France is switching off its groundbreaking Minitel service which brought online banking, travel reservations, and porn to millions of users in the 1980s. But then came the worldwide web. Minitel has been slowly dying and the plug will be pulled on Saturday.
Many years ago, long before the birth of the web, there was a time when France was the happening-est place in the digital universe.
What the TGV was to train travel, the Pompidou Centre to art, and the Ariane project to rocketry, in the early 1980s the Minitel was to the world of telecommunications.
Thanks to this wondrous beige monitor attached to the telephone, while the rest of us were being put on hold by the bank manager or queueing for tickets at the station, the French were already shopping and travelling “online”.
Other countries looked on in awe and admiration, and the French were proud.
1. Qrio – the all-dancing bipedal robot
Qrio – short for quest for curiosity – is Sony’s 58-centimetre-tall, all-dancing, bipedal humanoid robot. Qrio is famous for such feats as conducting the Tokyo Philharmonic Orchestra in a unique rendition of Beethoven’s 5th symphony, navigating an assault course, and even roller-skating.
See footage of four QRIOs performing a complicated dance routine, (Windows Media Player required) recorded in December 2003.
2. Roomba and Scooba – domestic robots
Starting in 2002, MIT spin-off iRobot, of Massachusetts, US, finally brought domestic robots to the masses, with their small and affordable Roomba and Scooba vacuuming and mopping robots – retailing at less than $200. Sales of all household robots have boomed, and in 2005 more than a million were thought to be in operation worldwide.
See videos of the Roomba Vacuuming Robot at work on the I Robot Corporation’s web site (Macromedia Flash Player required).
3. The self-replicating robot
In 2005 Cornell University researchers, in Ithaca, New York, built the first robot able to create exact copies of itself. The device is built of small mechanical building blocks that can swivel, and also attach themselves to one another using electromagnets. Three or four blocks piled on top of each other to form a tower can create an identical tower by swiveling round like a crane to pick up other nearby blocks and pile them on top of each other.
See footage of the self-replication process (courtesy of Hod Lipson at Cornell University – Windows Media Player required).
4. The spherical security guard
This spherical roving robot designed to detect and report intruders was created in Sweden. It is based on a robot probe originally designed to explore other planets. The automated security guard is propelled by a pendulum suspended from an axis inside the casing, controlled by a motor. Moving the pendulum forwards causes the robot roll along, but the pendulum can also swing from side to side, giving the robot the ability to steer left and right.
See an animation and images of the robot on the Rotundus AB web site (QuickTime required).
5. Aibo – the robotic pet
Aibo – Japanese for companion – is Sony’s robotic pooch. It can walk, sit, sleep, beg, yap and perform lots of other convincingly dog-like actions. When Aibo was first released in 1999 it sold out in 20 minutes in Japan – by 2002, 100,000 people owned them.
Brand-new Aibos all behave alike. But over time they develop their own personality as they interact with people. Just how they develop depends on the interaction between their environment and their innate abilities. Aibo owners can also use software to reprogram their pets and add new behaviors.
A short video, available from Sony’s research and development lab in Paris, France (Windows Media Player required), shows an Aibo pup that learns to play with its toys and bark at another robot nearby.
Cicero: 15/04/2014 Source: Wikipedia
MUSCULAR (DS-200B), located in the United Kingdom, is the name of a surveillance programme jointly operated by Britain’s Government Communications Headquarters (GCHQ) and the U.S. National Security Agency (NSA) that was revealed by documents which were released by Edward Snowden and interviews with knowledgeable officials. GCHQ is the primary operator of the program. GCHQ and the National Security Agency have secretly broken into the main communications links that connect Yahoo! and Google data centers around the world. Substantive information about the program was made public at the end of October, 2013.
Tempora is a clandestine security electronic surveillance program tested in 2008, established in 2011 and operated by the British Government Communications Headquarters (GCHQ). Tempora uses intercepts on the fibre-optic cables that make up the backbone of the internet to gain access to large amounts of internet users’ personal data. The intercepts are placed in the United Kingdom and overseas, with the knowledge of companies owning either the cables or landing stations. The existence of Tempora was revealed by Edward Snowden, a former American intelligence contractor who leaked information about the program to former Guardian journalist Glenn Greenwald in May 2013, as part of his revelations of government-sponsored mass surveillance programs. Documents Snowden acquired claimed that data collected by the Tempora program is shared with the National Security Agency of the United States.
This is just a couple of the power of Governmental Security that monitors the internet – Narus has the capability with NarusInsight machine can monitor traffic equal to the maximum capacity (10 Gbit/s) of around 39,000 256k DSL lines or 195,000 56k telephone modems. But, in practical terms, since individual internet connections are not continually filled to capacity, the 10 Gbit/s capacity of one NarusInsight installation enables it to monitor the combined traffic of several million broadband users.