Plane crazy

I seem to split my time between making predictions about future business and technology, and looking back at the past. Maybe it’s my age or fatherhood, but I seem to be finding links between the two far more readily, especially when my son is involved, although this time it’s more about just enjoying the fantastic machinery on show at Imperial War Museum Duxford.

Duxford Air Museum

Spitfire at Duxford, with Concorde in the background

It really is a cool place to visit – 200 planes, 50 tanks, and enough to keep a young child entertained while his dad admired everything from fighter planes to commercial airliners and the occasional Spitfire. Plus, it’s the only time I’ve ever been buzzed by a jet fighter in true Top Gun style whilst sitting and eating an ice cream.

They’ve got pretty much everything from vintage biplanes to the Eurofighter, SR-71 BlackBird and of course, Concorde. And I have to admit, not being privy to the joy of travelling across the Atlantic in under 3 hours, that I was a bit surprised it wasn’t a little more glamourous.

Duxford Air Museum

The seating in the Concorde at Duxford (Admittedly it was used for test flights)

But besides the wonder of seeing all these amazing machines up close, whether it’s the SR-71 BlackBird I had as a poster on my wall, or the Russian T-34 tank, I did wonder about the fact that it appears aviation seemed to stop around the time computers and the internet began to exist in the 60’s and 70’s.
I don’t mean that we don’t all cram into budget class on a 747 for our holidays, but all of the amazingly futuristic designs seem to have been replaced by pure utility, much as we once had Cadillacs with huge fins and now have sensible hatchbacks. And I’m wondering why we aren’t seeing a return to amazing designs?

After all, there must be some way that the increase in virtual conferencing reducing business travel, and the increases in environmentally-friendly travel could give rise to transport that looks amazing whilst saving the planet? Not everyone who wants to prevent global environmental catastrophes wants to drive around in something that looks like a jelly mold or a box on wheels.

It’s that belief that everything has to be OR, rather than AND. The web has to destroy print, rather than both existing in a completely different way. And the internet and the environment demand that we end up travelling in dull tedium, as experienced by every commuter on a daily basis, rather than something cool and interesting.

Want me to increase my efforts to recycle and turn the heating down? Find me a way that I’ll be rewarded with something like this on my driveway in 10 years.
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And while I’m talking about how great planes are – it’s not flying people hate. It’s the fact that airports are soulless, miserable places which increase boredom and anxiety, before the joy of passing through customs, and then the loss of control as unexplained noises accompany some stranger hurtling you into the air at 300+mph, whilst knowing you’re likely to be stuck circling round a destination in the middle of nowhere, waiting for your suitcase to appear alongside 20 identical examples, and then the fun of customs in a different culture.

On the plus side, Duxford is great, and I’m seriously thinking of their membership package just to get the tour of this rather famous plane:

Duxford Air Museum

The Sally B - Also known as The Mephis Belle

 

Conde Nast ‘flip’ social networking

With so many social networking sites now available, it takes something special to actually make me sit up and take notice.
But new Beta site www.flip.com has managed it for two reasons. Set up for teenage girls, it offers a lot of features over rival sites, with textures, animations, and customisation with stickers etc laid over profiles. Interesting, but not enough to really make it stand out.

The interesting bit is that it’s not the result of a tiny American start-up, funded by venture capitalists. It’s actually from magazine and website publisher Conde Nast. That makes it, as far as I’m aware, the first time a major ‘traditional’ publisher has got in on the ground floor of a social networking site. (I know Fox bought Myspace, but the site was already huge by the time they started negotiating).

I think it’s a very wise move. Not only does the site have a software advantage, but the publisher of the likes of Vogue and Glamour should be able to leverage enough of an audience from existing print brands to give it a head start over most similar start-ups and sites. The only question for me is whether a networking site is truly viable without the promise of interaction with the opposite sex.

(Incidentally, someone recently brought Flirtomatic to my attention, which does the job in the most simplistic and immediate way). Flip tip-off from downloadsquad.com.