Inventors That Changed the World: Al Gross

Much like Arnold Schwarzenegger’s character in the movie ‘Twins’, the walkie-talkie can claim to have many fathers. However, one of the most prominent names in the debate (and maybe the one with the single strongest claim to having invented the walkie-talkie) is Canadian/American inventor Al Gross.

The son of Romanian immigrants, Al Gross was born in Toronto, Canada in 1918, but his parents moved to Cleveland, Ohio, USA when he was quite young. Whilst on a steamboat trip across Lake Erie, the 9-year-old Gross encountered radio technology for the first time and, in so doing, ignited a passion within him that would change the world.

How passionate was he? By age 12, Gross had turned his parents’ basement into a radio centre. The bright young man would visit junkyards and salvage any material he thought he could use. Four years later –aged 16- Gross was awarded an amateur radio license, which was still in effect at the time of his death in 2000.

At the age of 18, Gross enrolled in the Case School of Applied Sciences. At the time, radio frequencies above 100MHz were relatively unexplored territory. Gross wanted to see exactly what could be done with them. He wanted to create a mobile, lightweight, handheld transceiver, using those uncharted frequencies. In 1938, he did just that, patenting the two-way radio, or ‘walkie-talkie’. He was just 20 years old.

War arrived on American shores in 1941 with the attack on Pearl Harbour. America scrambled to mobilize its armed forces and take advantage of any/all new technology that could aid the struggle against the Axis powers. The US Office of Strategic Services (OSS) – a forerunner to the CIA – tapped Gross to create an air-to-ground communications’ system. The system Gross designed employed Hertzian radio waves and was almost impossible for the enemy to monitor, even when allied planes were in enemy airspace. Gross’ system proved incredibly successful (so much so, that it was not declassified until 1976).

After the war, the inventor turned entrepreneur and founded the Citizens Radio Corporation, which took advantage of the first frequencies designated for personal use. His company was the first to receive FCC approval for use with the new ‘citizens’ band’. He licensed radios to other companies and supplied units to the Coast Guard, amongst others.

Then, in 1949 came another amazing discovery. Gross invented and patented the telephone pager. He invented the system with doctors in mind, but the medical community was (amazingly) slow to respond to this new technology. Only New York’s Jewish Hospital saw the potential of the pager as a life-saving device, when they implemented it in 1950.

Throughout the 1950’s, Gross, ever the pioneer, fought hard to garner interest for his newest idea – a mobile telephone. It took him eight years to get mobile telephony, as a concept, off the ground. Talk about being ahead of the curve!

Unfortunately, many of Gross’ best ideas were so far ahead of said curve, that his patents ran out before he could garner the profit his genius deserved. Had he earned the money eventually generated by CB radio, pagers and cellular phones, he would have died an extremely rich man. However, it was not to be.

Gross invented a lot throughout the years, but nothing brought him the amount of money that he potentially could have made from his earlier inventions. However, Gross was able to make a comfortable living, spending the 1960’s working for large corporations as a specialist in communications systems. 

In the 1990’s, he was employed as a Senior Staff Engineer for Orbital Sciences Corporation in Arizona, where he worked on satellite communications, military equipment and aerospace technology.

As an older man, Gross got the most joy from visiting local schools and giving presentations. He took extra pleasure in inspiring the next generation of scientists, engineers and thinkers.

In April of the year 2000, Al Gross (who had garnered numerous awards throughout his career, far too many to write about here) was honoured to receive the Lemelson-MIT Lifetime Achievement Award. He passed away eight months later in December 2000.

Gross never actually retired and was still working at the age of 82, a restless paragon of forward thinking, innovation and tireless imagination.

SOURCE

http://web.mit.edu/invent/iow/gross.html

What Is an Ultrasonic Transducer?

You’ve probably stumbled upon this looking for information about headset’s, hopefully this will help you answer some of those questions, if not please click on one of the relevant links within the article

An ultrasonic transducer is an electrical component that converts ultrasonic sound waves beyond the range of human hearing into alternating current (AC) or direct current (DC) electrical signals that are then transmitted or recorded. Usually such devices are built upon crystals that demonstrate a piezoelectric effect, which conduct electrical current in response to mechanical stress or vibrations. The crystals have directly proportional output to the strength of the input sound wave or stress, and this makes them useful measuring devices as an ultrasonic transducer.

ultrasonic transducerApplications for ultrasonic transducer-based electronics included use in early television remote controls as signal devices, and, as of 2011, in anemometers used by weather stations to monitor wind course and speed. They are used in industrial applications to monitor the level of fluid in a tank, and in modern-day automobiles as of 2011 for echo location sensors to indicate objects in close proximity to the path of a vehicle that is backing up or pulling into a garage. Since an ultrasonic transducer can also play the role of an ultrasonic transmitterthrough input electrical power, they offer the capability of a primitive type of sonar in many cases. Sound waves can be reflected off of a surface and the distance to that surface measured by the time and frequency of the wave that bounces back.

