Now this may not seem to be related to The Paracast, or UFOs, but it does. Back in 1989, when I first brought an Apple Macintosh into my home, I was the oddball. Whenever I visited a local computer store to buy some software, and told them it was for a Mac, the salespeople would give me a strange look and dispatch me to the back of the store.
I wasn’t surprised to see a few dusty boxes that, when I looked them over, after blowing on them to see the lettering, I found to be mostly out of date.
In those days, the Mac was the plaything. You did serious work on a PC. Period. The computing world has changed a lot in the past 31 years, but that’s another story.
Now as a preteen, I first became interested in UFOs when I borrowed a book from my brother — one he had borrowed from the public library — that was entitled “Flying Saucers From Outer Space” by Major Donald Keyhoe. Little did I know that I would still be chasing the saucers decades later.
When I brought the book home, my dad barely noticed. My mother never asked; she had already realized that I was a different sort.
I had the benefit of not being terribly social. My few friends, oddly enough, were also interested in the subject. So Marty would talk about a book he bought for one dollar at the closeout racks of a bookstore, “The Expanding Case for the UFO” by M.K. Jessup. It was the lesser-known follow up to the infamous “Case for the UFO” that managed to help trigger the Philadelphia Experiment myth.
But don’t get me started on that. Well, just this: In the mid-1970s, I briefly hosted a cable TV show for Harry Belil, publisher of Beyond Reality magazine. One of my guests was Charles Berlitz, the bestselling author of “The Bermuda Triangle.”
In response to a question about what he was working on next, he talked about the Philadelphia Experiment and his search for a copy of the Varo or Annotated Edition of “Case for the UFO.”
It just so happened that I had a copy of a republished version. He paused for just a moment, and I later realized he claimed that it was missing strictly to promote his forthcoming book. But he happily accepted my offer to give him my copy.
No, I didn’t ask for its return. I just didn’t take it seriously. Besides, I got a small credit in his book.
But I digress. During that infamous visit to the Washington, D.C. headquarters of NICAP in 1965, one of the major UFO clubs of that era, Marty came along for the ride, soon joined by my old friends, Allen Greenfield and Rick Hilberg.
That’s the occasion where NICAP’s office manager, Richard Hall, told me I wasn’t welcome there, evidently because I was receiving a paycheck as Managing Editor of Saucer News.
That was probably the last time I saw Marty. I had made arrangements to meet up with him not long thereafter, but he never showed up. He didn’t return my phone calls, so I moved on.
In any case, I continued my pursuit of UFOs, again not suffering the ridicule and scorn that affected others involved in that pursuit. When I worked as News Director for a suburban Philadelphia radio station, I would occasionally run a local news item about a UFO sighting. Management didn’t care, so long as I covered the most important local stories about the police blotter, school board meetings, and town meetings.
In a sense, I was living in a different reality. As we all recall, even in times of high UFO activity, the mainstream media usually treated the subject as a joke. If they ran out of “real” news to report, they’d sometimes trot out a filler about someone seeing UFOs, and talk about ET believers, little green men and other annoyances.
Sure, a few papers treated the subject seriously, usually ones that serviced smaller cities and towns.
But that all changed beginning in 2017, when both The New York Times and Politico revealed the news about the Pentagon UFO Study, in which $22 million was allocated to the project at the urging of Senator Harry Reid, then Majority Leader. I suppose you could quibble that all or most of it went to billionaire Bob Bigelow to continue his research.
After all, it appears to be true that Bigelow sent campaign donations to Reid’s campaigns, and one might assume that the fix was in. But Bigelow certainly has the resources — and the interest — to actually get some work done. Unfortunately, he’s also very reluctant to say much about what he knows.
So can we say the evidence went from one Black Hole into another?
But I’m not terribly pleased that the acronym UAP has been replacing UFOs in places that present themselves as more serious outlets nowadays. In a sense, this is the equivalent of switching from flying saucers to UFOs in the 1950s. It was all designed to give the subject the air of credibility. Evidently, referring to the phenomenon now as a UFO only incites the debunkers to do their thing.
I was also not surprised to see serious articles about, well, UAPs, in the Washington Post. Such cable news outlets as CNN, Fox News, MSNBC, and others brought on people to present serious viewpoints on the topic.
I was especially surprised to see conservative firebrand Tucker Carlson keep his cool whenever UAPs were discussed. Since he is notorious for taking the cheap shots, this may indeed indicate a serious interest on his part.
