Showing posts from August, 2017


It is hard to confirm which single product has been manufactured the most in human history, but the ubiquitous Bic Cristal pen, with over ONE HUNDRED BILLION made since 1950, but be up there. After that, we may then be looking at food and drink items, and components of bigger pieces, like bolts, nuts and screws. Like television, the ballpoint pen is the culmination of the work of many people. The wonderfully-named John J. Loud first patented such a pen in 1888, but that patent expired through lack of interest. However, the Hungarian inventor László Bíró. with his chemist brother György, are credited with inventing the “biro” because they overcame problems others found with keeping the writing ball in place. Instead of just trying to fix it in position, they coupled it with the viscosity of the ink – with the right consistency, the ink can continue to flow without drying around the ball, and without leaking. The Biros’ invention, and the Second World War, took them to Argentina


I first became aware of rose gold when Apple released the iPhone 6S and 6S Plus in 2015, giving me a year to wait for my phone contract to end before I could get one in this colour. Apple added this colour to its range, which already included gold, mainly to attract Chinese buyers, a growing market for them. However, you can now trip over products that are burnished with a colour originally intended to be highly exclusive, but that is what the popularity and fashion games are all about. For the record, gold becomes rose gold when you add copper to it, turning more to red when copper content is increased. The most recognised shade of rose gold is usually 75% gold, 22.5% copper, and also 2.75% in silver. In order to create that particular shade of pink – “rose” does make it easier to sell – you need to be able to afford it, in the same way that blue could only be created for paintings and elsewhere by using highly prized minerals, like cobalt and azurite, until synthetic dyes coul


Earlier this week, Bill Burr, former head of the US National Institute of Standards and Technology, lamented advice he had given to government departments in 2003 about choosing the best password. It was Burr’s advice that led to the requests to add capital letters and punctuation marks to our own passwords but, as it turns out, this can make them easier to crack, so the advice now is to use less commonly used words, like “ecumenical,” or “obfuscatory,” or sets of words, like “trout mask replica,” or “floppy croissant hell.” It appears the new advice discourages creating the systems that help us to remember the ever-growing passwords required to access everyday services, in favour of a more creative, less predictive measure, with no pattern to predict. It is the same principle behind reCAPTCHA’s “NoCAPTCHA” – you can make a robot repeat a word, or recognise a shape, but asking if they are a robot suddenly requires some reasoning. Following the new advice, we may all n


Last week, Apple announced they were withdrawing the iPod shuffle and nano after twelve years on sale. In 2005, they were the latest extensions of a product line aiming to cram your music collection into your pocket, definitively doing away with cassettes, discs and vinyl for a generation of people. And now, over a decade later, vinyl has come back, CDs remain on general release, nostalgia over cassettes exist, and MP3 players have been replaced by smartphones and streaming services like Spotify and, crucially, Apple Music, renting music instead of selling, and not taking up space on devices or on shelves. Meanwhile Sony, creators of the Walkman personal stereo system in 1979, using their existing 3.5 mm headphone jack they created fifteen years before, will carry on regardless, having kept up with their customers’ needs, changing from cassette players to CDs, DAT, Mini-Disc, Video 8, MP3, and lossless audio, bringing out new formats as the needs arise. This new situation