Technological Decision-Making Process

When considering which computer, computation technology or digital information piece I would “de-black box” this week, I was greatly influenced by Neal Stephenson’s paper, In the Beginning was the Command Line. I wanted to look further into the struggle individuals endure when deciding which type of computer they should purchase. I will focus my analysis on consumers who are choosing between purchasing a PC or Mac. This decision users contemplate is interesting to look at in a mediological perspective as well when examining the relationship individual’s have with their computers. To begin this analysis, I feel it is important to discuss the Uses and Gratifications Theory.

The Uses and Gratification Theory is based off the research of Elihu Katz, Jay G. Blumler and Michael Gurevtich. The theory suggests that individuals choose specific media outlets in order to gain specific gratifications. Research claims that’s our society chooses a particular media to gratify a specific need. If an If an individual was experiencing several viruses within his computer, he/she might purchase a Mac over a PC since they are less likely to attain . If someone was in the market to buy a computer for home use but were on a budget, they would consider a PC over a Mac since Apple products have the reputation of being over-priced. Lastly if the user was trying to purchase a computer that would assist them in editing photos they would be more inclined to purchase a Mac since they often already come with software that supports this action.

A significant part of the theory is Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs which is based off of five needs: self-actualization, ego/self-respect, social belonging, security/safety and biological/physical (West, Turner 394). Abraham Maslow created Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs table and believes that once individuals attain a specific need on one level they are able to move to the next (West, Turner 394). This table can be applied to individual’s decision-making process when considering a PC or Mac. Below is an image of Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs.


maslow.jpg
Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs


For example , if someone was trying to fulfill the Security/Safety level on the hierarchy of needs table, they may consider buying a Mac over a PC. As I mentioned previously, Apple has a reputation for strong security features that protect users from malicious software. After completing this goal they would be able to move to the next level Social/Belonging. If someone were trying to complete this level, they would purchase a computer based off the consideration of which computer a majority of their friends used. I have heard this reasoning on media outlets such as Facebook. People will often pose the question, should I purchase a PC or a Mac? Then there various friends will share which computer they have chosen and explain the benefits of their particular computer. Of course it is important to point out that not everyone chooses a Mac or PC based off of this goal, many pose this question on Facebook as a form of researching which brand has higher ratings. Overall I find it interesting to consider the decision process individual’s endure when deciding which type of technology is best for their needs. The theory I focused on provides some insight on the decision process people undergo but I believe there are other ways to look at the relationship people have with specific technologies.



West, Richard, and Lynn H. Turner. Introduction Communication Theory. 4th. New York: McGraw Hill, 2010. Print.


Emily Fuerst





The Cellular Network

As we have become co-dependent of our smart phones (smart devices), we have come to expect a certain speed standard from our device. This speed, which is a necessity for smart phones and tablets, comes from both the network the device is connected to and the processing chip inside the phone. While processing chips are rather straightforward, many people do not understand what the network speeds truly mean. What is the difference between being connected to Edge, 3G, 4G HSPA+ and 4G LTE?

To “de-black box” the cellular network, we must first know its origins. The Bell Company, which is now known as AT&T, created the first prototype in 1946. The network was only among 100 cities and highway corridors and it worked much like a party line. The AT&T Enterprise website explains,

"Something better — cellular telephone service — had been conceived in 1947 by D.H. Ring at Bell Labs, but the idea was not ready for prime time. The system comprised multiple low-power transmitters spread throughout a city in a hexagonal grid, with automatic call handoff from one hexagon to another and reuse of frequencies within a city."


This took forever to be launched because the technology was not yet advanced enough and the company had to work with the FCC in order to bring this to life. When the FCC did approve of this approach, they licensed “two competing systems in each city.” This laid the ground work for what we know today: a competition of more expansive networks and expensive services from AT&T and Verizon; a middle ground, not as much network, but not as expensive services from T-Mobile and Sprint; and prepaid services with very small and slow networks from companies like Boost Mobile (AT&T Enterprise).


To connect to a cellular network, some phones use SIM cards and others use CDMA technology. Companies like AT&T and T-Mobile use SIM cards and companies like Verizon and Sprint use CDMA technology. SIM cards and CDMA technology both tell the phone to connect to the network, using the antenna, as well as information about the phone, like the phone number and which data speed the device is capable of reaching.


