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By Lou Washington

One of things I learned early on in the world of amateur photography is that size does matter. The bigger the camera, the better. The bigger the lens, well Dr. Freud that’s even more important.

So, with those two rules in mind, you’ll have no problem understanding why my camera of choice is the Digital Single Lens Reflex or DSLR. The DSLR offers all the shooting flexibility of a regular film based SLR. That flexibility is made possible by equipping the camera body with a variety of selection dials and toggle switches.

All of those dials and switches mean the camera itself has to be fairly large to start with. There are some camera makers that try to pack all of that functionality into a compact camera body. It just doesn’t work for guys like me who struggle to find their glasses each morning. Small has no advantage for me in this area.

Bigger controls make it easier for other folks to see how great your camera is and also easier for me to make sure that the camera is properly set on Full Auto Mode.

The other great feature of DSLR cameras is the interchangeable lens. Lens are typically sold separately in the world of DSLRs. Most amateur photographers can get by with two lens, one for shooting people shots and snap shot type photography. For shooting at sporting events or out-door scenery type shooting you will want to invest in a telephoto lens. Telephotos are also handy for shooting close-ups of plants and insects.

Keeping all that in mind you may not be surprised to find that I am not particularly interested in the newest generation of cameras that are commonly referred to as compact system cameras. These are smallish body cameras that offer several proprietary interchangeable lens. For me they combine the high price of DSLRs with the inconvenience of micro sized camera bodies.

I’m sure they take fine pictures and for little people with fat wallets and 20/20 vision they may be a good alternative to the bulkier DSLR choices.

The main problem I find with these cameras is that they get no respect in the competitive, tough world of amateur photography. Let me explain what I mean.

Photo by Lou Washington

I live in the Cincinnati area and every year the Krohn Conservatory holds a fantastic butterfly show. It’s a great photo op for anyone who likes to shoot bugs and flowers.

It was during my first butterfly show that I learned just how much camera size matters.

Upon entering the show area, the first thing I noticed was there were just a ton of people clamoring around trying to get that special shot. I think there may have been more people than butterflies.

I was using my little Pentax point and shoot film camera. It was an okay camera with an optical zoom that improved the range for this type of shooting. But, every time I’d get a great shot lined up, some idiot would push in front of me or bump my arm or somehow terrorize the little bug causing it to fly away.

It was the most frustrating photographic day of my life. I didn’t get any shots worth a damn and worst of all, I felt totally disrespected. That’s when I realized it wasn’t me that was disrespected, it was my camera.

As we walked out of the conservatory, I told Barb, I‘m coming back next year and things are going to be different!

By golly, next year things were different.

First, I went out to Dick’s sporting goods and picked up one of those khaki colored fishing vests with all the little pockets and nifty hangers for stowing fishing gadgets. I found that fishing vests were virtually identical to professional photography vests but they cost about a quarter of what you’d pay for the photo vest. Plus, I fish occasionally, so what the heck.

Next, was my camera. Canon had recently introduced the Digital Rebel. This was one of the first DSLRs on the market. It was a great camera and best of all, virtually all of Canon’s huge catalogue of autofocus lenses would fit the Digital Rebel.

For my butterfly safari, I picked a 300mm telephoto lens.

When next year rolled around I was ready to go. We got up extra early that morning. I put on my vest and loaded it up with a wide variety of photo paraphernalia. I put on my favorite ball cap, with the bill pointed to the back like real photographers do and loaded a fresh power cell into my Rebel.

This time, when I entered the butterfly room it was a totally different experience. I slapped my ginormous 300 mm telephoto lens on my camera and powered up. The effect was almost immediate.

People gave me a wide berth, no one bumped me or even tried to get in my shots.

One guy who started to cross in front of me, stopped and apologized. I nodded and told him it was okay this time, but not to do it again.

A child who was threatening to grab one of my subjects was hauled back by his mom who harshly reprimanded the little guy.

It was easy to tell where the butterfly action was. People would gather around three deep trying to shoot over each other’s shoulders and heads. I would only have to walk up, clear my throat and busy myself with the dials on my camera and focus on the lens.

The whole crowd would just kind of stand back to make way for me, the guy with big camera, the fellow with the giant lens, the dude with the special vest.

Yep, just as I suspected, no one messes with a pro photographer packing a giant camera.

By Lou Washington

I try not to be a past oriented kind of guy. I mean I don’t like to obsess about the past at the expense of looking forward to the future. I believe our best days are in the future and not in the past.