Electrical devices that convert one form of energy to another, like ultrasonic sensors, often have widespread applications in electronics and industry. Many diverse uses for the ultrasonic transducer now exist, including in environmental controls for buildings, such as in humidifiers where they vaporize the surface of the water, and in burglar alarms to detect objects moving within an otherwise clear path. Ultrasonography also relies on the principle of an ultrasonic transducer in medicine, where sound waves of 1 to 30 megahertz are employed to remotely generate imagery for the state of muscles, internal organs, and blood vessels in the human body, as well as the state of a fetus during pregnancy.

Since the era of the 1940s, the ultrasonic transducer has been incorporated into testing equipment to detect flaws in a range of sonar-related applications. They can be used to find fine cracks, voids, or porous sections in concrete and building foundations, damaged or fractured metal welds, and flaws in other materials such as plastic, ceramic, and composites. The devices are versatile because the sound waves that they emit will be affected by any medium, whether liquid, solid, or gas. With a detector used to measure gas status, however, an intermediate gel is usually placed between the gas and the ultrasonic transducer, as sound waves are otherwise poorly conducted and recorded in a gas medium.

The field of flaw detection for ultrasonic technology is broken down into five different types of transducer designs: contact, angle beam, delay line, immersion, and dual element transducers. Contact transducers have to have close contact proximity to what they are measuring, such as a stud finder in the building trade used to detect wooden beams behind walls. An immersion transducer is waterproof and placed in a fluid flow. Both angle beam and delay line forms of an ultrasonic transducer are used to measure welds and in conditions of high temperatures. The dual element transducer is simultaneously a transmitter and receiver for continuous monitoring of rough or potentially flawed surfaces.

Jawbone ERA Bluetooth Headset

You’ve probably stumbled upon this looking for information about earpiece’s, hopefully this will help you answer some of those questions, if not please click on one of the relevant links within the article

Jawbone may now be best known for its UP wireless activity trackers and its Jambox speakers, but before anything else the San Francisco company was a force in the world of Bluetooth headsets. The new ERA is Jawbone’s (mostly) triumphant return to the ears of busy businessmen worldwide.

 

What Is It?

The Jawbone ERA is a small, powerful Bluetooth headset. It’s only 47mm long, 22mm wide and 13mm deep, and weighs only 6g. It has an internal rechargeable lithium-ion battery good for 4 hours of talk time or music playback, and a high quality noise cancelling microphone that promises clear and accurate voice calls even in loud environments.

For such a small device, the ERA is well-built. There’s no creaking plastic or microphonics when you’re wearing the wireless headset, and even at maximum volume on a bassy music track there’s no undue vibration or distortion from the ERA’s earpiece.

There are five main elements involved in the care and usage of the ERA. The first is the headset’s single visible switch — it’s on the inner face of the ERA, toggling from power off to hpower on — when you can see the blue half of the switch, the Bluetooth headset is turned on. Forwards from the power switch is a small, rubberised, cylindrical mole — this is a skin sensor that knows when you’re wearing the ERA and when you’re speaking, aiding the earpiece’s active noise cancellation.

Hidden away on the back of the Jawbone ERA is the headset’s sole multi-purpose button. The process for using said button is a little arcane — there’s a guide in the box, of course, but remembering just how many short or long presses to tap on the back of the ERA can sometimes be a little difficult.

To adjust the ERA’s audio output volume, for example, you press and hold the multi-purpose button as the headset cycles through various volume levels from minimum to maximum to minimum and so on; to answer or end a call is a single press, to skip audio tracks is a double press — it’s easy enough with practice, but slightly complex to initially learn.

At the end of the protuberance of the Jawbone ERA — the best word to describe the piece of the headset that juts forwards from its resting place in your ear — is its internal microphone. The microphone is hooked up to the rest of the ERA’s electronics package, and does an incredibly good job of clearly transmitting your voice to anyone you’re talking to.

