FM Technology

28 Oct

Having been fortunate enough in the last 8 weeks to have acquired both an iPad 2 and the latest iPhone, the iPhone 4S, and marveling and reveling in both devices and how transforming they are in my life, I thought it would be appropriate to riff on things that we take for granted that are, in a word, “FM Technology”.

This post won’t make sense without a little back story on what I mean by FM Technology. Back when I started working for Motorola, in 1992 in the marketing department for cell phones, one of my first assignments was to create a brochure designed to tell layman (aka, our customers) how cell phones actually work – presumably in a bid to educate folks to avoid warranty claims and customer satisfaction issues. I wasn’t sure where to get started so I reached out to a guy that had befriended me on my first day, and worked in product development doing both engineering and marketing (can you imagine an engineer doing marketing? Welcome to Motorola … but I digress).

This guy was young – about my age, and when he got my call, said “Sure, I’ll help you. It’s easy – let’s meet for lunch in the cafeteria and I’ll tell you how it all works.” So, met him for lunch that day, and we talked about everything BUT the assignment – kids, families, etc. – two guys getting to know each other. As we were wrapping up, I said “Oh man, we forgot to talk about the ‘how do cell phones work’ thing!” He said “Oh, hey,that’s easy to understand. It’s FM

technology.” I look at him quizzically and said “Ok … umm, I know there’s a radio in there and all … but it runs on FM?” And he looks across the table at me as he stands up to leave and says “No man, it’s not like that. Fucking Magic! That’s how they work!” I stand there dumbfounded and he laughs and pulls out of his pocket a floppy disc (remember those???) and says “I wrote it all up for you. Give me a call if there’s anything you don’t understand.”

Generally speaking, I consider anything in the “FM Technology” category as something that was transforming to the way you live your life and the habits you have in your life. Additionally, I often think about my dad and grandpas whenever I use something that is “FM” – My Grandfathers were both passed by 1978, and my dad passed in 1992. My dad did experience cell phones in his last year, but barely – it was a device to keep he and mom safe while they drove back and forth to his cancer treatments. He never actually made a call on one. But all three men appreciated a good gadget and they knew their son/grandson to be a serial early adopter of cool stuff. I always think “wow, what would dad/Grandpa Mel/Grandpa George think of this!”.

So, now you know what FM Technology is, let’s talk about some:

Smartphones:Whether an iPhone, a Droid, a Windows phone or a Blackberry – think back just 6 years ago – 2005.  6 years ago, the Motorola RazR was the “it” phone.  It was sleek.  It was fast. You could surf the web, get email, it was small, light, and above all COOL AS ALL HELL.  But … it wasn’t FM – it was derivative of the same stuff I was selling in 1992.  Come forward just one year, however, and the iPhone was introduced – the first true SmartPhone – it was transforming.  WiFI connectivity so you could surf the web on it and do email without suffering at cellular speeds.  Cellular data for when you don’t have WiFi.  Music.  Apps, etc. etc.  An entire new lexicon entered our world – “there’s an app for that”, “SmartPhone”, etc.

iPads: Since iPads enjoy an 85% marketshare here, it’s iPads not tablets – and again, transforming. They are, more or less, grown versions of smart phones, but really what they do is bridge between a PC and a phone. It is so nice to be able to “instant on” this thing and get email, read media, watch TV, video, etc. Perfect for the business traveler. What is happening in the educational market with these is astounding – entire universities are giving them to their students. Just this week, District 214, which is a school district near us, announced that by the end of 2014, every kid will have one and that’s how they will deliver textbooks from now on. My own media habits have completely changed – I read books on the Kindle app, read online versoins of Wired, Sports Illustrated, Car and Driver, Road and Track, and browse at least 6 or 7 newspapers a day plus news sites like The Daily Beast, Daily Kos, Huffington Post, Reuters, BBC, ABC, MSNBC, etc. to feed my political news “jones”.

Who saw this video last week:


GPS: While I still love a good ‘ol fold-up road map, and for planning and situational awareness, there’s no substitute, GPS is again, FM Tech. The fact that it is embedded in your SmartPhone/iPad, etc. even better. And even though I always said “there’s no way I’ll ever have factory GPS in my car” as I have a portable plus the iPhone, etc. for this – guess what? Now that we have it in our GTI – it came packaged with other options we wanted such as leather, heated seats, etc., I can honestly say I won’t buy another car without factory GPS installed.

HD Television and DVR: What prompted me to write this blog this morning is that I this morning, I was watching a program recorded from HD Net on our TiVo DVR on our HD plasma TV. Transforming stuff? Hell yeah! TV that hangs on a wall. Images that look better than movies, in some cases, better than reality. Being able to watch programs you want to watch, when you want to watch them. And with the addition of streaming programming from HuLu, Netflix, YouTube, etc. etc. our entire viewing habits have completely changed.

Microwave Ovens: Remember when these first came out? Again, completely transforming. Your daily behavior changed. Popcorn? ZZAP. Want steaks for dinner but they are all frozen? No problem. ZZAP. Hot cereal? Lunch? Leftovers? Etc. etc. Now, what is funny about Microwaves however, is that the market defined the usage. Remember when they first came out that they promoted that you could cook a whole turkey in one? When was the last time you saw anyone promoting microwave ovens for cooking turkey? Ever have turkey from the microwave? I did. Once. Never again. Bleah.

And of course, the original FM technology: Cell Phones. These truly did become Fucking Magic when you could carry them discretely in your pocket and be in touch from basically anywhere. When they did away with roaming fees on these, and made them ubiquitous was when they truly achieved FM status.

What other FM Technologies have you enjoyed?

As you were,



4 Responses to “FM Technology”

  1. carpetbagger October 28, 2011 at 3:24 pm #

    I’ve gotta say, although it’s probably killing both the marketability and creativity of the industry, music has never been so widely, instantly, and cheaply available. I love how I can find almost any song I want almost any place I happen to be. Like I said, I’m sure there are downsides to this, but as a consumer, there has never been a better time to consume tunes.

    • carpetbagger October 28, 2011 at 3:27 pm #

      Remember how in the old days, you liked a song and bought the album and were pissed to discover that it was the only decent song on it? There was just no way to know unless you had a friend who had already bought one.


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    […] FM Technology. And […]

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    […] post is somewhat close in relation to my “FM Technology” post – in that post, I talk about how so much of what we do works by FM Technology – defined as […]

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