But, on occasion there are some things from the past that merit commemoration and recognition among those of us in the present world. For those of us who remember that cold February morning fifty years ago, this is certainly one of those rare events.

Space shots, as we called them in that day, were big events. They were about as close to a national holiday as you could get without decorating a tree, cooking a turkey or blowing up fireworks.

The major TV networks cancelled their scheduled programming and went to extended live broadcast mode with multiple location coverage. The live coverage would begin in the early morning hours, long before anyone would think of getting out of bed. The coverage would typically run nonstop throughout the entire flight all the way through the recovery process.

In school, regular classes were cancelled. The teachers would bring in TVs and the entire class would watch as the events of the space flight unfolded. For me the question was always when would the launch occur? Should I push to get to school as soon as possible or drag my feet getting ready in hopes of catching the launch at home? There could be nothing worse than missing the launch altogether because you were riding in the car.

John Glenn’s flight was unique among the six Mercury program spaceflights. John Glenn would be the first American to actually orbit the earth. This would be the first flight where the guy in the capsule would actually have some things to do. He would be much more of a pilot, in control, then flying as a passenger on a ballistic projectile.

Glenn’s booster was the somewhat iffy Atlas. This rocket was an intercontinental ballistic missile which meant that it was primarily designed to loft nukes, not orbit humans. It did not have a terribly long record of successful launches.

So on that morning, when the engine lit and the liftoff sequence begin, there were many folks holding their breath and crossing their fingers, praying, hoping and ultimately cheering as the big shiny vehicle climbed into the sky. Scott Carpenter, acting as CapCom for this flight, uttered his famous, “God Speed, John Glenn!” as the ship cleared the gantry, started picking up speed, heading for a near perfect orbit.

To this day, when I watch film or tape of that launch, my throat starts to close up and my lower lip trembles. So many hopes and aspirations were riding on that rocket on that morning fifty years ago.

I do not wish to turn this forum into a political discussion. But, I will say this much, There will be future space programs. People will inhabit nearby celestial bodies in the near future. They will learn to exploit those venues and sustain their presence there by doing so.

The only question remaining is, who will do those things? Who among us on this planet will take those bold steps?

There are those that would suggest that this must be left to private enterprise and will only be sustained through a profit-making business model. Over the long run of decades and centuries, I suspect that is true. The fledgling private space exploration industry that has so recently evolved is fantastic.

But, the question still remains who will take the next steps? Are we going to depend on some board of directors to set our space faring priorities? To some degree, the answer to that question must be yes. But, we also need the dreamers of the world, the curious, the purely knowledge motivated people to participate. And, that means tax payer participation.

Before you have applied science, you must have pure science, the science of curiosity. That means funding education, boosting performance requirements and actual performance within our education systems. It also means putting up some bucks for Buck Rodgers, to paraphrase Tom Wolfe.

Regardless of what we do, or choose not to do during these next few years, we can be assured that fifty years from now people will be looking back again, this time at the 100th anniversary of John Glenn’s day in space.

Will they see this flight as a monument to past achievement or as the beginning of a new age of exploration? That is entirely up to us.

By Lou Washington

This past week a mile stone of sorts was clearly in view for our friends at Boeing. Their highly successful 777 program started the final build process on its 1,000th aircraft. This particular 777-300ER is slated for delivery to Emirates.

Boeing should be proud of this achievement, the 777 is a unique airplane. It is one of the first airliners that passengers actually participated in the concept and design stages of development. Many of the design elements used in the 777 are clearly present in the 787 and in later editions of other Boeing models.

Boeing 777

Photo by Lou Washington

Customer or user input is just as powerful in the business of designing airliners as it is anywhere else. Any marketer worth a damn will tell you that you can learn more from your customer than anyone else. As a consumer, we all benefit when we participate in the design of products. Companies that have learned this lesson are more likely to be rewarded by increased customer loyalty and in the end, more business.

If the onboard experience in today’s air travel is less than blissful, it is certainly not the fault of the aircraft manufacturers. Boeing and other major aircraft manufacturers go to great extremes to develop interiors that are comfortable and pleasant. Unfortunately, most airline operators undo all of this by turning these magnificent machines into livestock transports.

I’m not talking about the fantastical interior designs that accompany the roll out of a major new model. I know that my airline is never going to equip my flight to Des Moines with an on-board swimming pool or running track. Those are PR gimmicks that generate buzz much like concept cars do at auto shows.