Contrast that to the first time I saw journalist Leslie Kean interviewed on Fox News, in connection with her 2010 book, “UFOs: Generals, Pilots, and Government Officials Go on the Record.”
The anchors appeared to be standing on a platform, which only increased their height advantages over Leslie, who is short. She was clearly not intimated, and the interview was conducted seriously, no snickers or bad green alien jokes.
These days, the anchors and the guests were all seated, at least on the shows I’ve seen, so any height disparities were generally irrelevant.
Then there’s the To The Stars Academy of Arts and Science, which has received its share of attention.
Whatever you think about the goings on at this company, its stated purpose, on its site, is still murky. It is referred to as “a public benefit corporation that was established in 2017 as a revolutionary collaboration between academia, industry and pop culture to advance society’s understanding of scientific phenomena and its technological implications.”
Certainly flying saucers, UFOs or UAP aren’t mentioned there, unless it’s about “scientific phenomena.” The organization seems to be trying too hard to take on the veneer of a serious scientific research body.
Regardless, it’s nice to see UFOs (I’m sticking with that one!) being taken seriously by the mainstream media; well, corporate media. It doesn’t necessarily mean we are any closer to discovering some real answers about what’s going on, but it is a refreshing change.
The Paracast: this week's episode: Gene and Randall present a thought-provoking discussion with ong time UFO author/researchers Jerome Clark and Chris Rutkowski. Jerry has written over a dozen books include the multivolume magnum opus, “The UFO Encyclopedia.” He’s also a songwriter whose music has been recorded or performed by musicians such as Emmylou Harris, Mary Chapin Carpenter, and Tom T. Hall. Chris is a Canadian science writer and educator, with a background in astronomy but with a passion for teaching science concepts to children and adults. Since the mid-1970s, he also has been studying reports of UFOs and writing about his investigations and research.
This column has been stewing for a while, and a number of things have changed. The most important, from my standpoint, is the fact that, after a year of living in cheap motels, we are back in an apartment. I have a home office area once again, rather than a single table that barely contains my stuff.
I’ve also been doing a lot of work to boost the business. The Paracast has a staff now, not just a cohost. We are all working to build the show, spread our coverage in unexpected ways, and enhance the premium subscription version, The Paracast+.
At the same time, it is time to retire The Tech Night Owl LIVE.
The show debuted in the fall of 2002 as one of the early online broadcasts. In those days, we were part of MacRadio, an alternative network. When Apple premiered its podcasts repository, I made the move alone, because the rest of the MacRadio hosts were slow to make the change. I left the network shortly thereafter; it folded a year or two later.
As I’ll explain more in the next column, Apple, Inc. is clearly no longer a counter-culture company, and a counter-culture radio show is hardly necessary. As Apple transitioned to become a consumer electronics powerhouse, with hundreds of millions of users worldwide, the Mac press slimmed. Macworld gave up a print edition in favor of a digital one, but most readers confine themselves, I suspect, to the free site.
MacLife? I’m not sure. It is evidently still available in a print edition, but I no longer receive copies in the mail. I found a Facebook page offering a subscriptions of 5 issues for $5, but the link to which it points only offers higher-priced alternatives. The site is just a sales portal; there is no access to any online content other than to sign up for a newsletter.
Now that Apple is a mainstream company, with plenty of coverage in the mainstream and tech media, counter-culture tech radio seems superfluous. So I’ve decided to focus my attention to boost The Paracast. which is, I suppose, another form of counter-culture show. But I won’t be giving up on tech. The Paracast will also feature futurists and other guests discussing advanced technology.
This column will continue on a periodic basis. There’s still plenty to discuss.
Meantime, we wrapped The Tech Night Owl LIVE with the July 6th episode, which is still available to download along with an archive of hundreds of episodes.
For the last show, we gathered some of our favorite guests to reminisce and talk about the present and the near-future of our favorite fruit company, Apple Inc. It all began with the early days of the Internet, its complexities, and Apple’s path from Macintosh to iPod, to its most lucrative product, the iPhone, followed by the iPad, Apple Watch and beyond. There was also an extensive discussion about the prospects for the success of Apple’s fledgling services, which include News+, a premium version of the app offering access to hundreds of magazines and newspapers, and Apple TV+, in which the company is spending billions of dollars to hire top-flight talent to create original TV shows. Where does Apple+ fit in market currently owned by Netflix, Amazon Prime, Hulu and other streaming services? Are there already too many for a newcomer to succeed?
