Categories
General

Why is it that American phones made in China are of great quality, but when American guitars are made in Asia, they are deemed inferior?

You know the great thing about the guitar industry is that so many builders are still based in the USA.

Gibson USA, Fender USA / Custom Shop, PRS, Suhr, G&L etc for guitar companies then you have an industry of “boutique” amp builders – Dr Z, Swart, Victoria, Matchless, Milkman, Tone King, VVT, Greer etc and then you have an industry of “boutique” pedal builders – JHS, Earthquaker, Wampler, Keeley, Analogman, Fulltone, Walrus, Xotic etc and then you have an industry of “boutique” pickup builders – Lindy Fralin, Jason Lollar, Throbak, Stephens Design, Sheptone, D Allen etc

Guess what all these companies have in common? They’re all based in the USA, and most of the boutique ones are essentially one man or two man shops. The guitar industry is one of the few industries left where a good portion is still based in America and the manufacturing can still be done in America.

Can’t say that for computers, electronics, phones etc – the infrastructure to manufacturer those devices have long moved out of the USA. If there *was* an American phone maker who actually made their phones in the US, then I would guess it would be quite a bit more expensive than your typical iPhone.

So the answer to your question, the reason American phones in China can considered great quality (Apple, Google Pixel, etc) is because there are no phones made in America to compare to. The reason why American guitars made in Asia are considered inferior is because there is still infrastructure for American made guitars, and thus a chance for companies to market those guitars as being ‘better made’.

Categories
General Tech

PC / DOS games, then vs now, and how it’s affected my life

DOS games
DOS games

My interest in computers and programming have been directly tied to video games, here’s a little backstory on that.

My father was a Pascal / Delphi programmer, so our first computer was an IBM PC with a Pentium 386 and only 500MBs of hard disk space. Maybe 1 or 2MBs of RAM. He used to bring home these 5.25″ and 3.5″ floppy disks from his school, Queen’s University at that time, and I remember one of my first games being Prince of Persia, which was and still is a great game.

I have many fond memories playing on that old PC, which was running MS-DOS and then Windows 3.1 and Windows 95 eventually. My dad use to buy these CDs full of DOS games back then. As you may remember, CDs can fit about 700MBs and that was alot compared to floppy disks. In any case, these DOS games ranged from amazing little jewels to just plain awful (some crashed when you try to run it). To play games back then, you had to run them from the command line, so people who played games back then had to have had a little bit of interest in computers.

These days, you just download a game from Steam or put in the DVD and run it, but back then, you had to setup and configure the game first, like what peripherals you were using, joystick, keyboard, mouse settings, Soundblaster settings, Adlib settings, 4 voices, 8 channels, etc. There was some work required before actually running the game. Which was done in the command line, using ___.exe or ___.bat. I have many fond memories of these DOS games back then, and comparing them to now is like night and day.

Here’s some of the things that DOS games had back then that we don’t have or don’t see much now:
1) Games were usually configured and run from the command line
2) Games were usually developed by independent developers and published as shareware or in episodes by companies like Apogee.
3) Groundbreaking games such as Another World were developed by one or two developers, in contrast to the multi million dollar studios and teams that are making games these days.
4) Mostly nerds and geeks played games back then, compared to now, where everyone including your grandma and dog know how to play a Wii.
5) First person shooters evolved from Wolfenstein 3D / Doom, shoot to kill without any sense of plot or story, to Halo and Call of Duty, focusing less on the number of guns you had, and more on the story and multiplayer. I lament that because I miss old school shooters, with tons of crazy weapons and health packs.
6) Multiplayer was mostly over LAN or split screen those days. These days, it’s all about the online experience. I also have fond memories of me and my brother using the same keyboard, over a split screen game, good times that I don’t see anymore.
7) Online experience was very limited, due to 56k modems and dial up; now its blazing fast 4G/Wifi.
8) These games were played on CRT monitors with resolutions lower than that of your mobile phone
9) Speaking of graphics, you can even configure those! VGA / EGA / CGA graphics were the norm back then.
10) No FAQs or troubleshooting or help guides back then. Also games tended to be a lot more difficult. This, combined with little or no internet, leads to long playability, mostly due to getting stuck at some part of the game and not knowing how to solve it.
11) Games often made use of joysticks, sound cards like Adblib and soundblaster, and had to be setup/configured from the command line
12) Games often lasted longer than the 8-12 hour affair you have these days. Since they came in episodes, each episode probably took 8-12 hours! Good example is Duke3D and Starcraft, which had much longer playtimes than their successors Duke Nukem Forever and Starcraft 2 (which has multiple episodes simulating the campaigns of the original game)

