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Posts tagged ‘technological change’

Diogenes is a long time resident of a New York apartment building which has the wonderful amenity of a fitness room in its basement. First established nearly 20 years ago, this gym had deteriorated over the years through lack of updates into a slightly dingy and depressing, albeit functional place. One feature of the health club that regular users cherished was that each of 12 aerobic machine stations had its own small TV and VCR/DVD player, allowing users to record their own media and watch it while working out. A long overdue refurbishing of the gym at the end of the summer yielded flat screen TVs with no speakers and no media inputs. It seems that the remodeling committee decided that users (their neighbors) could not be trusted to comply with facility rules requiring headset use. Additionally, some few of us were spending too much time on any one machine, and perhaps grunting overly or perspiring too much while doing so.

Initially, Diogenes was outraged at this small infringement of his right to sweat profusely. Of course, the reality is that anything that governs any action is a limit on liberty, which is why the Founding Fathers held the idea of limited government as a basic tenet of the foundation of our republic. “Civil society” regulates our activities in countless ways, so why was Diogenes annoyed? It was because he had seen this problem coming and tried to head it off. As an original member of the committee that planned the construction of the gym, he had long ago specified the equipment to be replaced. Diogenes wrote letters to the current committee asking for slight changes to accommodate personal media. In a West Side building this input would have likely been debated intensely, but in this East Side coop, Diogenes was ignored, probably due to a lack of technical knowledge.

The simple answer to the equipment change in the gym would be to purchase new media from iTunes for every use of the facility. But Diogenes is rarely simple. This would constitute a new tax when he already paid for cable and NetFlix. Accepting the self imposed challenge to find a solution to the new equipment required Diogenes to exercise his brain, a far more daunting task than beating up his body. It had been years since Diogenes had considered the topic of video capture, and most of what he knew involved recording in old, “standard” definition of 480 lines of resolution. His first attempt involved the purchase of a TV tuner for a laptop. It would not record through the cable box, and so would only record unencrypted basic 2-13 channels. Not good enough.

The wonder of the internet is the ability to teach yourself almost anything without leaving your desk. Eventually, Diogenes purchased a high definition video capture device intended for gamers. It allowed the recording of signals through the cable box to a laptop. Unfortunately, the recorded media was not in a format to be transferred into an I-Pad. Further research yielded a separate media conversion software program that did the trick.

Diogenes wound up spending as much for hardware and software to record and view media as he would have to simply buy it for a year or so. But as noted physicist and polymath Richard Feynman wrote in 1981, sometimes “the pleasure of finding things out” is its own reward. Every time Diogenes forces himself to overcome his inertia to use the gym, he chuckles to himself as he watches…whatever he wants. He thanks the committee for prodding him to expand his knowledge, and upgrade his viewing experience.