God only knows how they survived, but I recently came across typewritten memos sent my way more than thirty years ago by Tom Darling, then president of CHML and what was CKDS-FM, 95.3 radio in Hamilton. For a brief time in the early ‘80’s I was program director of CKDS. Our format was wall-to-wall music and each show host was responsible for songs aired on his program. The system was imperfect, laborious and everyone was guilty of avoiding songs we particularly didn’t like. Our sister-station CHML’s system was similar, except its hosts talked more and music for individual shows was delivered to the studio in piles of vinyl albums, accompanied by typewritten lists identifying which song should be played from each album. A staff of five performed this task daily. One of my recovered memos referenced a CHML colleague and I being dispatched to Toronto to assess a brand new concept. Cutting edge computerized radio station music programming. A desk-sized clunky machine spitting out complete show playlists selected from a master list of music the station aired. The master list would be entered into a by today’s standards feeble operating system, all the while requiring constant updating and revision. Advertised upside? One person could manage the entire operation. My colleague’s assessment? “A gimmick. This computer stuff will never catch on.” He probably said the same about the mobile phones of the era like the Motorola DynaTAC 8000x which made its debut in 1983, was the size of an average man’s shoe and weighed in at 785g. Talk time? About one hour. Cost: $3995. The Dyna- TAC was used by corporate raider Gordon Gecko in the 1987 film Wall Street. How far we’ve come in the ensuing 30 years. Mike Lazaridis and a friend founded Research In Motion ‘84 in Waterloo, Ontario.
Jim Balsillie was brought on board in ‘92 and by 1999 as the first Black- Berry made its way to consumers RIM began listing its shares on NASDAQ. The speed of the technological revolution and its road kill continues to be breathtaking. The first iPhone, the 2G made its debut just six years ago. When Apple released its latest 5S and 5C smartphones the week of September 23 of this year more than 9 million units sold in the first 72 hours. RIM? We have followed its brilliant and rising star and borne witness to its rebadged as BlackBerry flameout. From international high tech darling with soaring stock prices topping at $149.90 in 2008, to takeover target with in the neighbourhood of $9 per share being offered. That’s about a 6% return on the $149.90 stock price, if you bought at the top and are still holding that paper. This morning, as I’m coming to grips with Apple’s new IOS7 operating system and considered tech and cyber world activity over the past three decades, I couldn’t help but feel nostalgia for the time of typewriters and reel-to-reel answering machines. For those good old 1980’s. For the decade which popularized personal computers, CDs, VCRs, Walkmans, camcorders, cable television, video gaming consoles and an almost 1kg weighing, $4000 mobile phone. Who knows what still virtually unimaginable new tech toys will be added in the coming decade? Maybe I’ll drag out those ‘80’s memos in 10 years and transmit a column like this from the chip in my brain to the one in yours. Sure. It’s just a gimmicky idea. Seems I’ve heard that before.