But, Boeing takes the “User Experience” seriously. The Sky Interior program is not just a titillating concept, it is a reality. Softer, more natural lighting, larger windows, larger storage bins, flexible seating, higher ambient humidity and cabin pressure set much closer to normal sea level, all add up to a flying experience that will leave the passenger feeling much better upon arrival.

Any one who flies for a living or who spends a lot of time on airplanes has their own favorite aircraft, preferred seating configurations and more than likely, a specific favorite seat. Passengers who take the time to learn about seating charts and carrier seating configurations are rewarded with a more comfortable flight.

Knowing where the emergency exits are means more leg room, sitting near a galley can mean better drink service, sitting up front on the aisle means you are off the plane first or have ready access to the lavatory. Sitting in a seat just in front of a bulkhead can mean your seat won’t recline. But, seats just aft of the bulkhead many times have more leg room.

When I was on the road, flying all over the country at all hours of night and day, these little issues were very important to me. What was really remarkable to me was that airline personnel knew about all of these preferences. They would frequently help you make sure your preferences were addressed or recommend a close approximation alternative.

In those days my airline of choice was Delta. My airplane was the 727 stretch. Lucky for me Delta seemed to have a limitless supply of these birds and they also were the major carrier serving our local airport.

My preferences were pretty simple. I like a window seat because I can sleep without people climbing on me to get to the lavatory. I like lots of leg room because I like to stretch out. In those days, I smoked and I was sufficiently addicted to that nasty habit that I had to be far back in the smoking section to avoid risking the ever aft moving no smoking border. I also enjoyed having a couple of cocktails along the way so it helped to be close to one of the galleys.

Lucky for me, a friendly Delta Redcoat clued me in to party class. This was their lingo for row 35 on the 727 stretch. Row 35 was located at the back of the plane, there was a row 36 but it was lousy. Row 35 was next to the aft emergency exit and it was just opposite of the port side aft galley. Seat 35-F was the window seat. Row 34 didn’t exist, so a good three feet of deck was completely clear in front of row 35.

The fun started almost as soon as you buckled in. The flight attendants were busy with pre-flight activities, but almost always offered the row 35 passengers a pre-flight drink. Longer flights frequently turned into longer conversations with the flight attendants. This was a great opportunity to learn about your destination, where to go at night, what restaurants were great and what to avoid. There were almost always a few extra helpings of dessert or an extra cocktail available for those who flew party class.

For me, it made all the difference. Weekly or daily air travel is tiresome. It quickly loses the patina of glamour or excitement. But, it doesn’t have to be awful, it can be made pleasant. When I got the 35-F seat on my boarding pass, I was assured that I was going to have a very nice flight.

So, hats off to Boeing and congratulations on number 1,000. The 777 is a great airplane. But mostly, thanks for allowing us passengers to chime in on the design. Thank you for caring about what makes us happy.

You guys are the best!

By Lou Washington

First off, I’ll admit it right up front. I have an iPad and I plan on taking it with me to the grave. By the time I die, I’m sure there will be an app for that.

I’m sure no one who reads this will be shocked to learn that I love technology. I love all gadgetry and all the shiny stuff that beeps and boops and flashes little lights off and on. I love it when one of my toys works perfectly for me in some new way that no one else had thought of.

To me that is really the fun part of using new technology. I was never one of those folks who “put the tool back where you found when your done”. My dad was meticulous about this but I just never saw the point.

So, because of that I long ago learned that a Floresheim wing tip makes a dandy hammer, a butter knife will easily do the job others would reserve for a flat head screwdriver and duct tape will do almost everything else.

As my technological sophistication increased, I applied the same strategies to some of the more common technical marvels of our age. Most companies have some level of support for their employees, like me, who bring their little techno-toys to work. It is nice to work for such a company, one that I can rely on to bail me out when my creativity exceeds common sense or the performance specification of one of my devices.

I know I am not alone in this. Most folks who work in technology, like technology. At that point, it simply becomes a matter of keeping up.

Seriously there are things to be learned in this and this week our group learned one such lesson. It wasn’t that the experience was particularly profound or even ended up causing a major problem. In this case, it was a simple oversight that provided the instruction.

Our marketing group recently completed the production of several video product demonstrations. These are short, less than three-minute, presentations that can be viewed on You Tube or attached to an email or linked to on our website. They are very nicely done and we are quite proud of the folks who provided the creative effort in making them.

