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First off, the camcorder has an upgraded sensor going from the VG10′s 14.2 megapixel Exmor APS HD to a new 16.1 megapixel Exmor R CMOS. As a result of this upgrade and an upgraded processor, Sony was able to include the ability to capture RAW stills. That’s right. RAW photographs have finally made their way to an affordable camcorder. That’s big news seeing as most camcorders just a few years ago could only take VGA resolution photos. Now if we could just get them to give us RAW video recording, we’d really be talking!
And that’s Jobs, not his pal Wozniak who got out much earlier and hasn’t played the ‘Messiah’ role quite like the “other” Steve. I’m an admirer of both of these Apple founders, and liked their early pre-Mac products because they helped open up low-cost personal computing. And I don’t mind either that they (Apple Computer) made the market larger by embracing the GUI. It’s all good stuff. But I find the more recent holier-than-thou Apple marketing spin nauseous. Coupled with a dislike for messianic born-again leaders like Jobs I guess I have to say that I’m not overly impressed with Apple as a company, as sleek and stylish as their products may be. But I do recognise that they have a knack for functional, intuitive design, too. At a price.
And I’m not forgetting Steve’s years in the wilderness, his Pixar work or even Next. He clearly had vision, and the cash to see it through.
With all of that in mind, here’s a quick and dirty run past some alternative universes where other truths may lie… Was Apple first to market with the MP3 player? Nope. I can remember the first MP3 files and players (on the PC platform) in the mid to late 1990s and the first portables a little later. There were rumours that a slick new design was being hawked around companies like IBM and HP but that Apple eventually took it up. I’ve never seen the truth or proof there but Apple certainly wasn’t first, nor was it the best. It may have had the best interface, though. And the best marketing.
Ask even seasoned MP3 buffs about the first MP3 player, and they’re almost certain to name the Diamond Multimedia Rio PMP300. If they really know their stuff, they’ll even tell you that it came out in late 1998. They’re wrong either way, although you shouldn’t be too harsh on them–their mistake is understandable.
The Diamond Rio’s false status as the first MP3 player is practically cemented in technology lore, so before it’s too late, I want to set the record straight. The world’s first mass-produced hardware MP3 player was Saehan’s MPMan, sold in Asia starting in the late spring of 1998. It was released in the United States as the Eiger Labs MPMan F10/F20 (two variants of the same device) in the summer of 1998, a few months before the Rio.
Here comes the irony: In 1998, Compaq’s engineers made the first hard-drive-based MP3 player and licensed it to a Korean company (Hango) that didn’t do much with it. In 2001, the first iPod came out. In 2002, HP acquired Compaq. In 2004, HP made a deal with Apple to distribute HP-branded iPods. I know I’m reducing the situation, but it wouldn’t be too much of a stretch to assert that the entity now known as HP beat Apple in the race to make a high-capacity portable music player by three years–an eternity in the world of MP3 players–and still somehow lost.
The world’s first company to announce a portable MP3 player and the attendant system for uploading MP3 audio content to a personal computer and then downloading it onto a personal MP3 player was Audio Highway. Under the direction of founder and CEO, Nathan Schulhof, Audio Highway announced its Listen Up player on September 23, 1996, won an Innovations Award for its Listen Up player and its Listen Up Personal Audio System at the Consumer Electronics Show in January 1997, and began shipping the Listen Up player in the United States in September 1997. The Listen Up player also won a People’s Choice Award at the 2nd annual Internet Showcase conference, held Jan. 30, 1998. The device was not mass-produced; only about 25 units were made.
As the lead inventor on three U.S. patents, as well as co-inventor on another U.S. patent, Schulhof is sometimes referred to as “the father of the MP3 player industry.”[by whom?]
Gosh, no Apple here at all. In brief, they were 3 years late to the party with a device that did less but had a funkier, easier way to navigate the files. And better marketing.
What about first first tablet computer?
Again, not Apple. Well it depends, actually. The Apple Newton may indeed have been ahead of the pack but they ditched it. What Apple did later do was take what laptop makers were doing with accelerometers and WiFi and add in some mobile (cell) phone functionality. So they pretty much just up-sized their own smartphone. Which is a cool innovation, sure.
The term was made popular with the Microsoft Tablet PC concept presented by Microsoft in 2001. Today, the term tablet is also used to refer to computer-like devices operated primarily by a touch screen but not intended to run general PC operating systems or applications.