The segment of the ERA that you’ll have the most interaction with, though, is its earpiece. It’s the misshapen lump protruding from the otherwise sleek body of the ERA, with a wide-band audio driver surrounded by a removable silicon eartip. Jawbone includes four different silicon eartip sizes in the ERA’s retail packaging — suitable for a small right ear, medium right ear, medium left, and large right. In practice we found both the small and medium right eartips to offer the best fit

The ERA is not a cheap headset. If you buy it without the charging case, you’re up for a full $149, while adding the charging case tacks another $30 onto the price tag. I genuinely think the charging case is a mandatory accessory — it does a great job of providing extra power to a headset that definitely needs it — but as an overall package the ERA is very expensive.

What Is It Good At?

Just using the Jawbone ERA is an enjoyable exercise straight out of the box. There’s that ever-present secret agent feel to pressing a button on your secret in-ear headset, and after you’ve learned the ropes, taking calls, playing and selecting music tracks is simple.

The active noise cancellation of Jawbone’s microphone — the company calls the entire package NoiseAssassin, now at version 3.0 in the new ERA — is excellent. For making voice calls, or talking to Siri or Google Now, it’s definitely the most capable Bluetooth microphone I’ve used, and is possibly the best headset microphone I’ve used full stop. Especially in noisy environments, the novel noise cancelling built into the body of the ERA works very well.

For the first few days of trialing the headset, everyone I talked to with the ERA noticed the difference in the clarity and quality of voice calls. When you’re talking, the ERA clearly transmits audio, and when you’re not, it doesn’t — simple as that. With the help of the skin sensor, the ERA’s noise cancellation removes one of the most annoying impediments to workday phone conversations in existence. If you and a friend both had Jawbone ERAs and smartphones hooked up to a mobile carrier that supported HD Voice, you’d be able to chat away in the middle of a hurricane.

Beyond transmitting voice and audio, the Jawbone ERA is equally good at playing it back. I haven’t heard previous Jawbone Bluetooth headsets to compare the ERA too, but Jawbone says its earphone driver is much improved, and I’m inclined to believe them — this is a tiny Bluetooth headset, but at maximum power it’s actually capable of outputting a decent amount of audio oopmh. Compare it to a good pair of earbuds or in-ear monitors (I sabotaged the ERA by trying it out against Logitech’s excellent UE 900 IEMs), and it isn’t great, but it beats out Apple’s iPhone earbuds any day.

There isn’t a great deal of bass extension from the Jawbone ERA’s earphone speaker driver, but both treble and mid-range detail is excellent — significantly better than I was expecting. Maximum volume isn’t exactly ear-splittingly loud, but it is good enough to hear the ERA in an otherwise noisy environment. Jawbone’s various audio cues — a sort of aural guide to the ERA’s various features as you select them — are presented in a pleasantly soothing female voice, although you can customise them usng Jawbone’s companion mobile app, which also adds some useful features to the ERA’s repertoire.

Jawbone’s ERA works well as part of the entire family of Jawbone products. The accompanying Jawbone app for both Android and iOS devices (tablets and smartphones alike, although you’re likely only using the ERA with a phone) will be updated in the near future to link various products together, although Jawbone isn’t sharing specifics just yet. You should be able to get updates on your UP24′s daily activity or sleep progress in your ERA headset, for example. It’s a minor software trigger, but one that adds value to the entire Jawbone ecosystem.

If you’ve bought the charging case for the ERA, you’re in for a treat — it’s both a convenient and sturdy place to store the headset when you’re not using it, and a portable recharging station. The ERA headset sits in the case with its rear microUSB port holding it securely, while the dock has its own microUSB port for recharging. There’s a small indicator on the side of the charging case that tells you how much charge it has remaining, and the flip-up connector makes getting the ERA out easy when you need it. It’s the smartest way to store the ERA, and it has a thin leather strap for attaching it to a keyring.

I kept the ERA on my keyring for a fortnight, and the charging case didn’t get more than a couple of scratches — it’s just as sturdy as the ERA itself. It holds a total of 10 hours worth of charge for the headset, it charges quickly, and it’s convenient storage. I did have one instance where the ERA’s silicone earpiece fell off while the headset was stored away in its case, but for the most part the eartips stay on securely.

What Is It Not Good At?

It’s not possible to talk aout Bluetooth headsets without talking about the cringe factor inherent in using one. Don’t get me wrong — the Jawbone ERA is a very cool Bluetooth headset, but at the end of the day, it isstill a Bluetooth headset. If you want one, this is the one to get, but you better really want to wear it.

What that means is that it’s a slightly dorky dongle hanging out of your left or right ear, and even as unobtrusive as it is it is noticeable, and if you wear it out in public you’ll get the odd sideways glance or cautious glare. I made the mistake of wearing the ERA between my morning train and the Gizmodo office, and ordered a coffee at a cafe on the way — only afterwards did I realise how much of an idiot I probably looked like to the barista.

