Replaced by an iPhone Application

How do we keep up with technology?  A Neo-Luddite might answer, “We should not.  We simply should refuse to embrace technology.”  A true Luddite might answer, “By destroying the damn machines.”  But that was not successful in the 19th Century; some Luddites were executed for destroying the damn machines.  Parliament made “machine breaking” a capital offense.

Few folks these days can be either a Neo-Luddite or a true Luddite.  Instead, we are at the mercy of Apple, Microsoft, and a bunch of young millionaires who create some new technological thingy every day.  When you buy a computer, “smart phone,” tablet, etc., it is obsolete before your American Express bill arrives. 

Nonetheless, computers, microchips, and other technological doodads run everything.  I once lifted the hood to my Prius, only to realize I had no idea what was there.  Whatever happened to Weber downdrafts and 4-barrel carburetors?

A couple of years ago, we introduced the talking animated Lava Pup.  In addition to speaking, he walked, drove a car, read an iPad, and spoke with the Surfer Dude.  Each animation was short.  They ranged from 10 to 30 seconds.

Admittedly, the animated Pup was not a Pixar, Disney, or Nickelodeon production.  Nor was it shipped off to Korea after the 10- to 30- second story was written.  Unlike the animation process -- or production line -- that Disney made famous, frames were not drawn or traced over prior frames, colored, photographed, and then made into a film clip.  Modern technology allowed copying and pasting.

Despite the technological assistance, each animation was a labor of love.  Ten seconds required 240 frames, but each frame had many layers.  The Pup and Surfer Dude were broken apart and drawn piece-by-piece -- profile, quartering, and frontal views.  Their movements were plotted out.  Mouth shapes were created for the characters to speak.  Multiple hands were drawn.  Props and backgrounds moved.  Two hundred forty frames sometimes involved 1,500 or more pieces.

As a sexagenarian, I am not very tech savvy.  The basic computer stuff for animation certainly was not intuitive to me.  That meant going back to school -- a semester of 2D animation at American River.   Several hundred hours were invested in the Pup’s hitting the screen.  Just to make a character talk for 10 seconds without any other major action -- a talking head -- meant layering and planning.

Last week, my trusty Blackberry Storm bit the obsolescence bullet.  The sign that its days were numbered came when I learned that no Starbucks app -- computer lingo for “application” -- was available for it.  The calculus was not rocket science:  no Starbucks app; no future!

A technology choice lie ahead.  Droid?  Windows?  Or iPhone?  When you live in household that already has two Macs, an iPad, and an iPhone, the choice really already was made.  “Don’t you want something that will synch up with your Mac?”  “You don’t use Outlook at home anymore.”  Blah.  Blah.  Blah.  Yep, an iPhone was in my future.

Today, I downloaded -- actually with some assistance and some swearing -- an app called “My Talking Pet.”  Somehow the 99-cent transaction took place in the ether or the cloud or whatever.  The app itself is pretty intuitive -- that is because it is simple.  Bring up a photo of your pet, mark its eyes, mouth, and chin, speak into the iPhone, adjust the pitch, and -- voila -- you have a talking pet.

A semester of higher education, hours of planning and drawing, layer-upon-layer within frames of animation, lip-syncing, voice overs, creativity, etc., had been replaced by a 99-cent iPhone app.  Of course,
the end product is not as well done as previous Pup animations.  But . . . .

Now I know how the Luddites felt when their artisan skills were being replaced by machines tended by less-skilled, low-wage laborers that turned out lesser quality products.  Is “machine breaking” still a capital offense?


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