Following Windows for Pen Computing, Microsoft has been developing support for tablets running Windows under the Microsoft Tablet PC name. According to a 2001 Microsoft definition of the term, “Microsoft Tablet PCs” are pen-based, fully functional x86 PCs with handwriting and voice recognition functionality. Tablet PCs use the same hardware as normal laptops but add support for pen input. For specialized support for pen input, Microsoft released Windows XP Tablet PC Edition. Today there is no tablet specific version of Windows but instead support is built in to both Home and Business versions of Windows Vista and Windows 7. Tablets running Windows get the added functionality of using the touchscreen for mouse input, hand writing recognition, and gesture support. Following Tablet PC, Microsoft announced the UMPC initiative in 2006 which brought Windows tablets to a smaller, touch-centric form factor. This was relaunched in 2010 as Slate PC, to promote tablets running Windows 7, ahead of Apple’s iPad launch.
At least the Apple Newton pre-dated Microsoft’s efforts, then. Phew.
Apple’s first tablet computer was the Newton MessagePad 100, introduced in 1993, which led to the creation of the ARM6 processor core with Acorn Computers. Apple also developed a prototype PowerBook Duo-based tablet, the PenLite, but decided not to sell it in order to avoid hurting MessagePad sales. Apple released several more Newton-based PDAs; the final one, the MessagePad 2100, was discontinued in 1998.
The first smartphone was the IBM Simon; it was designed in 1992 and shown as a concept product that year at COMDEX, the computer industry trade show held in Las Vegas, Nevada. It was released to the public in 1993 and sold by BellSouth. Besides being a mobile phone, it also contained a calendar, address book, world clock, calculator, note pad, e-mail client, the ability to send and receive faxes, and games. It had no physical buttons, instead customers used a touchscreen to select telephone numbers with a finger or create facsimiles and memos with an optional stylus. Text was entered with a unique on-screen “predictive” keyboard. By today’s standards, the Simon would be a fairly low-end product, lacking a camera and the ability to install third-party applications. However, its feature set at the time was highly advanced.
Oh, so IBM beat Apple both by concept and production. You’d never think that, would you?
The Nokia Communicator line was the first of Nokia’s smartphones starting with the Nokia 9000, released in 1996. This distinctive palmtop computer style smartphone was the result of a collaborative effort of an early successful and costly personal digital assistant (PDA) by Hewlett-Packard combined with Nokia’s bestselling phone around that time, and early prototype models had the two devices fixed via a hinge. The communicators are characterized by clamshell design, with a feature phone display, keyboard and user interface on top of the phone, and a physical QWERTY keyboard, high-resolution display of at least 640×200 pixels and PDA user interface under the door. The software was based on the GEOS V3.0 operating system, featuring email communication and text-based web browsing. In 1998, it was followed by Nokia 9110, and in 2000 by Nokia 9110i, with improved web browsing capability.
In 1997 the term ‘smartphone’ was used for the first time when Ericsson unveiled the concept phone GS88, the first device labelled as ‘smartphone’.
OK, so Nokia beat Apple, too. And Ericsson as well. Anyone else?
In 2000, the touchscreen Ericsson R380 Smartphone was released. It was the first device to use an open operating system, the Symbian OS. It was the first device marketed as a ‘smartphone’. It combined the functions of a mobile phone and a personal digital assistant (PDA). In December 1999 the magazine Popular Science appointed the Ericsson R380 Smartphone to one of the most important advances in science and technology. It was a groundbreaking device since it was as small and light as a normal mobile phone. In 2002 it was followed up by P800, the first camera smartphone.
Gosh, so Apple didn’t even win the race to include a camera. Given that there’s a heap of Palm, Blackberry and Windows devices yet to come, what exactly did Apple invent here?
In 2007, Apple Inc. introduced its first iPhone. It was initially costly, priced at $499 for the cheaper of two models on top of a two year contract. It was one of the first mobile phones to be mainly controlled through a touchscreen, the others being the LG Prada and the HTC Touch (also released in 2007), though the iPhone was the first mobile phone to use a multi-touch interface. The iPhone featured a web browser that Ars Technica then described as “far superior” to anything offered by that of its competitors.
OK, so Apple were again years behind the real innovators but came in late with a better browser and a multi-touch interface. Well that’s still innovation, but like all great innovations it was built on previous work. And it was a slick device made even slicker with the later App Store functionality. In many ways that easy-to-use shopping function was the clincher. Add in great marketing and whammo, success.
What about the GUI? Apple was first there, surely?