Of course, there is absolutely a time and place where the ERA truly belongs. It’s invaluable on long car trips, where the one-touch button means you can answer a call and have a discussion almost entirely hands-free, without distracting yourself from the road. If you’re hard at work and don’t want too much of a distraction, it’s possible to talk on the phone without disrupting your flow.

Without its charging case, the Jawbone ERA will run out of power within 4 hours at moderate listening volume, if you’re listening to music or constantly making and receiving voice calls. This is not enough for an entire workday of listening to music on the ERA, for example, and if you have a particularly busy string of phone meetings you might quickly run the ERA to the end of its battery life.

It’s possible to eke a day’s power out of the ERA with light usage, but as a general rule, it won’t last a full eight hour stretch — and it’s this that makes the extra cost of the battery charging case worthwhile. You’ll have to shell out a few more dollars, though, and this factors into our overall view of the ERA as a particularly expensive Bluetooth headset.

Should You Buy It?

Jawbone’s ERA is, as Bluetooth headsets go, very fashionable. You can buy the ERA in any one of four colours, and all four will be available in Australia. As it stands, the ERA is being sold exclusively in Apple Stores around the country, so if you want one to complement your Android phone you’ll have to step into the heart of darkness for at least a few minutes.

The ERA is a great headset, there’s no denying that. It sounds great, has the added features offered by Jawbone’s bespoke app, and it’s both attractive and versatile. All this brilliance does come at a price, though. The high asking price does restrict the appeal of the Jawbone ERA significantly; it’s likely to only appear on the ears of well-heeled businessmen and ultra-fashionable advertising and marketing and PR types.

If you want the best Bluetooth headset at any price, our money goes towards the Jawbone ERA. Before you buy it, though, I’d suggest you give careful consideration to its utility and how often you’ll be using it — an alternative might be more appropriate. Anyone deciding that the $179 ERA is right for them won’t be disappointed with how it performs. It’s on sale around Australia from the end of this month.

Riedel to Provide Radio Communications Network and Equipment for Glasgow 2014 Commonwealth Games

This was originally posted here and we thought we’d share it here, Riedel are one of the worlds biggest radio companies and have run the communications for the london olympics, euros 2012 and many other big events, so thsi story comes as no surprise.

Riedel Communications, provider of pioneering real-time video, audio, data, and communications networks, will supply all radio communications equipment and services for the Glasgow 2014 Commonwealth Games, running from July 23 to Aug. 3 in Glasgow, Scotland. 

“The ability to communicate effectively at Games venues and throughout Glasgow and other parts of Scotland is an essential element to delivering a successful Glasgow 2014 Commonwealth Games,” said Brian Nourse, chief information officer, Glasgow 2014 Commonwealth Games. “We have benefited from Riedel’s extensive experience of being involved in many previous major sporting events to ensure a robust communications solution is delivered for our event,” 

 Riedel Communications has designed a radio communications solution for use across Glasgow and at the 14 venues hosting 17 different sporting competitions. The company is providing all radio handsets and radio communication accessories — including more than 6,000 radios — used in the lead-up to and during the Games, along with a terrestrial trunked radio (TETRA) digital network and a Motorola MOTOTRBO digital radio repeater system. Both the TETRA and MOTOTRBO systems are dedicated, fully monitored, and serviced solutions. 
TETRA combines the advantages of analog trunked radio with those of digital mobile radio to provide optimal frequency usage, high transmission quality for speech and data, maximum security against eavesdropping, as well as flexible networking and connection management. Beyond that, the digital trunked radio system supports full duplex communication, GPS-positioning, and connection to the public telephone network. The system offers the option of operating different virtual channels, and it can leverage IP connectivity to support wide-area operation.
With this communications infrastructure, Riedel will ensure outdoor street-level coverage at all official venues, throughout the city of Glasgow, and along the official cycling road race and marathon routes, as well as indoor coverage at Glasgow 2014 competition venues. Riedel is also supplying the radio communications solution for the Scottish leg of the Queen’s Baton Relay, ensuring radio communications run smoothly as the baton makes its way through Scotland to Glasgow for the Games.
“We are delighted to be the Official Radio Communications Partner of the Glasgow 2014 Commonwealth Games,” said Christian Bockskopf, head of marketing for Riedel Communications. “We’ve worked closely with the organizers to develop a radio communications solution that satisfies both the technical and operational requirements of all the key players during this world-class event.”

