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The Launch Of A Newfangled, High-Tech Watch — In 1973

New York Times Archive
New York Times Archive

Today, Apple is releasing a new entrant to their product line: a watch. As with any Apple unveiling, the business press has been whipped into a frenzy. Will it dominate the watch market like the iPhone conquered its own? Will it put Switzerland out of business? Will it tell time?

In 1973, a watch that used radically advanced technology was introduced in America to curiosity rather than fanfare. Simple digital watches—much like the ones that sit in that little plastic carousel in Walgreens and sell for $4.99 today—seeped into the market. The New York Times noted this peculiar new gadget as "A Watch That Takes The Hard Time Out Of Telling Time."

“Now there’s a new toy for the man with a collection of watches," the Times wrote. "The digital watch, which is operated by a sort of tiny computer, takes all the guess work out of time reading by flashing the hours and minutes in numerals on its face. Several companies are already in the digital watch race, and by Christmas, there should be more.”

The first type of digital watch was the Pulsar ($275 for the steel model, $1,475 for 14-carat gold), made by Hamilton Watches. “The Pulsar is not a thing of beauty compared to many good watches," said the Times. "The watch itself is thick, to accommodate its computer and battery, and weighs about four ounces with its metal strap. Until its ‘command’ button is pressed, it shows nothing but a blank, dark-red face and looks like a dead television screen. But that, presumably, is the fun of owning one. Ask the Pulsar wearer what time it is, and without saying a word, he presses the button and you know it’s 9:42.” Ahh, the Pulsar wearer—that silent scamp.

That digital watches used to have to be activated by pressing a button would seem ridiculous, save for the fact that folks who use their phones in lieu of watches nowadays are very familiar with the process.

The alternative to the "command" button at the time was a real head-scratcher. The Walchron ($195), one of Pulsar's competitors, was "a busy little affair." The Times described its operation thusly: "It will flash time continuously — rather than when a button is pushed, meaning that it will say 9:42 60 times before it changes to 9:43, which might make some people nervous." People's nerves were easily frayed in 1973.

While they appeared to merely be gimmicks upon their initial release, the watch industry had to start taking digital watches seriously. In 1975, the Times reported an "Upsurge In Digital Watches." "The Swiss…are seeking sources for digital mechanisms to not only stem the decline in their own watch industry but also to gear for the future," they wrote.

And even though this new technology was catching on, something about it seemed odd. “In effect," the Times noted, "one does not have to ‘tell’ time as much as simply read it.” There was once a difference?

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The Design Tricks That Make Smartphones Addictive—And How to Fight Them
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iStock

Two and a half billion people worldwide—and 77 percent of Americans—have smartphones, which means you probably have plenty of company in your inability to go five minutes without checking your device. But as a new video from Vox points out, it's not that we all lack self-control: Your phone is designed down to the tiniest details to keep you as engaged as possible. Vox spoke to Tristan Harris, a former Google design ethicist, who explains how your push notifications, the "pull to refresh" feature of certain apps (inspired by slot machines), and the warm, bright colors on your phone are all meant to hook you. Fortunately, he also notes there's things you can do to lessen the hold, from the common sense (limit your notifications) to the drastic (go grayscale). Watch the whole thing to learn all the dirty details—and then see how long you can spend without looking at your phone.

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Design
New Lobster Emoji Gets Updated After Mainers Noticed It Was Missing a Set of Legs
Emojipedia
Emojipedia

When the Unicode Consortium released the designs of the latest batch of emojis in early February, the new lobster emoji was an instant hit. But as some astute observers have pointed out, Unicode forgot something crucial from the initial draft: a fourth set of legs.

As Mashable reports, Unicode has agreed to revise its new lobster emoji to make it anatomically accurate. The first version of the emoji, which Maine senator Angus King had petitioned for in September 2017, shows what looks like a realistic take on a lobster, complete with claws, antennae, and a tail. But behind the claws were only three sets of walking legs, or "pereiopods." In reality, lobsters have four sets of pereiopods in addition to their claws.

"Sen. Angus King from Maine has certainly been vocal about his love of the lobster emoji, but was kind enough to spare us the indignity of pointing out that we left off two legs," Jeremy Burge, chief emoji officer at Emojipedia and vice-chair of the Unicode Emoji Subcommittee, wrote in a blog post. Other Mainers weren't afraid to speak up. After receiving numerous complaints about the oversight, Unicode agreed to tack two more legs onto the lobster emoji in time for its release later this year.

The skateboard emoji (which featured an outdated design) and the DNA emoji (which twisted the wrong way) have also received redesigns following complaints.

[h/t Mashable]

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