When the Macintosh was introduced in 1984, it represented something altogether new to the public – an affordable Graphical User Interface (GUI) on a computer with a mouse. Suddenly, while others were typing commands like “del index.com,” Mac users were dragging and dropping the image of a file into the image of a trash can. Users had a computer with an interface that made sense (intuitive).
Phew. New to the public. So they invented it, right?
But although Apple was the first to successfully mass-produce a GUI, they were not its inventors, nor were they the first to market it.
The honor for producing the first working GUI goes to Doug Englebart – at the time an employee of Stanford Research Institute. Englebart and colleagues created a program called the oNLine System in 1965-‘68. This program used the first mouse, a windowing system, and hypertext, and was based on a description of a system called “memex” proposed by Vannevar Bush in 1945. The name “mouse” comes from this period. The mouse used in oNLine had three buttons on one end and the line coming out the other end. Apparently, the buttons for eyes and nose, plus a cord for a tail, reminded the users of a mouse and the name stuck.
Oh, so Apple didn’t actually invent it. But their messianic leader Jobs, presumably, had the vision to take over other people’s ideas and package them in a way that sold. Are you seeing a pattern here?
There’s plenty more to this story but you have the gist of it. What I wanted to offset was this “Jobs – the man who changed the world” sort of media spin, which doesn’t recognise at all that many other people at other companies and institutions “innovated” just as hard – if not harder – before Apple added their unique and very stylish ‘extras’. In some cases Apple took bits out before others, like disk drives, and in other ways produced something that felt better in the hand or looked better to the eye. Or they came up with a better interface, or a better way to access extensions like Apps. Now I see that as icing rather than the cake itself. What do you reckon?
But it’s not just about me, either. So here is another, more celebratory view:
There’s a reason Mr. Jobs was named “CEO of the Decade.” Never has a CEO meant so much to one company or been as inextricably tied to a single brand identity. Indeed, there will be much to read about Mr. Jobs, his life and his legacy in the near future.
What matters is that in a very real sense, Steve Jobs changed the world.
Thanks to him, we all think a little bit different than we did before.
I’ve tried just about every Digital Audio Workstation (DAW) there is and whilst I’m no expert – or even musician – I do have enough knowledge to get by, and to form an opinion. So here it is!
Oh, and I use PC hardware, either under Win7 or XP SP3. You don’t need to buy an expensive top-range machine or an even more expensive Apple product, IMHO, but lots of RAM, lots of storage and good audio-out will help immensely. (OK, get the best processor you can afford but mid-to-high range is OK). All of the software I’ve tested has worked with the well known free ASIO driver (sometimes after a struggle) and USB cables leading to either or both of a plain and ordinary Fender Strat or a MIDI controller (usually with no problems). They have all worked with 99% of the VSTs and VSTis I’ve tried, too, but yes there have been quirks!
FWIW Ableton Live8 is my all-time favourite – I have a “Lite” version courtesy of my M-Audio MIDI controller/keyboard (i.e. it came on a CD with the hardware) and it’s a powerful, intuitive DAW loaded with features and cool tools. It rarely if ever crashes on my 3-year old XP SP3 box and is just the best product I’ve used. It’s high quality. It’s also a bit different to work with at first but once you have it in your head, it works well. Alas the Lite version is crippled and almost useless – almost, but not quite – and the full version is too expensive for my budget. So I tend to use it as just one option among several. Oh, and even the “Lite” version is huge – in that respect it probably looks and feels more “serious” and capable. Whether it actually delivers on that promise is another thing, but it sure looks cool!
But in fact my first choice day-to-day is Mixcraft 5. It’s easy, obvious and well-featured. It has a wealth of packaged VSTs and VSTis to play with and it handles videos, too. It crashes too often but recovers automagically, usually. It has most of the features you want, or need (maybe 85%?), and if it lacks at all then there’s Reaper, isn’t there? I use it as my first choice because it just about does everything and I’ve become so used to it that I probably do a quicker job, better. It’s not a gargantuan download like Ableton or the other “name” brands and extends itself gradually as you download more of the free loops. Oh yeah, it was that library of samples that probably swung it for me.
But I did mention Reaper, didn’t I? Well it does maybe 95% of what I’d want (including video) and it’s also pretty easy to use. For a long time it was neck and neck between Mixcraft and Reaper, at least in my view. And if Mixcraft falls over then Reaper is my backup (although it easily be the other way around!). If I want something sonically cooler I go up to Ableton Live Lite, do the job and come back to finish it in Mixcraft or Reaper. It’s more about familiarity and comfort than anything else, although there are procedural differences in how these programs work that may drive a better conclusion sometimes. Oh, and Reaper is also cheap, relatively speaking.