 

What Is Covert Surveillance?

With very little information on the internet about earpiece’s, it is very rare when we get a chance to re post, with permission, an article from this industry.

Covert surveillance occurs when someone or something is being observed without knowledge. People who are under surveillance are most often under suspicion. Locations and buildings are primarily observed because of suspicious activity or to obtain information about a suspect.

covert surveillance Covert surveillance is generally performed by government agencies, private investigators or business owners. Intelligence organizations such as the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) of the United States and the United Kingdom’s Secret Intelligence Service, also called MI6, participate in surveillance to obtain information for national security interests such as counter terrorism. Law enforcement agencies such as the United States’ Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) or the International Criminal Police Organization (INTERPOL) also perform surveillance. They concentrate on observing suspected criminals.

Private investigators perform covert surveillance for a variety of reasons. Husbands and wives hire private investigators to prove or disprove suspected infidelity. Businesses hire private investigators to observe employees who are suspected of fraudulent activities or former employees that may be breaking confidentiality agreements. Insurance companies are notorious for using private investigators to put claimants under surveillance to ensure they are not submitting a fraudulent claim.

Many business owners participate in covert surveillance of their employees and customers. Observing employees while they are working gives business owners valuable information, such as employee production and employee theft. Covertly observing customers can aid in marketing and research efforts and most importantly account for loss due to theft in retail businesses. Retail businesses can also use information obtained through covert surveillance to prosecute shoplifters.

A surveillance operation may be carried out in a number of ways. Agency employees and private investigators may choose to observe a subject without the aid of sophisticated technology, using things such as binoculars and cameras. However, in an age of modern technological conveniences, it is safer, cheaper and more convenient to use surveillance equipment.

Closed circuit television systems (CCTV) are one of the most popular ways to carry out covert surveillance. Cameras come in all sizes and can be placed inconspicuously almost anywhere. In order to obtain audio, wire taps can be placed on phones or audio surveillance equipment may be hidden in a suspect’s office, home or vehicle. Other ways to perform covert surveillance include aerial surveillance and the use of global positioning systems (GPS). A GPS placed on a person or moving vehicle can be tracked to monitor movement to specific locations. Similarly, aerial surveillance carried out by national governments can track objects on the ground.

 

What is an Acoustic Transducer?

What will you do if i stated I have found a headset short article that isn’t only fascinating but informative as well? I knew you would not believe me, so here it is the educational, superb and appealing article

An acoustic transducer is an electrical device that coverts sound wave vibrations into mechanical or electrical energy. They have various practical applications, including sound recording and sound playback. A specialized model, called an ultrasonic acoustic transducer, can be used to measure distance to, as well as the mass of, an object.

Common types of acoustic transducers used in sound recording include microphones, earphones, and guitar pickups. These create electrical energy when moving parts inside the transducer, such as electrical plates or ribbons, are exposed to sound vibrations. The electrical energy produced inside the transducer is sent first to an amplifier.

The amplifier then sends this energy to its final destination, usually a loudspeaker or recording device. The loudspeaker reproduces the sound at a level that the human ear can hear. A recording device will retain the electrical signal information. The recorder will send the stored signal to a loudspeaker during playback.

An ultrasonic acoustic transducer can be used to measure distance or the mass of an object. The most common type is the piezoelectric acoustic transducer. These include a piezoelectric ceramic element that creates and distributes ultrasonic sound waves.

Sound waves travel to an object from a piezoelectric transducer through material called a couplant. The couplant is usually water. Sound waves bounce off the object and return to the transducer in the form of an echo. The time it takes for these echoes to return to the transducer is used to calculate the distance to the object.

Underwater sound navigation and ranging (SONAR) is a common use of an ultrasonic acoustic transducer. SONAR uses directional beams of sound waves. This enables the SONAR operator to determine the direction and distance to an object.

SONAR systems can be active or passive. An active system sends out sound waves and listens for echoes. A passive system listens for noises made by ships, fish, and landmasses.

An electromagnetic acoustic transducer (EMAT) is another form of ultrasonic transducer. Instead of a ceramic element, an electro magnet is the main component of an EMAT. This is a type of non-contact, or non-destructive transducer. Unlike piezoelectric transducers, EMATs do not need a couplant to carry sound waves. Instead, two electromagnetic fields are generated to disburse ultrasonic waves.

EMATs can easily be used almost anywhere since no liquid is needed. For example, EMATs can be used to check for flaws in underground pipes. A downside to EMATs, compared to piezoelectric transducers, is that EMATs create weaker sound fields.

 

What’s is the Best Bluetooth Headset for Exercising?

