Sunday, May 23, 2010


Yes, digital technology change is like a merry-go-round. Everyone who participates in the technology is on board. But if you will notice watching a merry-go-round some of the “horses” go up while others go down and some have higher trajectories, for the older kids to ride. And, there are no parents sitting in the seats between the “horses”. Bill Gates and Steve Jobs are still in a race no one can win, but cheap in America always outsells good products, and nothing good ever comes inexpensively.

Back in the early 60’s cynicism took hold with the idea of “forced obsolescence” as the annual new cars got more chrome and bigger tail fins and little real improvement as vehicles. A few today try to accuse digital technology companies of the same kind of scam. But it doesn’t stick. In the 1960’s automobiles were already a mature technology, although one that could be improved much more than it has, even today. Markets, the people who buy products, aren’t any more adult than corporate marketeers.

The digital arena is populated by youngsters growing up fast, and that is a realm of necessary change. But it is unlike any other population of products we have seen in the past, it is completely interconnected by the technology itself, because it is now almost completely integral, it all has to work together. In the beginning there were many different kinds of computers that could not talk to each other, but the disadvantages of incompatibility soon eliminated the odd-balls and left some giants that can now all speak the same language, more or less, Microsoft, Apple, and Linux/Unix. Of course the internet and the World Wide Web played a crucial role in consolidating the digital industry, but commerce helped with an advantage to companies making products that would function with all systems, it’s a larger and more predictable market.

When I first started using computerist the mid 80’s to do writing and editing for publication. Computer uses soon expanded to graphics, all kinds of business; to now just about every aspect of cultural life. This expansion of functions involved all kinds of peripherals and connections to the internet and the web. These additional functions need support by the computer operating systems, so as each function was added new software applications were programmed and new requirements were put on Microsoft and Apple as well as Linux to support things like on-line shopping and banking, buying insurance, paying utilities and more. The consumer digital computer world has expanded enormously and every digital company to stay competitive has had to upgrade. It is not like 60’s cars tail fins and chrome; it is not forced upon us it is what we have demanded by embracing the convenience of a digitized life.

Of course I write about this from a very particular interest, digital photography. But now with even cell phones with built in cameras, digital photography is a small, niche in the overall marketplace. Very recently I went through all of the documentation I could find describing most of the popular computer brands being sold in America, like Dell, HP, Sony, Gateway, Acer, eMachines, SYX, Lenova, CybertronPC, Asus, MSI, Viewsonic, and many more, but not one was described as a digital photography computer, although a few mentioned multimedia in passing. Not all that long ago companies like HP, Dell and Gateway offered lines of graphic workstations, mostly for professional use, but CAD and Gaming workstations are about all that remain at this high end of computer choices. Does that reflect a lack of demand, or do computer makers assume home/office computers are sufficient today to do digital photography? Well for the bulk of digital camera sales, the point and shoot automatics they are partly correct, but there are two factors that get in the way of using a home/office computer for serious digital photography, and they both involve LCD displays.

The LCD display industry is essentially independent of the computer industry because the bulk of their sales are television and other larger video displays. Computer LCD displays, although they may have the brand name of the computer are made by the few very large factories that make TV displays, and are an offshoot of those designs, and are now more like the LCD HDTV sets that are sold by often another group of companies although there is some cross-over. Nearly all of the home office LCD displays sold with computers reproduce a lower color range (gamut) comparable to the sRGB colorspace, and have very bright backlight so typical applications, including an internet browser can be viewed with high, bright contrast even in brightly lit rooms. In fact this was very evident to me when I cancelled my cable TV subscription and added a small computer to run a 42 inch HDTV. The setup, including calibration and profiling reproduces an image quality close to the same as with a smaller LCD made for computers. In fact movies on DVD either played directly to the HDTV from a DVD player, if also reproduced through the computer’s DVD and computer screen function are closely matched, although the color is a little cleaner due to the calibration and profiling when the computer is driving the HDTV.

So is this another of my frequent arguments that favor Apple computers? No, it is not, because all Apple computers like the MacBooks and iMacs that come with Apple LCD displays are home/office displays with very high brightness and an sRGB color gamut. But with these Apple LCD displays including their desktop Cinema Displays have an additional limitation, just a brightness control that does not reduce the white luminance sufficiently to do color managed printing.

On the LCD display side there are two relatively expensive hgh performance digital photography choices I have previously reported on: NEC Spectraview 2, and several of the Eizo Nanao LCD display models. There are others like some of the LaCie LCD displays, but LaCie does not manufacture LCD displays. There might be others, but none I have been able to find in the American market.

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