I also like FL Studio a lot. In another universe I may have chosen FL (or Fruity Loops if you like) but my money only stretched so far….
And I won’t disparage the others, they all worked well. If I started my DAW habit all over again from scratch, did the research and had a larger budget I imagine my choices would be entirely different. But the above is what I prefer, for the reasons given.
I think we’ve worked this out by now, but a sober, fair assessment of the carbon tax would reveal O’Farrell, Abbott and the various vested interests banding together these days to be shonky charlatans peddling mistruths. And so it goes.
At least the SMH is running a more academic line of reasoning lately:
I’ve never met Chris Sutton – but his dad (a world champ on the bike) sold me a track bike once. How’s that for a connection? Oh, and I kept a safe riding distance from his hot-headed uncle Shane, too! (I think he’s a bit less tense these days.)
Anyway, a nice debut win in a Grand Tour, especially so in front of his mum. I’m sure Uncle Shane wasn’t far away either.
Chris Sutton took his debut stage win at a grand tour, out-sprinting Vicente Reynes (Omega Pharma-Lotto) at the end of a disorganised sprint into Playas de Orihuela. The Australian timed his final surge perfectly, jumping in behind Reynes as the Spaniard hit out for the line from the top of the final rise with 300 meters remaining.
It was inevitable that one day HP would tire of the high-volume but low-margin PC hardware business, and now that day has edged a little closer. By shoring up software and services it is following IBM’s lead, however it should be noted that IBM – who started the whole “IBM-compatible PC” market in the first place – got out of the mass market for PC hardware years ago. HP will keep making printers but I suspect the lower-value consumer printers will slowly disappear, too, as HP looks for higher margins. But brand pride’s at stake as well – so who knows what will happen, or when. HP will certainly look to divest itself of any left-over low-margin hardware or software and ditch any poorer-performing niche products. Why throw more money away when you have already thrown away a lot? So expect a few HP cut-and-run announcements from here, especially in areas where it doesn’t really affect the HP brand itself. A prime driver behind these decisions has to be longer-term protection of the brand.
As for PCs overall, they remain a huge if slowly-declining market. When HP leaves the gap will be closed and life will go on. Whilst competition now takes many forms (smart phones and tablets for starters) there remains a need for the traditional big box and monitor, but at low-cost and low margin. We should also expect to see further aggregation into a smaller number of PC makers catering for the mass market as well as a continued splintering into smaller, more profitable niche markets at the top end.
Well he promised us the axe and here it is… but it won’t stop here, either. This cut is obvious enough – forestry researchers are hardly visible to most voters – and O’Farrell will keep to that tactic of hidden public service job losses. Look out also for sleight-of-hand, where the state government will offer sensible reform (perhaps, say, greater autonomy for school principals) as a bait but on the other hand conveniently “forget” to transfer enough admin staff to go with the reform (thus centralised admin jobs are removed but fewer new local admin jobs created). Whilst a trimmed-down state bureaucracy sounds good and many of the retrenched workers will find alternative jobs it hardly builds confidence, nor does it promote long-term sustainability or productivity in the areas affected. In the long-term it simply hurts the community.
Nor does it cost nothing as the state budget takes a redundancy hit before any savings kick in. And overall whilst it may balance out over a few years we’ll still see a dampening of economic performance in NSW: which would be counter to another promise, of course. Unless O’Farrell has a rabbit in his hat.
THE Barry O’Farrell government has embarked on its first round of public-service job cuts, announcing it will slash the number of positions at a research facility within the Department of Primary Industries by more than a third.
Staff at the Forest Science Centre, which is associated with Forests NSW, were told yesterday that 11 of their 31 positions would be abolished.
The Elise’s steering is not power assisted in any way, so every input you make using the steering wheel is instantly affected by the front wheels.
Affected? You could possibly, maybe, make a case for the front wheels affecting steering response but in this particular context surely the language-challenged Fairfax journo meant to write that each individual steering input is effected – ie put into effect – by the front wheels. Surely.
I mean, is it really that hard to correctly choose between effect and affect?
Oh I think I can do maybe 1 or even 2% of what this guy can do on a bike. And I’m not going out there now to try some of this out.
