And a happy new year to you, distant reader. I hope Santa brought you everything you desire: I pre-empted the bearded one and bought myself a rather snazzy Korg Prophecy synthesiser. It's smooth and silver-shiny, has masses of flashing lights and - most importantly - makes noises like Gary Numan in a liquidiser.
This arrival has led, inevitably, to the moving around of the computer chez Goodwins (otherwise known as the Ramshack) and space being painfully prepared for the inevitable arrival of a four-track tape recorder and a mixer. I've also been spotted reading sinfully sad magazines (Sound on Sound, for heaven's sake) and contemplating sequencing software.
The biggest surprise is just how plump and sleek the music hardware and software market is these days: when I was a lad, home electronics was big and electronic music but a fad for longhairs. Now the case is changed: you can barely find an anorak these days who knows his BC108 from his 555 (let alone his ECH803), but try moving in certain parts of town without stepping on some pasty-faced youth mumbling about sampling rates and effect foldback. The magazines reflect this: with hundreds of pages of colour bumf describing multi-thousand pound toys, someone somewhere is making serious money. And lots of people are having serious fun. And I'm one of them. Hurrah!
Watch out Spice Girls...
Gradually, the magazine office is coming back to life. The arthritically slow workrate is enhanced immensely with the discovery that due to what may most safely be called a miscalculation we have a week less to write everything than we thought. Sweat beads on brows, bloodshot eyes glow with adrenalin and Bob Kane, Editor-in-Chief and recently returned from Christmas in California, proves that jetlag is no barrier to effective use of Anglo-Saxon idiom.
Meanwhile, back in the US, Compaq announces that it'll use both AMD and Cyrix alternatives to Intel's Pentium. Good? Well, obviously: breaking a monopoly increases choice and lowers cost. But there's also a downside; the Pentium and its ilk are among the most complex -- and most costly to design and get into manufacturing - machines on the planet. Yet AMD and Cyrix are helping reduce the part to just another commodity, and it's increasingly difficult to justify large investment in something prone to commodity-style price flattening. Everyone knows Moore's Law -- complexity doubles every eighteen months - but its sibling, Moore's Second Law, is less widely known. That states that the cost of the production plant doubles alongside it. Finance, not physics, may stymie processor development.
Hurrah! For the best part of six months, we've been wondering what's cooking in managing director David Craver's office. Now we know: our very first weekly newspaper is coming out. Called IT Week (which happily transmogrifies into I Tweek at the merest shift of a space), it promises to be quite something. No anaemic pamphlet this; with a projected staff in the region of 45 bods and a serious pack of newshounds after the juiciest news on the planet, it should make interesting reading.
A rapid bout of online chatter ensues, especially among journalists. Some sort of prize deserves to be awarded to one particular chap - ex-editor of a magazine, software distributor and something of a lugubrious character - whose first response was 'How do I get on the circulation list?'. Laudable, especially since the launch is some six months away and the magazine currently consists of a few hundred square feet of carpet and a spare mains cable. I suggest he forward £5,000 in used tenners to my desk, and await further instructions.
Had to happen: the Tamagotchi is yesterday's news. Now it's virtual lovers. The new toy is a little keychain gadget with a synthesised human: give it chocolates, flowers, karaoke dates, love letters and so on, and eventually you can progress from kisses to marriage.
Wonder, balefully, about coding up my recent love life for duplication as an online experience. However, the byzantine twists therein would probably require a minimal machine specification of at least four 300MHz Pentium IIs, and still wouldn't make any sense. If only it were just a question of flowers and karaoke - there'll be some awfully surprised teenagers out there when the batteries run out and the hormones kick in.
Today's task is to review a Windows CE 2.0 PDA from Casio. I find it very difficult to call them by their official name - Handheld PCs - since they have almost no compatibility with anything you or I would recognise as a PC. Processor? Memory architecture? Expansion? Ah well. What's in a name?
To my considerable delight, the Cassiopeia comes with a reasonably pokey speaker. When it's talking to its host PC, the various stages of synchronisation or its loss are announced by little tootles, fanfares and even, at one point, a sound not unakin to Gary Numan in a liquidiser. Alas, the host PC isn't so amusingly enhanced: I can't prove it, but I strongly suspect that the synchronisation process caused Word to go bits-up. Taking with it, of course, the review of the product... nothing to do but start again. However, even though the review has to be finished now I'm going to carry on playing with the Casio until I find out exactly what's going on.
And yes, it's better than WinCE 1.0. Yes, there's more software. But put any Windows CE machine next to a Pilot and the choice remains utterly clear... with the possible exception of HP's colour CE handheld. More on that another day.