Asked by Hiromi in Osaka

Hi Hiromi, How’s life in Japan? I’d love to visit one day, but until then, here’s your answer…

It all depends on how much you sweat. Yes, I know that’s a little bit indelicate of me, but unfortunately it happens to be true. I’ve read many, many customer reviews of otherwise fine and good headsets that claim to be designed for joggers, but that conk out the first time they get significantly wet…

Headsets designed for jogging are often created so that they won’t fall out of your ears as you run, with almost no concern placed on how much you may sweat during the run. Some people sweat a lot and some sweat very little. In either instance, your sweat level needs to be a factor in your purchasing decision (and there’s no nicer way to say it than that!)

Then, another factor to consider is how much the headset will isolate you from your surroundings as you run. Noise cancellation headsets might do a superlative job if you’re running past a noisy construction site, but they aren’t going to be much help in the wake of oncoming traffic. Again, it comes down to individual choice. Some runners subscribe to the Linford Christie ‘bullet from a gun’ mentality, whilst others simply enjoy a bit of exercise, but also like to stay aware of what’s going on around them.

It is also misleading to assume that a branded headset from a sportswear manufacturer is in any way superior to one designed by a trusted electronics firm. In many/most instances, the opposite is actually true.

Sadly, even so called ‘sweat resistant’ headsets are often anything but and there isn’t a lot you can actually do to get your money back. Your best bet, if you ask me, is to buy a mid-range headset, use it specifically for jogging/going to the gym and don’t expect it to last for very long. If it performs badly, chalk it up to experience and buy a different headset, if it lasts for a decent period of time, then replace it with a similar model, or else the same one again.

I’ll be honest; every so often I get one of these questions that I find hard to answer, as no amount of research will really help. Type in the name of any ‘Bluetooth Headset for Jogging’ into Amazon (or whatever the Japanese equivalent of Amazon may be) and you’ll read just as many complaints in the reviews as praises.

Due to this, I’m reluctant to name specific models, because they may not actually work for you. I’d hate to say, “Oh, this headset works really well”, only to have you write back “Does it b*llocks!”. I have personally reviewed several pairs of headphones online (which you can view by clicking HERE), but not any Bluetooth headsets (to the best of my recollection), so I’m afraid that’s all the advice I can give you on this one!

Review: AfterShokz’s Bluez 2 Bone Conduction Headset Aces Speech, but Muddles Music

When we found this informative article we were so excited, having searched for over a year for this, discovering it on this blog was an thrilling day for me.

 

Aftershokz’s Bluetooth headset does just what claims to, so long as you’re after a robust, lightweight, elegantly designed, handsfree interface for speech-based audio listening or making phone calls.

“Bone conduction technology.” It sounds like a gimmick, something you might file on the shelf next to 3D positional audio, high-res music, gold-plated cables and surround-sound cans. It’s not.

In fact, you’ll find it today in breakthrough medical technology like cochlear implants: tiny, surgically implanted electronic devices that can transmit enough sonic information to the listener that even someone mostly deaf can hear sounds and understand speech. If you’re a talk radio devotee, you’re probably aware that Rush Limbaugh uses the latter.

I mention all that because I’ve been test-driving a pair of $100 open ear wireless headphones from Aftershokz for the past few weeks, the Bluez 2, and that’s their claim to fame: “bone conduction technology,” transmitting vibrations produced by a pair of small speaker-pads (sporting what look like rubber shock absorbers abutting your cheekbones) directly to your cochlea. The cochlea, in case you don’t know or remember, would be that spiraling, snail shell portion of your innermost ear you maybe had fun drawing in elementary school biology, that place in your brainpan where fluid jukes and jives reacting to said vibrations, which then get converted into electrical signals that make their way to your brain via neurotransmitters. Imagine a relatively low cost, external headset that can tap directly into that.

The Bluez 2 reminds me a little of an old Sony AM/FM radio headset I used back in the late 1990s — a clunky-looking thing that perched above each of my ears and looped around the back of my head like a wobbly boomerang. Sony’s headset had speakers that rested directly over your earholes and drew its architectural stability from that connective band — all one piece, with no wires or pendulous protuberances. And it took a licking, which is all that mattered to me in that hazy, pre-MP3 era, before the shift from low-fi, functionally minimalist portable audio gear to dragging around microcomputers into which most people I see out running or at the gym still plug headphones today, whether dangling or coiled inside an arm band.