It’s a nice bit of editing in its own right. Called “Industrial Revolutions”, starring street trials rider Danny Macaskill. He’s freaky, in a good way. It’s been filmed in a deserted Ayrshire industrial area, including a train yard and some derelict buildings. Directed by Stu Thomson. Wow.
I have no particular interest in GM’s Commodores – too fat, heavy, big, overpowered, subsidised and just plain wasteful for me (I simply prefer small cars and bicycles, always have) – but it’s nice to see the Aussie GM brand catch up technically (and only maybe, as it’s just speculation) with the 1898 De Dion Bouton or even the late 1970′s Alfa Romeo Alfetta sedan/coupe design. Yes folks, this exciting rear-drive-transaxle “race technology” has not only been around for yonks but has already been made available in reasonably-priced road-going Italian sporty sedans and coupes – and even a Skoda or 2.
Of course the rest of the world has moved on a tad and is now going for packaging efficiency and fuel economy… but it’s good to see Aussie motor-noters still getting worked up about expensively re-worked oversized conventional 3-box designs. And that’s fine, it’s a free country. I’m just glad I don’t pay their fuel bills.
HSV’S performance line-up is gearing up to soon blur the line even further between racetrack and road, with the brand believed to be working on a rear-mounted gearbox similar to the next-generation V8 Supercars.
Front-engine, rear-wheel drive vehicles tend to have the transmission up front just after the engine, but sometimes a front engine drives a rear-mounted transaxle. This is generally done for reasons of weight distribution, and is therefore common on sports cars. Another advantage is that as the driveshaft only spins at engine speed it only has to endure the torque of the engine, instead of that torque multiplied by the 1st gear ratio. This design was pioneered in the 1934 Škoda Popular, and then in the 1950 Lancia Aurelia, designed by the legendary Vittorio Jano.
Since this placement of the gearbox is unsuitable for a live axle (due to excessive unsprung weight), the rear suspension is either independent, or uses a de Dion tube (notably in the Alfa Romeos). Rare exceptions to this rule were the Bugatti T46 and T50 which had a three speed gearbox on a live axle.
Well I never knew movie lenses focused the other way around, did I? And many other interesting points. For myself I’ll shoot videos with what I have, but if you want to step up to a new world of quality – and cost – read on…
Why aren’t still camera lenses good enough for movies? Optically they are. If you were shooting a single static scene an SLR type lens is fine (turn the autofocus off). However film making is collaborative and stressful activity that involves lots of movement, even if it’s a fan-flick filmed in your backyard, and there is a whole list of practical requirements that can explain the difference between the price of say, the manual Zeiss 35mm SLR lens at $1200 and the equivalent Zeiss 35mm Compact Prime movie lens at $3000.
It’s not directly about optic fibre data to the home, no, and it will take time before it filters into the real world – but here’s another interesting use of meta-materials. Of course the researchers are biased when they say that the ‘trend in telecommunications is definitely optical’. The anti-NBNers would have us playing with thermionic valves again instead
“The trend in telecommunications is definitely optical,” Rose said. “To be able to control light in the same manner that electronics control currents will be an important step in transforming telecommunications technologies.”
OK, OK, it’s nice to have real valve-driven amps, too, but I plug my guitar directly into my PC and just simulate the sound profile instead. What a killjoy
A couple of weeks after Cadel Evans has won Le Tour 2011 and I can confidently assert, not for the first time, that cycling is simply, definitelynot a team sport. Sure, we dress it up like it is, and we cobble together a passing representation of a team sport at times – look at the team time trial for example – but when it really matters, when the winners stand on the podium, it’s clearly, obviously, all about the individual: Cadel won. We glorify the man, who politely thanks his team. But his team, BMC, didn’t even get the team prize at Le Tour. Instead they got one man standing atop a podium and a shared prize pool.
This individualism is what appealed to me in the first place. You don’t need a team to ride, or to train, or to race. You don’t even need a specific time or even an agreed place – you just need you, a bike, some time to spare and some terrain to ride on. After all, it’s far more like walking or running than like football or netball, isn’t it? Sure, we wrap it all up in an organisation, ’cause people need to organsie things and make it all tidy and legit, but at its essence it’s just you and a bike. You call the shots, you hurt, you suffer, you win. Or get dropped. Or whatever.
