Humans, Machines, 2004.


Unexpectedly free from millenium buggery headaches on New Years Day 2000, we still had to wait another full year until the 21st Century truly started. Unsurprisingly 21C still hasn’t arrived, but there were at least a few signs during 2004 that we’re getting ready to loosen our grip on last century’s bad habits. And so, offered like the still-juicy offspring of a vending machine and a summer fruit platter – here’s the annual Technoscape round-up of those signs. Or at least the toys that best pointed to the strobe light at the end of the tunnel. Another page of ideas and tech_oddities to impress or confuse people at countdown parties with.

Best Way To Cross A Desert
By kite-board obviously. Try to taste-test the incredible dirk2.jpgjourney of documentary maker Dirk Gion. In October 04, he he travelled the 3000km from Adelaide to Darwin at speeds of up to 50kmh on a mountain board with a kite attached, covering distances of up to 400km a day!

Aimed at proving the kite-powered skateboard could be used to travel long distances, the trip is to be followed up eventually by an attempt to go ‘around the world in 80 days’ using a combination of wind powered skateboards and boats! If you have a spare 80 days, email Dirk as he admits the ocean crossings would be ‘technically difficult’ and is looking for companions.

Best Hobbit
Having run out of Frodo episodes, this year’s award goes to the hobbit-like species of human that lived with pygmy elephants and Komodo dragons on a remote Indonesian island 13,000 years ago, growing no larger than a a three-year-old modern child. Their fossilised skeletons were discovered in 2004, which alongside last year’s Spanish discovery of skeletal remains of the last probable common ancestor to humans and apes, must be somewhat worrying to anti-evolutionist bible thumpers. Not that it’s stopping the US education system debate about whether young brains should be fed exclusively Noah’s ark or evolutionary biology.

Best Universal Whistling Machine

Only one nominee, but Marc Bohlen is a deserved victor for his U.V.M. which boasts a machine interpreted whistling composition in return to any whistle, whistled to it. Built as part of an exploration into ‘pre-language languages’ and human-machine interface design, Marc proposes his U.V.M. could also point the way to future human-animal communication. Actually that seems a bit too 1960s to be getting a 21C award, what with all the inter-species float-tank gurus of the time ( google Dr John Lily ). And the animal-translator novelty has already lost its sheen – google meowlingual or try Roll the red carpet instead this year, for, featuring over 100 MP3s from whistlers around the world, discographies, album covers and vintage training records for parakeets and canaries.

Best iPod Hackery
Goes to 1 x Phillip M. Torrone, for one of his many hacks or for his promotion of hacks ( you choose ). At his site you’ll find out how to put powerpoint on your ipod, change the graphics or ‘do not disconnect’ icon, how to transfer music when it’s locked for some reason, how to deliver ‘podcasts’ or netradio shows to your ipod, or how to make your own ‘podcasts’, and my personal favourite which already seems like it’ll be so twentieth century in a few eyeblinks – how to play movies on an ipod. This involves cycling through many still images per second to give the movie illusion. See also & the ‘new signature ipods’ here : ( The Metallica ipod pre-loaded with therapy audio for voyages of self-discovery sounds particularly good )

Best Digital Lifestyle Interruption Machine
Although the Pentagon Terrorist’s War on Terror, and the Iraqi debacle surely rank high, ‘Peak Oil’ gets the nod for it’s succinct warning that collectively we humans need to shift from our very unsustainable path if to avoid the perils of overpopulation, accelerated species extinction and climate change. Oil consumption threads through and feeds the entire global economy, and so running any growth graphs against the idea that we are running out of cheaply accessible oil, or are about to reach a ‘peak in global oil production’ has very serious implications. Even a brief read over the following sites will affirm the scale of change needed for us to finally step properly into 21C.

Most Predictable Movie Announcement
Everybodies favourite German Cannibal was sentenced to eight and a half years jail, in January of this year, for killing and eating a man he had met over the internet. Or more precisely, for killing and eating a man who had responded to his advertisement online – which explicitly stated a person willing to become food, was desired. The cannibal lawyer’s argument that it was a form of mercy killing, because the victim had given his consent to be killed and eaten, spared the cannibal a murder conviction. Facing 8 ‘manslaughter’ years in prison, Armin Meiwes has already begun writing an autobiography, and more than the book publishing industry wants a slice too – famous German director Rosa von Praunheim has started work on a film about the cannibal – ‘Your Heart in My Brain’. File under documentary or romance?

Smartest Bicycle Remix
That’d have to go to for making a wireless Internet enabled bicycle outfitted with a custom-designed printing device, which allowed them to print text messages sent from web users directly onto the streets of Manhattan in water-soluble chalk. This was meant to be used during the Republican National Convention being held in NYC just before the election, however was quickly snapped up by the NYPD, who are still in possession of the inventor’s computer, cell phone, bicycle, and invention until a court case resolves the issue. All that remains then is the video online, to glimpse the genius cuteness of this idea in motion.

Best Electronic Voting Box
And the winner is…… Gahanna, Ohio!! Ohio, U.S. election followers may recall, was one of the key states that the election hinged on. In the Gahanna precinct of Ohio, the electronic ballot box results delivered 4,258 votes for George Bush and 260 for John Kerry. An impressive result, especially considering the 638 voters counted at the polling centre. In the 2004 US election, the majority of voter irregularities were to do with states with electronic ballot boxes. Most of the key states used electronic ballot boxes. The companies who manufacture the ballot boxes are heavy Republican supporters. Those needing more conspiracy in their diet will salivate over the Greg Palast article here and will find the following sites help maintain satisfactory bowel functioning:,,,

Best Software
Audio : Ableton Live : Fluid, versatile performance and processes accessed via a stunningly effective interface.
Video: VDMX : Fluid, versatile performance and processes accessed via a well thought out interface.
News: To caffeinate your computer try any ‘RSS newsreader’ ( see &
File-Sharing: Bit-Torrent Clients embrace peer to peer in a very 21C way. Wait for them to combine with RSS and IM and watch the 21C roll in. ( see )

Best Already in 21C-mode Website
Take a bow,, for your engaging, insightful and positive minded, forward thinking news and articles about how we are actually going to engineer a sustainable 21C out of the options possible. Their simple premise? “That the tools, models and ideas for building a better future lie all around us. That plenty of people are working on tools for change, but the fields in which they work remain unconnected. That the motive, means and opportunity for profound positive change are already present. That another world is not just possible, it’s here. We only need to put the pieces together.”

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