Wireless headsets are a dime ten-dozen nowadays, and bone conduction technology’s not new, but when Aftershokz’s Bluez 2 headset arrived unbidden, looking just enough like that old Sony headset to draw my eye, I decided to give it a shot. I’ve worn it most of each day for the past two weeks and used it as the primary interface to my iPhone 5: listening to audiobooks and music while running outside, and chatting on the phone both indoors and out as well as in the car.

For a Bluetooth device that gets about six hours to a charge and has to generate haptic feedback, my initial reaction putting it on was “Man, is this thing light.” Weighing just 41 grams, it rests almost unnoticeably on your ears, its narrow, glossy black band wrapping behind your head without touching it (Aftershokz includes a reflective sticker you can optionally place on the neck band). If I cared about aesthetics as much as functionality, I’d probably use it in a sentence with words like streamlined and elegant. It doesn’t look half-bad on your noggin, either, though when I wore it out grocery shopping a few weeks ago, someone stopped me to ask if it was Google Glass. (Insert quip about eyes in the back of your head here.)

Let’s talk about the bone conduction angle, since that’s the buzziest buzzword in the mix. Imagine a pair of haptic gamepads strapped to either side of your head like Princess Leia’s cinnamon buns and the vibration-feedback mechanisms in said gamepads jackhammering away. The Bluez 2′s vibrations feel nothing like that, thank goodness, though there’s a slight buzzing sensation that pulses as audio’s conveyed through the audio pads. On my head, the pads align with my temporomandibular joint (the place your lower jaw connects to your skull — it’s right in front of your ear), and that’s where I suspect most are going to feel it. To be clear, it’s strictly vibration-based and not electrical, but it feels a little weird, a bit like someone holding the end of a sonic toothbrush against your cheeks, and that takes some getting used to.

But the benefits are considerable, especially if you’re listening to speech, whether talking on the phone or devouring an audio book. The headset’s speakers are physically positioned in front of your ears, which looks like it can’t possibly work properly, until you realize the sounds are being transmitted and augmented by the vibrating pads, up your cheekbones and through your ear canals. I have narrow ear canals and weird-shaped ears, meaning most earbuds (even with sizing tips) tend to fall out. The upside of Bluez 2′s headset is that it’s one-size-fits-all, and all-fits-comfortably — no fussing with sizers or trying to adjust the speakers to your earhole. And they’re perfectly comfortable for extended sessions, even if placed over a pair of glasses (so long as the temple pieces aren’t too thick). As a glasses-wearer, that’s more than I can say for any other pair of over-the-ear headphones I’ve used.

The other benefit — and I noticed this most while running outdoors in moderately noisy environments (traffic, mostly) — is that speech came through clearly at all times, even while battling a strong headwind. I wound up listening to several hours of the audiobook version of that old 1988 PBS documentary The Power of Myth while testing the Bluez 2, and both Joe Campbell and Bill Moyers came through clearer and more consistently than they ever had using a pair of wired headphones. The same held true when I summoned TuneIn to catch Internet-streamed cable news or local radio. If listening to speech-related audio is your thing, from audiobooks to talk radio to news, Aftershokz’s headset really excels.

I’m sad to say I had the opposite reaction to the Bluez 2′s music playback quality. Paired with my iPhone 5 and the volume set to maximum, XTC’s Skylarking sounded washed together and hollow, as did Elbow’s The Take Off and Landing of Everything, Elton John’s The Diving Board and Janelle Monáe’s The ArchAndroid. And I had difficulty getting the Bluez 2 to play loud enough in even modestly noisy environments. This, despite a product bullet point that boasts of a patented feature Aftershokz calls “PremiumPitch,” which uses dual transducers to “guarantee the finest bone conduction audio.”

I guess that means the finest still has a ways to go: Switching to a pair of low-end, wired Sony MDR-AS20J headphones with loop hangars, the quality upgrade when listening to that same music was startling.

My sense is that where bone conduction technology excels at bulldogging basic audio — especially speech — through your brainpan in noisy environments, it’s comparably poor at conveying even moderate details produced by higher fidelity audio sources. If not being able to listen to music at even moderate quality and volume levels is a deal-breaker, I’d steer clear of this headset, if not bone conduction technology in general. At this point, music and bone conduction feel like a mismatch.

If you’re just looking for something to use as a handsfree headset for voice calls, on the other hand, the Bluez 2 sports dual microphones that worked ably enough in both low and high noise environments. Switching between the headset and Apple’s default iPhone earbuds, the people I called said the audio improved a bit with the earbuds and noted that the Bluez 2′s audio sounded slightly muffled by comparison, but was otherwise fine. I suspect the latter has something to do with noise-cancellation algorithms, the flip side being that in noisier environments, those algorithms helped capture and convey what I was saying more dependably.