A couple of our sales folks were headed out to Cleveland to attend a trade show this week. It only seemed natural that they should be able to exploit the power of these videos during their trip. We were not displaying, but rather talking to people who did display at the show. Since we did not have a booth, it would be necessary for our folks to carry collateral and sales material with them.

And then, a stroke of genius. Why not put it on an iPad? At least the videos that is. That would be very cool indeed! People would actually be able to see the product in action. See what makes it special.

When you sell enterprise software systems, this is better than beer in a can. Being able to show it to your prospect is a powerful tool.

So, with that wonderful vision in mind, we headed down to the old IT department. Yes, they had a loaner iPad, Yes, they would help us load the video files. Perfect!

Today the road warriors returned. The trip was a big success, lot’s of contacts made, new relationships set up and many opportunities for future business were found. But I could tell, almost right away that some thing wasn’t quite right.

How did the tablet demo work I enquired? This was answered with some hemming and hawing, some shuffling and so forth. Then, being sales folks, they spoke right up.

It seems the trade show floor was noisy. Oh yeah, that’s right, I’ve been to trade shows, thousands of people milling around talking, demos involving machines that click and clack, booth guys hawking their wares and maybe a PA system making announcements. Yep, trade shows are NOISY.

In fact, trade show floors are noisy enough to make hearing the audio portion of a demo video impossible. Even when you crank it up, the iPad is just not going to cut through the ambient roar.

So, lesson learned; for trade show video segments on tablet devices (or net books, laptops or anything else portable) think in terms of making your message very visual with limited audio. Or, perhaps take several hundred sets of ear buds with you.

Now there’s an idea, ear buds with our corporate logo . . .

By Lou Washington

I remember the first time I listened to music through a commercial grade set of headphones. I was lucky enough to attend National Music Camp at Interlochen Michigan one summer many years ago. The school maintained a first class listening facility for those of us studying music theory, composition or music history. Some of us just loved to go there to hear, I mean really hear, our favorite compositions.

It was still a mostly vinyl world in those days. You could request any LP recording you liked; take it to a small desk equipped with a high-end turntable, amp and those fantastic headphones. They were heavy. They had a gel filled pad that surrounded each ear. This had the effect of putting you into a sound proofed room. You would drop the needle, close your eyes and the music would start.

It was fabulous. It was better than live but not in an artificial way. You could hear everything. The separation of the stereo signal was perfectly tuned to the way the ensemble was arranged in their recording environment. The clarity, depth and richness of the sound were just exquisite. It was, in a sense, a virtual reality with you seated in just the right position in an otherwise silent concert hall. It was perfect.

In the years since that time, we have all become willing to give up that level of perfection. We gave it up a little at a time. As the automobile became the venue where we listened to most of our music, we learned to be happy with the most elemental parts of musical recording. Melody, bass line and beat were elevated above texture, depth and timbre in our musical experiences.

This process continued with our increased demand for portability in our music. Devices like Walkman players and ultimately MP3 players all place a higher value on compression, file size and download speed at the expense of a full and accurate digital reproduction of the original recording master.

Within the recording studio, the quality is still there. Recordings still start out as 32 track (or more) masters. The technology of microphones, musical instruments and the rest of it have all improved since those days I spent with my headphones at Interlochen. But, it is all for naught if 80 to 90% of the recording signal is pared away and removed from the recording.

Couple the low quality recording with low-end ear buds as a delivery device and you have a seriously compromised musical recording.

The photographic equivalent of this would be to take pictures with your 15 megapixel camera, store the images as a 2 megapixel image and then blow the 2 megapixel image up to an 11 by 17 printed image. Believe me, it looks lousy.

Lucky for us audiophiles, there are folks who take this trend seriously enough to do something about it. A story ran in USA Today just last week about the pursuit of high fidelity recording. It is a great piece with some interesting numbers to consider.

The best news is that products are being developed and evaluated that will conserve as much of the original recorded signal as possible as the signal is processed and made ready for a distribution format.

There are also more and more recording artists that are part of this movement to bring back hi-fi as a quality standard in the industry. But, ultimately it will take the consumer pulling out a wallet to really effect a major change in the arena. That is not a small consideration either. Many people out there have never heard just how incredible the old vinyl can sound on a high-end playback system.

I have to think, remembering my own first time headphone experience, that once people hear how good it can sound, they will demand more.

By Lou Washington

Lou Washington

Some companies approach technology as a sort of grand corporate excursion through a Disneyesque Technology Land. All the wonderful and exotic new toys are just waiting to be brought online to amuse and entertain. They look at new technology as a sort of yardstick of coolness with which they measure themselves in relation to all other companies.