Alas, sometimes I do miss the 1990s and those were the golden age of DOS games, some standout games being:
Traffic Department 2192 (great story), Rise of the Triad, Catacomb 3D, Commander Keen series, Raptor (awesome music), Duke 3D, Dark Sun (played this game for months), Blake Stone (the sound fx are classic), Shadow Warrior, Pharoah’s tomb, Monster Bash, Jazz Jackrabbit, Hunter Hunted, Liero (modded this one many times), and many more.

These games influenced by childhood and in high school I would become interested in Korean multiplayer games such as Ragnarok Online, Gunbound, Maple Story, and try to hack and mod those games (packet sniffers, sprite/texture swapping, etc), directly influencing my decision to become a programmer and go into computer science.

So yes, sometimes these days I look back with nostalgia and remember how games were made back then, and how its affected me today… good times. Long live DOS games; you may be neglected compared to your console counterparts, but you will not be forgotten.

DOS games
DOS games

Categories
Business General Music

The Tech Industry and the West Coast

The West coast mystifies me. Ever since I became interested in computer science and programming in middle school, the thought inevitably turns to the west coast and the high tech industry that it revolves around. Silicon valley in many ways represented what America was about – free thinking , innovation and entrepreneurship. Being on the East coast for 20 years, that culture to me has always seemed very far away, probably because my parents and my relatives have always been here and not there. We’ve never even visited the West coast even once. The closest I got to that culture was when our plane landed in Vancouver for a stopover flight.

But I’ve always had a longing for being part of that culture. Maybe its the extreme temperatures here or the more formal attitudes but I’ve always preferred the laid back casual and temperate climates of the West coast compared to the East coast. Vancouver and Toronto are different in so many ways. Los Angeles and New York City are also different in the same ways. The atmosphere is different. I wanted to experience the difference… but as long as I was in school I couldn’t go there. That had to wait until graduation to even consider the possibility.

Anyways, back to the West coast tech industry. Here’s a breakdown of which fortune 500 tech/ tech 100 companies are headquartered on the West coast:

Washington:
Amazon.com
Microsoft

Silicon Valley:
Oracle
Google
Netflix
Salesforce.com
Symantec
Intuit
McAfee
Autodesk
VMware
Hewlett Packard
Apple
Cisco
Intel
Sun Microsystems
eBay
Yahoo!
Electronic Arts

Southern California
Qualcomm
Western Digital

I think one thing to note here is the staggering amount of IT companies that are in Silicon Valley (Santa Clara County + San Francisco). If we include the startups + other companies that weren’t on the list but headquartered there (Nvidia, AMD, Sandisk, Adobe, Facebook, LinkedIn, etc), it’s easy to see that the West Coast takes up a significant proportion of tech companies.

So what is it about the West Coast in particular that fosters such a high growth of technology and entrepreneurship? I believe Intel, Xerox and HP pioneered it with their presence and the establishment of semiconductors and microchips (Xerox PARC comes to mind with its many innovations). This in turn led to development of other companies to share in their growth. The fruits of such development are seen in the amount of video game companies that developed there and IT in general. Those companies continue to sustain growth – Washington State, California State, University of California and Stanford to name a few pump thousands of engineers and computer scientists into the region which in turn fosters more start ups and more growth.

Anyways, the point of all this is that in the East coast the infrastructure is not so developed for IT. You have a lot of formality in business attitudes, and New York and Toronto are better known for financial companies than for IT. The industry of technology has its headquarters in Vancouver, Washington and California and it makes sense for me to believe that my place and my career belong more to the sunny hills and Mediterranean climate than to the skyscrapers and extreme climates that dominate here on the East coast.

But there’s more. I’m also a musician, and many of the most well known guitar + effects + pickup manufacturers + music studios are located on the West coast (particularly in SoCal). So my connection to the West coast extends to much more than just the technology industry, it’s also the music industry as well.