Guests for this very special episode included tech commentator and publisher Adam Engst, Editor and Publisher of TidBITS, outspoken veteran tech commentator Peter Cohen, and cutting-edge commentator and podcaster Kirk McElhearn.
Please Note: Subscribers to The Tech Night Owl+ will be contacted personally about the status of their subscriptions.
On this week’s episode of that other radio show, The Paracast: Gene and Randall present the ever-prolific Fortean author, Nick Redfern, to discuss his very latest book, ” Flying Saucers from the Kremlin: UFOs, Russian Meddling, Soviet Spies & Cold War Secrets.” The book presents a compelling case for deep Russian involvement in the UFO field, which may have included recruiting those infamous contactees of the 1950s to become spies, fabricating the MJ-12 documents, feeding faux claims of alien visitation and more. Is it possible that, in addition with meddling with U.S. elections, the Russians are still involved in spreading UFO disinformation? Nick Redfern is the author of more than 40 books covering UFOs and other paranormal events. He’s been featured on a number of radio and TV shows, and is a frequent guest on The Paracast.
Publisher/Editor: Gene Steinberg
Managing Editor: Grayson Steinberg
Marketing and Public Relations: Barbara Kaplan
Worldwide Licensing: Sharon Jarvis
First some history: After using a Mac for several years at the office, I installed my first home system in 1989; yes 30 years ago. And boy was it expensive!
The price tag came to over $14,000, which adds up to over $28,000 in 2019 dollars. In other words, in the neighborhood of a well-equipped version of the Mac Pro that Apple premiered during the June WWDC, and a midsized car. Thank the stars for a low-cost lease.
But my first Mac was no high-end model. The setup consisted of a IIcx, a “junior” version of the Macintosh IIx, a 14-inch Apple color display, an Apple LaserWriter II NT and a collection of productivity software that included FileMaker, Microsoft Word and QuarkXPress. I attempted to duplicate the essence of my office environment so I could begin to work at home.
When I tried to buy more software for my brand new computer, I was treated as an oddball at local stores. If they had any Mac titles at all, they were consigned to dusty shelves at the rear; more often than not they were outdated versions. I soon learned that the best source was an online retailer, such as MacWarehouse. That dealer, by the way, has long since been absorbed into CDW.
Apple’s strategic mistakes over the next few years didn’t help. By the end of 1996, with efforts to build a state-of-the-art operating system floundering and sales tanking, the company made its smartest move, which was to acquire Steve Jobs’ NeXT.
While it once sold hardware, the NeXTSTEP operating system was its remaining product. Built on a tried-and-true Unix core, with platform independence, it seemed to be the ideal candidate to resolve Apple’s OS dilemma. And there was always the prospect of Steve Jobs returning to the company that he co-founded.
As most of you know, however, a working version of what became macOS X didn’t premiere until the fall of 2000, and then only as a public beta, retailing for $29.99. The “real” release came in March of 2001, but it was still basically unfinished. Fortunately, you could still use Mac OS 9 to get some real work done.
Each year Apple improved the beast. In 2006, Apple moved to Intel CPUs, after IBM and Motorola failed to deliver the PowerPC CPU upgrades needed to boost performance and support notebooks without huge cooling systems.
But the real changes in Apple began in 2001, with the release of what appeared to be an outlier, a hobby gadget known as the iPod. It was all about having 1,000 songs in your pocket! When iTunes expanded to Windows, things really took off, and Apple was never quite the same.
In 2007, the release of the “ultimate” iPod, the iPhone cemented Apple’s conversion to mainstream status.
At one time, IBM was the “enemy” when it came to a personal computer. These days, IBM employees can choose the gear they want, and tens of thousands of them have selected Macs, iPhones and iPads. Surveys have shown what we knew for years, that the Mac is easier and cheaper to maintain despite a higher purchase price.
Even the Apple Watch, considered a costly wearable, has become more popular than I ever expected. In my travels, I have seen cashiers at convenience stores and supermarkets — earning salaries not much higher than minimum wage — wearing an Apple Watch. Some even have the more expensive Series 4 with built-in cellular capability.
The Apple Watch is at the top of the heap when it comes to wearables and wristwatches, for that matter.
Despite its undeniable attractions, I’ve held off buying one. So I am still wearing the $12.88 stainless steel calendar watch that I bought from Walmart several years ago. Other than a couple of battery replacements, it works just great. Sure, it runs slightly fast, so I have to adjust the time every month; the calendar is brain-dead to months shorter than 31 days.