OK, the teams aspect is real enough at times, true. Cadel didn’t win on his own, although at times it looked that way. He had a team behind him who protected him and kept him out of trouble. But when he had to ride, he rode alone against the other talented loners. All of these guys are used to riding long miles on their own. Sure it’s great to ride with others, be they teammates or just a loose arrangement of riders you stumble upon. It’s fun. It’s natural to form a bunch and ride together. But it’s neither essential nor the point. Just as surely as it’s not about the bike, it’s also not about the team, your teammates or your club. Or even your coach. It’s about you. And deep down we all know that.
Somehow opinionated Terrorgraph columnist Miranda Devine has contrasted private “social values” research by Quantum Market Research to the Gillard government’s decision to implement a Carbon Tax and in so doing “proved” that Julia is simply out of touch. The basic premise here is that as family values are at the heart of what Australians believe in, there is no room for a Carbon Tax as well. They are mutually exclusive, apparently, and discrete entities with no interaction. The fact that we are getting one anyway (a Carbon Tax, I mean) proves that the Gillard government just isn’t listening. Another nail in the coffin for Julia.
I suppose it also means that a government should only follow, never lead. It probably also means that a good government will only concentrate on supporting programs that enhance these core “family values”. And if climate change erodes our shores, floods coastal towns and threatens our food supply then it’s of no consequence to our “family values” and should be ignored.
All very readable and logical. I can see why she has a following.
What really caught my eye was that she even manages to explain a few more things with her exemplary research:
The average Australian has year 8 reading skills and feels “disempowered” by an increasingly complex world. Something like choosing a mobile phone company just becomes too difficult.
Now I understand. Not only should the government give up any pretence to leadership, it should dumb everything down, make it dead simple and speak s-l-o-w-l-y. We are dealing with children, after all. (And therefore I do wonder how the 2000 ‘average Aussies’ sampled by Quantum were able to give accurate answers to the complex self-assessment questions posed. Perhaps they just took a stab at it and went out to play in the backyard instead?)
I’m sure Miranda’s loyal readers are well above average. of course.
It could have gone either way – but I think this huntsman lost.
The wasp was tenacious – it caught and stunned the huntsman before dragging it along a weatherboard wall for about 10 metres, inching ever higher. It fell a few times to the ground before finally getting ‘upstairs’ as it were to its nest in the eaves. Well yes, of course I watched it. I offered to help!
I’d love to see a high speed train running down the east coast of Australia – I really would – but I doubt that the numbers actually stack up. My instinct is that it’ll be too expensive to build and require endless subsidy. The only way that a fixed, slower and essentially more expensive and inflexible rail service will out-compete an airline over the same route would be by legislatively hobbling the airline industry, or by a catastrophic cost impact on air travel (like a long term failure to source an economically sustainable low-carbon fuel). Of course that catastrophic cost blow out may be just around the corner… or it may not.
Having said that, a shorter more focused HST route, say Sydney – Gosford- Newcastle, may actually work. So there’s a crumb of optimism for you.
Now you’d think that Melbourne to Sydney (and vice versa) being the ’4th most busy’ air link in the world would be a good start, but does that ranking really mean anything? OK, yes, it does mean that over 9.3 million seats were offered on that route by the competing airlines in 2010. Most of which were probably filled. But how many of those seats (and hopefully passengers) could be lured onto a train in lieu of a plane? Well this latest report – and I haven’t seen the whole report as yet so bear with me here – seems to suggest 50%. Which is a lot. A whole lot.
The airlines won’t be happy.
But let’s unpack it all a bit. The 50% assumption relates to projected patronage in 2036 – yes, 26 years from now. Underlying that must be some impressive, sustained growth in the total travel market, from under 10 million seats in 2010 to some 50 million in 2036, or an average annual growth rate of some 17%. But that’s not the total market in 2036, if we are to believe the newspaper reports. No, that’s just ‘half the number of plane journeys that would have otherwise taken place between Sydney and Melbourne‘. So I take that as meaning that the HST takes 50% and the airlines also keep half. Which gives us 100 million seats a year between Sydney and Melbourne. Wow. (Hopefully there’s more detail released soon on the numbers.)
So we are being asked to believe that 100 million seats will be available on that route alone, based on a population assumption that must – surely – be around double today’s. Let’s say 40 to 50 million total in Australia and say 8 to 10 million in each of Sydney and Melbourne. Wow again. So much for keeping a cap on population growth (not that we were ever likely to do that).