The FCC regulates cell phone companies. They are the ones who decide whether one company acquiring another will be allowed, like the attempted AT&T/T-Mobile merger. They also decide which radio frequencies are available to cellular networks. At this point, the FCC has approved of 800 frequencies. Phone companies still use the hexagon grid system to connect people. Each sell has an approximately 10 mile diameter and there is a tower emitting signal from the middle (Brain).


One problem which may remain unnoticed by many people is the cell tower. Many communities do not want the unsightly towers popping up, but they still want to be able to use their cellular devices. This means companies need to become inventive. Cell companies have started disguising the tower, so they are not intrusive to the environment. Some disguises just mean painting repeaters to match the building they are hanging from, while others are elaborate, like fake trees.


All of these are factors in even using the cellular network, but we have not yet approached the differences between the different networks: Edge, 3G, 4G HSPA+ and 4G LTE. Edge is the slowest any company has to offer at this time, it generally offers speeds between 75 Kbps and 135 Kbps. The 3G network was standard amongst companies throughout the end of the 2000-2010 decade, 3G download speeds generally run between 600 Kbps and 1.4 Mbps. AT&T is the only company to offer 4G HSPA+, HSPA+ stand for High Speed Packet Access. Speeds of up to 6 Mbps can be reached with HSPA+. Long Term Evolution, 4G LTE, is the newest and fastest growing network speed. LTE is touted to go up to ten times faster than 3G, but with an acronym so broad, it is expected to be able to reach even faster speeds. In Indianapolis, which has a strong LTE network and very few LTE users, I have been able to reach 35 Mbps. The speeds for 4G LTE vary greatly depending on the number of users on the network, in Arlington, my fast speed has been around 15 Mbps.


There are many factors involved when developing a cellular network: the technology necessary, FCC approval, the actual design of the network, community support for the development of the network and the actual speeds customers see.


References

AT&T Enterprise. "AT&T Labs - Innovation - Technology Timeline - First Mobile Telephone Call| AT&T Labs| AT&T." AT&T Labs - Innovation - Technology Timeline - First Mobile Telephone Call| AT&T Labs| AT&T. AT&T, n.d. Web. 14 Nov. 2012. <http://www.corp.att.com/attlabs/reputation/timeline/46mobile.html>.

Brain, Marshall. "How Cell Phones Work." HowStuffWorks. N.p., n.d. Web. 14 Nov. 2012. <http://electronics.howstuffworks.com/cell-phone.htm>.

CBS. "Cell Phone Towers In Disguise (CBS News)." YouTube. YouTube, 29 Nov. 2006. Web. 14 Nov. 2012. <http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uRQYan_-CTQ>.

Kassie Barroquillo


IBM

by Eric Cruet

Let me begin this wiki post by saying that I’m an IBM’er. I believe my company can truly help us realize the possibilty of living in a smarter planet, not in a vacuum, but in collaboration from others.

One of America’s dearest institutions, with the world’s most recognizable organizational logos, IBM (International Business Machines) is an integral part of the global conception, development, and evolution of modern computation. It was founded in 1911 as the Computing Tabulating Recording Company (CTR) through a merger of three companies: the Tabulating Machine Company, the International Time Recording Company, and the Computing Scale Company; CTR adopted the name International Business Machines in 1924, using a name previously designated to CTR's subsidiary in Canada and later South America. Security analysts nicknamed IBM Big Blue in recognition of IBM's common use of blue in products, packaging, and logo. Later the stock market started to use "blue chip" as a moniker for stocks that could weather any downturn in market activity, as IBM stock price was an index barometer in staying close to its stock price of 100 USD regardless of market condition.

This is a company that has established 12 research laboratories worldwide. As of 2012, it has held the record for most patents generated by a company in 19 consecutive years. Its employees have garnered five Nobel Prizes, six Turing Awards, nine National Medals of Technology, and five National Medals of Science. Famous inventions by IBM include the automated teller machine (ATM), the floppy disk, the hard disk drive, the magnetic stripe card, the relational database, the Universal Product Code (UPC), the financial swap, SABRE airline reservation system, DRAM, and Watson artificial intelligence.

Big Blue, how it’s known affectionately to its employees and allies, has a keen eye for adquisitions and knows when to spin off companies. Its recent purchase of Rational, SPSS, and Tivoli have been instrumental in allowing it to play in the app development, analytics and systems management fields while its spinoff of the PC division to Lenovo was appropriately timed when profit margins on PC hardware started diminishing.
Here is how IBM likes to Group THINK about the issues:




http://www-03.ibm.com/ibm/history/