Apple is mainstream in other ways. CEO Tim Cook is regularly interviewed. He’s even personally lobbied with the President of the United States to get favorable consideration in the trade war with China. So your iPhone still doesn’t cost any more as a result, although that could change due to the acts of a certain mercurial chief executive.
It’s not that Apple doesn’t have a bunch of critics who attack its every move. But their arguments are old news; let’s call them fake news. Every new product represents the wrong direction, and is destined to fail bigly (don’t you hate that word?). The departure of chief designer Jonathan Ive means death to the company, as if he and only he did all the work, including developing the operating systems. Can you imagine Ive managing the iPhone production lines in China?
Facts don’t matter.
Nevertheless The Night Owl Persists
In the meantime, as with the radio show, I see that I’m probably destined to repeat myself if I stick with daily columns. I can take a 10-year-old column, change a few lines and product names, and present it as something new. That’s no way to be creative and to cover the present and future of personal technology.
Even though I have put The Tech Night Owl LIVE to bed, I will continue to speak out in these columns when the need arises, when there are significant new developments to report. And I’m still keeping up to date on things.
As I write this, I’m running the latest iOS 13 beta on my iPhone. I use it for work, both email and phone calls; I knew I am taking a chance. But if things go bad, I can always restore it to the last release version of iOS and my current backup. I have little to lose except maybe an hour or so, but so far I haven’t had reason to regret my decision. The things I need to work, largely email, the phone, Safari and the Lyft and Uber ride-sharing apps, all function normally.
At the same time, I am avoiding the macOS Catalina betas because it will no longer support apps that are all or partly 32-bit. My vintage version of Adobe Photoshop won’t run, nor will a clever utility, The Levelator, which offers a normalize function on steroids for audio files. A single drag-and-drop pass delivers an output file that reduces levels that are too high and boosts levels that are too low. It delivers broadcast-ready content with ease.
While I can buy a Creative Cloud license for Photoshop, finding a cheap or no-cost replacement for the latter has been difficult. I have urged the publishers of Audio Hijack, which we use to capture audio from an outboard mixer and Skype for the radio shows, to consider acquiring or replacing The Levelator with a 64-bit version. The original developer, the Conversations Network, has abandoned the project.
There are other possible replacements to explore, but I’ve yet to locate a suitable option yet that works in much the same way. One option recommended by other hosts out there is an online solution, Auphonic, an audio and video processing service. Auphonic doesn’t just optimize levels, but reduces noise levels and makes other enhancements. To use the service, you have to upload the file to their servers for processing and retrieve it when the job is done. It also means that you have to pay a monthly fee for anything longer than the free two hours of audio that’s provided each month.
To sign up with Auphonic for The Paracast and the supplementary Paracast+ show, After The Paracast, we’d need the 21-hour package, at $23 per month; there are no rollover minutes. I am not happy with adding another bill, even a small one. I will, however, test a single file of less than two hours to compare it to The Levelator.
I’m just a microcosm here: Many of you will have to judge your needs, and your dependence on 32-bit apps, before deciding whether to upgrade to Catalina. Even though Apple has been warning you about apps not optimized for macOS for a while now, that means nothing if you can’t upgrade to a newer version that supports 64-bit. You may be forced to search for an alternative, if there is one.
So much for Catalina, at least for now.
But drastic changes are nothing new for Apple. After moving to Intel CPUs, Apple provided an emulation component, Rosetta, to allow you to use PowerPC apps. That feature was dumped beginning with OS X Lion. Either replace incompatible apps, or don’t install the upgrade.
After apparently losing interest in the Mac for a while, regular updates have resumed. But major model refreshes, such as the MacBook Pro, come with higher prices. The long-delayed Mac Pro upgrade, which will start at $5,999 when it arrives later this year, can be optioned to a point where the price may exceed $35,000. In other words, similar to entry level models of a BMW 3 series automobile, or a Tesla Model 3.
In other words, it’s not dissimilar to what a top-of-the-line Macintosh Iix cost 30 years ago when you allow for inflation. And, no, I’m not signing up.
Despite Apple’s mainstream status, I remain curious about what it’s up to. I still use Apple gear, but I hardly see the need for daily columns anymore. Still, when something of interest, at least to me, develops, you’ll hear from me. You can depend on it!