawless.
Occasionally, Dhir gets a bit too cute. On page one of
the book, he refers to “Generation D — The Digital
Decade.” Well, is it a decade or a generation? Since a
generation is about twice as long as a decade, I’d say
those are mutually exclusive terms. Shortly thereafter,
Dhir writes, “Anything that is digital is superior.” I’m as far
from a Luddite as can be imagined, but I’m not sure if I’d
want to make a blanket statement like that. There are far
too many professional photographers who love their 35
mm and 4 x 6 format negatives and professional recording engineers who love the warmth of 2” wide analog tape
who might seriously blanche at having to switch to digital.
From time to time, Dhir throws in a buzz word and
assumes that the vast majority of his readers will know
what it means. He mentions Moore’s Law and explains
what it is and then mentions Metcalf’s Law without any
explanation. At times, Dhir’s book makes the reader feel
like it would be handy to have Google running in the background while reading it. (About half of the folks reading
this just rolled their eyes and said, “Geez, is that Driscoll
a dummy or what?”)
Much later in the book, Dhir’s otherwise excellent
chapter on video games is marred by an unexplained
phrase noting that Microsoft’s Xbox appeals most to
“game artists and aficionado players.” Say what?
Chapter 4 does a thorough job of explaining how CDs
work, but, at one point, Dhir writes that CDs are facing
extinction. Well, the sun is facing extinction, too — give it
four, maybe five billion years, tops. Between commercial
recordings being released on CDs, computer programs
on CD-ROM, and people using CD-Rs for both, I’d say that
compact discs have a few more years left in them before