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I’ll See Your Paradigm (pt.1)

May 4th, 2008 by Ted Bailey

If you have read any of my other articles, attended any of my multimedia/technology seminars in the past, then you have more than likely heard me use the term “Paradigm Shift” as it relates to the effect multimedia is and will have on many aspect of our lives. Lately, it seems that ‘everything’ is being hyped as something that will cause a paradigm shift. But the term “Isoquantic” as used by John Sculley (formerly of Pepsi and Apple Computers fame) was a new one, even for a polyglot like me who enjoys eclectic words. I was intrigued. Whaddesay?

Let me see if I can define and distinguish the two terms. Paradigm is easy… it refers to a set of standards or norms by which we operate. When this set of standards shift radically because of some innovation, we call it a paradigm shift, clever huh? A common example used for the effect of such a shift is “buggy whips”. The automobile or “horseless carriage” represented a paradigm shift in transportation technology. While some industries were able to adapt their products and services, not so for the buggy whip makers. The buggy whip industry became a casualty of this technology shift.

Similarly, the typewriter represented a new standard by which offices would operate in the early 1900s. New tools, metaphors, methodology and training was required to take advantage of this “new fangled” piece of equipment. But the benefits of technology over the monk scribes and/or pencil and paper outweighed the costs of change. Word processors have now almost totally replaced the typewriter – certainly a change but not necessarily another shift. Today the multimedia pundits (or all those people that we think know alot) promise that multimedia represents a paradigm shift in how we communicate. Now we can read along as the message is narrated, animated, accompanied by music, splashed with color, complete with diagrams, and even digital video.

All of which brings me to the second term, “Isoquantic”. Unfortunately, this word still doesn’t exist in my dictionary – nor can I find it at dictionary.com or the mirriam-webster.com. So at the risk of sounding like your high school English teacher, let’s break the word apart; ISO from the Greek meaning “EQUAL”; and “QUANTIC” a math term for the relationship of two or more variables, derived from the Latin “HOW MUCH”. Confused? Maybe this chicken and egg explanation will help. With respect to flexible transportation, which came first, paved roads or cars? Does one require the other to exist? Probably not, but the relationship is symbiotic. Both work with each other to achieve a desired result. We have a car… we want to go places… we need roads to get there, etc. Do we wait for cars to be lined up at the border, like the shoppers in the old Appliance store commercials or do we answer the whisper, “Build it and they will come.”?

Multimedia, because of all the different media we employ to communicate our message, requires vast amounts of storage technology. Hi-resolution graphics, sound and digital video all are real gluttons for storage… at least until better compression technologies are prevalent. While multimedia (the car) doesn’t absolutely require it, CD-ROM (the road) provides that needed storage in a single, easily distributable package. The web can provide the storage needs and a distribution mechanism to multiple platforms, but suffers from bandwidth (road width and hence delivery speed).

And this serves to illustrate the relationship of the variables in the multimedia growth equation. We want access to the information, but at an affordable price and the developer/artist wants to be remunerated for their labors. Both sides depend upon the quantity of CD-ROM players to meet their needs. Do multimedia designers wait until everyone has a CD-ROM? Do CD-ROM purchasers wait until there are more titles. Its an age old cycle. Now that almost everyone has CD-ROM players, DVD technology as well as web users (with slow modems) pop up. More CD-ROM/DVD players/faster web access means more developers will design more multimedia titles because there are more users who will buy their product although at lower prices because there is more competition, whew what a “Catch-22”! (have you noticed, I refer to a lot of books and movies? – after all this is multimedia!).

Do you know your “GAZINTAs?”

So… now having said all this; you’ve heard my “Call of the (multimedia) Wild”; you want to be part of the shift and are still ready to make a killing in the multimedia game, eh, bunkie? Although the following concepts apply to all delivery vehicles, let’s focus just on the CD-ROM market. Open up virtually any computer magazine or software catalog and already you will see literally a GAZILLION CD-ROM packages selling for between $20 and $400. Jethro Bodine of the “Beverly Hillbillies” knew his Gazintas, do you? 400 gazinta 1 million 2,500 times; 20 gazinta 1 million 50,000 times. So, depending on selling price you only need to sell between twenty-five hundred and fifty thousand titles to make a million bucks. Hundreds of thousands of people have computers, so this oughta be easy and you think, “thar’s money in them thar hills”, right?! And the answer is that it all depends on several things, key of which are:

  • What topical area?
  • What hardware platform(s)?
  • How will you market/sell it?

We will explore these questions in the sequel article, “Musings of Making Money in Multimedia”

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