That really is not an entirely bad approach to take, but it does leave the door open for a lot of wasted effort. It also has the simultaneous effect of delaying the application of effort to more rewarding investments on the part of the enterprise.

The adoption of new technology must be accomplished through deliberate effort. This is best done by keeping the overall mission, strategy and enterprise value add in mind during the evaluation of any new technology.

A better way of articulating this would be to say that for any strategy, be it enterprise wide or at the departmental level, there should be an evaluation of technologies needed to drive that strategic initiative. The simple rule would be, Strategy First, Technology Second.

I was reading an article by Sam Barnes on the Think Vitamin site related to technology and competitiveness. While he was mainly speaking of HTML5 and CSS3, his points were quite portable across any technology consideration. He said that as seductive as new technology might seem, the need to stay commercially competitive must remain the prime directive.

In the case he is discussing, the question of how these two technologies will affect the end-user is critical. It makes no difference what snazzy things the upgraded website can do, if the end-user is running a browser that doesn’t exploit those aspects of HTML5 and CSS3.

His piece advocates several specific considerations.

  • Impact on the user experience – In the world of software (this is where I live) it’s all about the user experience.
  • Impact on the target audience. Will more people or fewer people receive benefit once it is implemented? He is talking about browser demographics, but conceptually this applies to anything you are doing. Will the change in technology make you more exclusionary or will it increase the footprint of your appeal or benefit.
  • Strategic impact. He cites both internal as well as external strategies. Will the technology serve to enable the strategy or does it work against the strategy.

The central message is still about making the deliberate plan or the careful evaluation of technology to strategy a center piece of your efforts.

Microsoft accomplishes this by evaluating technology on multiple levels. I ran across a brief white paper on their internal adoption strategy and it is really very instructive.

Spending or Monetary Impact

Here any candidate technology is evaluated on two fronts. Strategic importance versus benefits offered. This is simply a matter of spending your money where it is most useful. They map these two ranges into a grid, the upper right quadrant being the area of high importance and high functionality. These upper right quad projects would drive the highest spend.

In order to do this effectively, you must have a solid understanding of the features delivered with the technology and the potential benefits associated with those features.

What does it cost – What’s in it for us?

Specific costs must be determined. With software this might include license fees, hardware upgrades and training on the cost side. Benefits can be a little more elusive to nail down, but think in terms of reduced overhead from changes in hardware, headcount reductions and increased opportunity through potential increases in market share.

Nailing these numbers down in advance will give you the information you need to better evaluate the risk associated with the proposed change.

Microsoft has a ton of information available to help IT folks. Just visit technet.microsoft.com.  They have a number of tools available to help you evaluate technology, manage the adoption process and measure the effect of deployment.

By Lou Washington

Lou Washington

Many years ago, back when we all still wore animal skins, carried around large clubs and measured hard disk memory in megabytes, there was an ad on television promoting the wonders of a web-based enterprise.

The ad featured a CIO sitting at a desk listening to two competing pitches for upgrading the company’s website. In one pitch, the developer is proudly pushing the idea of spinning the company logo on its vertical axis and as a final triumphant feature, the logo is crowned with flames.

The fellow then looks the CIO in the eye and tells him that only he can give them a flaming logo!

So it was in the early days of commercializing the ‘net. Everybody liked the ‘net and almost everybody thought they should be doing something with it. Very few companies had a clue as to how they might exploit the thing in a monetized, business process kind of way.

It’s really too bad some one hasn’t developed a museum of web site history. A place where people could browse through pages from some of those early adopter websites. It would almost be like thumbing through a high school year book from the distant past. I can almost hear people exclaiming, “why did they do that?” or perhaps more aptly, “what were they thinking?

The earliest websites I can remember almost always had several things in common.

  • Picture of a big building – typically the corporate HQ or a building they wish was the corporate HQ – Optionally, the entire corporate staff would standing in front of the big building
  • A long wordy “welcome to our world” message that conveyed nothing of substance but containing a lot of words about how good the company was and how swell it was that the reader had found them on the web.
  • Message from the president – this was mainly aimed at congratulating the IT team on getting the company on the web and hoping that the reader would come back often.
  • Contact information – this always listed things like the physical address of the company, a phone number and fax number. It took a while for folks to think about putting a general info@xyz.com address in this space.
  • Very occasionally, you might have some reference to the actual business the company was engaged in.