If you were hoping that a HST would be a “green” initiative, think again. Just to meet these traffic assumptions you must surely have a bigger market, or a more mobile population, or both. If transportation is a major contributor to fossil fuel consumption (and it is) then here we are ramping it up. Of course we would be hoping that a HST takes cars off the roads and (as projected) removes some aircraft from the skies. But when the overall market grows this substantially the savings are only relative to what “may” have been. In other words it may have been worse – but it’ll still be bad.
Not to mention yet another scar down the east coast, cutting native animal populations into ever more isolated groups. At least aircraft fly over wilderness rather than through it. OK, it’s more likely that we’ll lose farmland or dig long tunnels, but inevitably there’s an environmental impact. It’s land locked up. And concrete and steel, laid in a long line. Just so we can get between our capitals – fast. What’s wrong with a phone call? Or a virtual reality link using the NBN? (At least the NBN services all of Australia, not just east coasters.)
But enough of that churlishness.
It’s an insurance policy against the day when air travel becomes unsustainable, isn’t it? Well yes, it is. But is a (worst-case) $108 billion insurance premium a relative bargain? Or not?
The assumptions that must underpin any such long-term assessment and expenditure are fraught with risk, and these risks are too numerous to mention. But here I go, anyway:
Economic growth remains strong (subject to policy, planning and a lot of luck)
Political will continues across many governments for many years (subject to everything, really, but currently it looks good)
Population growth continues unabated (subject to immigation policy but again likely as not)
The fares proposed are sustainable, or can be happily subsidised by a willing electorate
People still want to live in Brisbane, Sydney and Melbourne (and a few regional cities along the route) and not elsewhere (subject to planning policy and cultural shifts)
People still want to travel (subject to who-knows-what, including cost and available alternatives like virtual reality communications)
Fossil fuel and alternative fuel costs rise sufficiently to make rail relatively attractive despite airline efficiency gains (fuel costs will certainly rise, but airline seat-mile costs may still fall)
Environmental impact can be minimised at a reasonable cost (subject to policy and implementation)
New technologies won’t overtake whatever HST technology is selected (subject to good, informed decision making and a lot of luck).
And so on.
If I was to summarise the case for an HST down the east coast it would be as an insurance policy or “back up” to air travel should that at any time fail, and as additional competition to the existing and future airlines. It would also free up the current train lines for improved freight services. If effective it could help cut greenhouse gas emissions when compared with other transport modes. It would also be a significant infrastructure project driving job creation and potentiating wealth creation along the chosen route. And it may also make us feel good and proud.
And the case against? Well it’s a lot of money, even spread over 26 years. So that’s opportunity cost to pay. It may also prove to be economically unviable and subject to continual subsidy, especially if it is to be competitive with discounted airline fares. It has an environmental and land-use impact that’s hard to pin down but has to be huge, especially during the construction phase. It also locks us into just one east cost route, i.e. it assumes that Brisbane-Sydney-Melbourne plus selected regional stops are the bee’s knees. Sure we can expand later but for now you are either on the plan or lobbying hard to get on it. Or if you are in the west or centre of the continent, forget it. Whereas an airline can change it’s route virtually at will. And you can bet they will.
But will we do it, anyway? I’m sure this will bubble away, just like it has bubbled away for the past 30 years…
But the study, nevertheless, anticipates plenty of demand for a line, which would help keep ticket prices down. Passengers would be expected to make more than 50 million trips on a high speed line by 2036, about half the number of plane journeys that would have otherwise taken place between Sydney and Melbourne.
The study, conducted by a consortium including KPMG, Sinclair Knight Merz and Grimshaw Architects, puts a total price tag of between $61 billion and $108 billion for a network linking Brisbane, Newcastle, Sydney, Canberra and Melbourne.
The cost depends, in part, on what routes were selected. It would cost more to link Sydney and Canberra via Wollongong than it would to link them via the current Hume Highway corridor.
It would also cost more to develop stations at Central or Redfern than it would to build stations at Parramatta or Homebush. A station at Central could be built for an estimated $13.8 billion, a station at Parramatta for $9.5 billion, and a station at Homebush for $7.8 billion.
I know he’s just an amiable stooge for Tony Abbott in this anti-Carbon Tax malarkey (and I mean that in the nicest way) but surely even he can see that ‘proving’ that the coal industry in NSW will only grow by 60% of what it would have done without a tax isn’t very helpful to the anti-action denialist cause?