Music aside, I’m pretty happy with the Bluez 2 as-is. I wasn’t expecting a revelatory music listening experience (and to be fair, no one’s offering that over Bluetooth at this point), and it does do what it claims to if you’re just after a robust, lightweight, elegantly designed, handsfree interface for speech-based audio listening or making phone calls. $100 feels about right if the latter’s what you’re after, and that includes an adjustable tension band, a micro-USB charge cable and a smartly designed “breathable” storage pouch with one side mesh to let the headset dry if you’ve soaked it during a workout.

 

Private Pilots Shouldn’t Take Off Without a Backup Radio

Again a different short article i thought was remarkable around the topic of two way radio’s, what would you do if i didn’t post this ehh? you would have to look at the original article, and the chances you found it could be slim, so deem yourself blessed that i’ve shared this wonderful article with you.

Those of you who follow my adventures know that I can fly to wherever there’s a communications emergency. Regular folks need a plane, and what do private pilots need? They need two-way radios, of course!

A recent story on TodaysWirelessWorld.com explained how many private pilots wouldn’t consider taking to the air without a backup radio. “Imagine what happens if an airplane’s primary radio fails in flight,” the story says. “You’re thousands of feet in the air at the controls of an expensive aircraft with no ability to monitor weather and emergency channels or communicate with control towers, ground crews, and other pilots. Getting down safely suddenly becomes more theoretical than a sure thing.”

The story goes on to review some key considerations for a pilot using a handheld aircraft radio as a backup:

Mind your power supply. “While rechargeable Lithium-Ion batteries usually have the longest battery life, you really want a rechargeable battery that will hold a charge for a very long time. Standard rechargeable batteries lose their charge quickly, but ‘low-discharge’ batteries can hold up to 70% of their charge for years on end.”

Get yourself trained. “On the ground, walk through all the steps for getting your backup radio up and running, including finding proper frequencies for nearby control towers. Also be sure to practice using your handheld in flight. Having the whole radio in your hand while working the plane’s controls is a bit more complicated than talking into a mic.”

Save your most-used frequencies. “Every radio manufacturer has its own way of saving most-used frequencies. Sometimes you’ll have to break out your user manual to figure out how to program and recall saved channels. Be sure to add the process for recalling saved channels to your drilling and training.”

That’s good advice for pilots and everyone else who needs to keep a two-radio handy in case of an emergency. A radio is a useful and versatile tool, but it’s up to us to make sure it’s ready to help us when we need it.

- See more at: http://blog.bearcom.com/2014/01/private-pilots-shouldnt-take-off-without-a-backup-radio-2/#sthash.3x2Oy4NG.dpuf

How did people communicate with each other 100 years ago?

Asked by Barbara from Basingstoke

 

Hi Barbara from Basingstoke (I like that, it has a nice ring to it), 

I presume you mean to ask me how people communicated over long distances, because otherwise the answer would simply be ‘they talked to each other, just as they do today’. I’ll give you the benefit of the doubt, but please be more specific in future! (Kidding!)

OK, so 100 years ago, in 1914, the telephone was still in its infancy, relatively speaking. 99 years ago, Thomas Watson made the first coast-to-coast phone call in America, so that should give you some idea of where the telephone was, development wise.

However, the invention had been patented since 1876 and 1877 had seen the first long-distance phone call placed. But by and large, telephones were not an overly common part of people’s lives the way they are now.

More common was the telegraph, which had been knocking around for a while by then. People in official positions tended to use that, but it wouldn’t have been a fixture of regular people’s houses.

Far more common than telephone or telegraph was the postal service. In 1914, if you wanted to contact a friend, relative, or loved one, you wrote to them. The working classes were better educated than at any other time in history (up to that point) and literacy was improving (although it certainly wasn’t at the near-ubiquitous level of today). Letters took a long time to arrive by today’s standards, so they tended to be longer and more absorbing than, say, a Facebook chat is today. In fact, intellectuals, authors and politicians would often engage themselves in long-winded and exhaustive intellectual contests via thorough, essay-length correspondences.

Another option would have been to speak via mutual acquaintances. Literature of the period frequently involves friends using a mutual friend in order to carry on a long-distance discussion and it is my understanding that this was quite a common practice. Interestingly, this may very well have shaped the development of certain customs in society (such as ‘good manners’ vs. ‘bad manners’ regarding correspondence etiquette). With our communication methods of today being so vastly different, it remains to be seen how our society will come to reflect this. 

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