There simply was no understanding of how this technology could be used to actually conduct business. It was essentially an electronic billboard. Actually I’ve seen better bill boards in terms of engaging the reader in a conversation.

Before we laugh too hard at the early eBusiness world, consider how new technology is adopted today.

Many companies are still jumping in too early, waiting loo long or simply allowing things to take their own course. There is no strategy, no evaluation or business process in place to guide the whole technology adoption activity within the enterprise.

Companies still run mission critical systems built around ancient releases of proprietary software running on hardware platforms that are only available from eBay. Conversely, you also read about companies that are forced to abandon implementation of new enterprise systems because they made the move to a new system without doing the upfront work in terms of evaluation of need, possible solutions and deployment processes.

Both of these scenarios are quite common and both can be devastating in terms of consequences. Both can potentially result in the failure and ultimate destruction of the enterprise itself.

More and more, end users are equipping themselves with new technology and not waiting on IT to do the job for them. We saw this first with PCs, then cell phones, the web itself and now with the rapidly expanding use of mobile devices such as tablets, net books and associated software.

Does your company have a technology policy? A strategy? Do you have teams in place to guide your enterprise through the bewildering, complex and not always ethical world of new technology?

May be it’s time to start giving some thought to how your company incorporates new technology into the everyday operation of the enterprise.

There is a train load of help available to you in this area. Technology as a strategy is how we all must think. Next week I’ll follow-up this post with a discussion of how the enterprise can climb on the back of the technology tiger without fear of being eaten!

By Lou Washington

Ed Hansberry takes smartphone vendors to task in his 26 January 2012 article in InformationWeek for overloading consumers with a bewildering array of options, fees and other variables used to determine the price of a smartphone plan.

He has a point and it is tempting to assume the whole strategy is designed to deceive, misrepresent and somehow maximize the total monthly bill for a given plan. I’ve had my own battles with communications companies but I would have to say, with some patience I was able to set things right with both my mobile carrier and my home landline/data-line vendor.

I always started with the assumption that in the final analysis, these guys are all phone companies at heart. Phone companies have long lived in the blissful world of semi-regulated utility. This gives them a real leg up when it comes to creating inscrutable pricing structures driven by complex billing metrics that offer no real verification methodology to the consumer.

For example, my local phone company bill was setting me back about US$130.00 per month. I would periodically contact the phone company and ask them to review my bill and see why it was so high. They would typically assure me that the bill is accurate, you have land lines and a data plan and this is just what the bill comes to.

One day, I decided that I really had to figure out why the bill was so high. I paid a visit to the phone company retail outlet and brought a copy of my bill with me. I reviewed the bill with a fellow who actually took me seriously. We got rid of the long distance plan all together (who needs it when you have a cell phone), we dropped the special hardware package which was an antiquated answering machine, we 86ed the call waiting, call forwarding, call whatever else.

When we got done, I had the most basic phone plan required in order to maintain my broadband data line. I’m now saving about US$50.00 a month.

On the mobile side of things it is pretty much the same story. I had a Blackberry that featured a lot of calling minutes and their data plan. It was setting me back about the same amount as my land-line/data-line bill. I dumped the Blackberry, bought a couple of mobile devices and a 3G hotspot card and saved about US$40.00 per month on that.

The problem is when we sign up for this stuff, it all makes sense. They explain it and you agree that what you are buying is what you intended to buy. Then you ask, how much will my monthly bill be?

This is the funny part; They Can’t Tell You! The guy will hmm and haw, scratch his head and say something like, oh, ’bout sixty a month. Then you get the bill, it’s eight pages long, loaded with FCC regulatory citations and ICC taxable items along with a bunch of feature codes and descriptions that don’t sound like anything you really need. Finally, on the last page there is a total dollar amount. That is a number no where close to anything quoted, estimated, guessed or printed in your documentation and contract.

That’s your monthly fee.

In the end, you weigh two things. What do you get? How much does it cost?

You have a miraculous device that allows you to call anywhere in the world, from anywhere in the world and talk to anyone who happens to pick up. It also has a nice big touch screen so if you want, you can watch a movie or a football game or play Angry Birds. You can get your email, you can buy and sell anything, you can listen to music from any genre, you can plan your vacation and start your car up without leaving your nice warm house. You can view pictures of your family or your dog or your hot car and you can show them to the guy sitting next to you on your next fight to Des Moines.

All of this you can do and a lot more.

Then you figure, you know, it’s worth it. I’ll sort out the bill next month.

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