Firstly it’s still growing, but its predicted growth is simply reduced by 40% (yes, that’s loaded with assumptions and a timescale, too, so a large grain of salt is needed). Whereas if you take Tony Abbott at his word he expects the coal industry will be killed off completely. Now to my mind when something’s dead it ain’t growing at all. Whereas this coal mining beast is apparently still alive and kicking! And secondly, given that we will still consume energy and by all expectations grow in population to boot, it proves the tax works. Yes, coal declines and (here’s the flipside) resources are successfully diverted to the renewables sector. I thought Tony said it did nothing at all except create a money-go-round? How can Barry contradict Tony like this!
And I note that jobs created in the renewables sector aren’t mentioned at all. Bravo to the SMH for asking the question. There must be some jobs created to meet the gap created…. surely?
The confidential cabinet document shows the federal tax will result in the loss of 1850 jobs in the Hunter region and 7000 fewer jobs would be created in the Illawarra. The central west would lose 1000 jobs.
Compare and contrast the Herald’s more balanced reporting with the Terrorgraph’s slanted, opinion-laden and more colourfully-worded “report“:
THE carbon tax will inflate electricity prices by up to $200 a year more than Julia Gillard promised, demolishing claims her compensation package would ensure most people were hardly affected.
A NSW Treasury review into the carbon tax ordered by Premier Barry O’Farrell found electricity prices would go up by 15 per cent – not the 10 per cent predicted by the Prime Minister. That would mean an increase in a high-usage household of $498 a year, $300 for a medium-usage household and $183 for a low-usage household.
The Terrorgraph even manages to throw some mud at the French as well! Perhaps ‘proving’ that Gillard favours the French and the Victorians over the poor old New South Welsh-men and women? Or do we simply have cleaner, blacker coal and must therefore pay the price for our foolishness?
The GM/Chevy/Holden Volt is a nifty idea – a primary electric engine running off batteries that are topped up as needed by a secondary, smaller, petrol engine. It’s not so much a hybrid, where the 2 engines are more fully integrated and deliver power in concert to the wheels, as an adaptation of an aviation idea: the ground-running power supply that supports an aircraft’s systems pre-takeoff. You’ll see and hear that little beast in the tail of a Boeing 747, happily whining away as the aircraft is prepared for its next journey. It can run the electricals and even start the main engines, giving a beast like the 747 a greater degree of independence on the ground. It’s also like diesel-electric locomotives. So it’s hardly new, is it?
However, in any case, in an electric car it again brings increased independence and even security – in a similar way to a hybrid – by extending the vehicle’s electric-range and removing the “oh-my-god I forgot to charge my battery” fear. So it’s a good thing, even if it doesn’t completely rid us of the infernal combustion engine.
But GM’s marketing spin is deliberate and perhaps misguided. Presumably looking for an edge, a differentiator, or to simply distance itself from any coming ‘green backlash’ they have gone for “best technology” rather than “most green”. In so doing they seek to leverage – get this – that most slick of marketers, Apple. As far as GM-spin would have it the Volt is up there with the iPhone and iPad as techno-masterpieces that get people queuing out the door. Hmmm. It’s arguable whether Apple products actually represent the cutting edge of technology, although they do tend to follow up the real innovators with a smoother, shinier package that hides the insides better than most. (Maybe there is a connection here after all?) And Apple products generally have their appeal as easier-to-use and decidedly pricier icons of technology. So you can see their point. But will truly techno-savvy buyers actually buy this connection? It certainly doesn’t appeal to me – why would I want to associate with what appears to be a queue-all-night sheep mentality? Especially when I know I’m going to pay dearly for my addiction to a brand?
I’ll wait for the Chinese clone, thanks. It’ll be cheaper, more easily modded and simply better.
Instead, its maker says, the car will attract those most switched on to technology. US-based Chevrolet Volt communications manager Rob Peterson took time out of his schedule organising the Australian launch of the car this week to speak to Drive about plans for launching the battery-powered car using a petrol engine generator as a back-up, and admitted the car’s buyers were not what the company expected.
“Initially the competition [to the Volt] was perceived to be the Toyota Prius, and then the Nissan Leaf entered into the space,” Peterson says. “What’s happened is that people have now been exposed to the [Volt] and they’ve recognised it as the most technologically advanced vehicle on the road. Advertisement: Story continues below
“So you’re beginning to see a group of people who want to have the latest and greatest technology – the people who wait out the front of the Apple store to get the iPad 2, the iPhone 4 …
“[Volt buyers] have two reasons to be purchasing. They’re the most technologically advanced, so it fits their personality, but they’re also buying for environmental reasons,” he says. “It’s not the primary reason why they’re buying it, it’s a secondary reason.
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