2008 Tech Pick: Campaign Text Messaging

Even with the financial meltdown, technology companies have continued churning out gadgets or new advances of the devices we carry in our pockets, purses, or clip on our ears. Morning Edition tech guru Mario Armstrong selected one innovation as our technology pick of the year. He explains his decision to Renee Montagne.

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RENEE MONTAGNE, host:

2008 has been a productive year for technology companies. They've kept churning out gadgets or new advances of the devices we now carry in our pockets, purses, or clip on our ears. We asked Morning Edition tech guru Mario Armstrong to select one innovation as the technology pick of the year. And he's here to tell us what this is. Welcome, Mario.

MARIO ARMSTRONG: Hey Renee, thanks for having me. I can't believe you're tying me down to one pick.

MONTAGNE: That's how it goes with these sort of end-of-the-year things, but let's have it, what's your pick?

ARMSTRONG: All right. So my pick, don-da-da-da, is text messaging by the campaigns throughout the election. I believe the use of technology on our mobile devices overshadowed any other technology that came out this year.

MONTAGNE: OK, so well that's an actual use of technology, not, say, a new gadget. But many of us will remember one thing that loomed quite large, and that was the use of a text message by the Obama campaign to announce Barack Obama's vice-presidential pick. And it was a sort of - people were like waiting for it the way they were waiting for the iPhone.

ARMSTRONG: Absolutely. This was the first time in history that this had been done. And it came out at 3 o'clock in the morning, Eastern time, and people still were lining up to wait to see who this pick was going to be on their mobile device.

MONTAGNE: What else did the campaigns do to make innovative use of technology?

ARMSTRONG: So they also took it a step further beyond just doing things like text messaging. I mean, some campaigns even created iPhone applications. These were programs that would actually run on your iPhone that would give you news, information, updates, even track your calls if you were making calls and being very active. But then there was this - just a mix, all of the pieces together - utilizing the Internet, utilizing email, text messaging, online video, things like YouTube and others.

I think the one thing for me, Renee, as to why this really stood out, is when I started meeting people that were older generation that really weren't into technology, but because of the election they found themselves gravitating and really utilizing and embracing technology in new ways, ways that they have never done before. And that has continued them now to have better connections with family, friends, and relatives.

MONTAGNE: Well, let's talk about, I think, what we could call iPhone moments because last year the iPhone swept headlines. You even chose it as your pick of 2007. Any parallel iPhone moments this year?

ARMSTRONG: There are a couple of parallel iPhone moments, and there are three devices that really come out that gravitate towards me - one is called the Peak. This is kind of like your iPhone, all it does, Renee, is email. It's a little device that you carry with you. No phones, no camera, no web browsing. All it does is it has a keyboard and a screen and it allows you to send and receive email. It's very simple, and it's great for the non-techie.

Another quick one would be the Pulse Pen, a pen that actually records what's being heard as you're writing, and then allows you to save that and kind of go back to your notes later and listen to any of your notes that you've taken. It's an awesome device.

And then I guess my last pick would be Xohm, this is a wireless service that has now come out. It's called WiMAX service, and it's now available in the U.S. And essentially what makes this different, is it is about three to four times faster than current wireless Internet speeds. So think of this as a hotspot as wide as your city, not a hotspot that just surrounds a coffee shop, at really fast, blazing speeds.

So, Renee, those would be three other things that really caught my attention for 2008. But by far, the number one would be use of text messaging in the election.

MONTAGNE: All right then, 2008 in technology from Mario Armstrong, Morning Edition's regular technology commentator. Thank you.

ARMSTRONG: Thank you, Renee.

MONTAGNE: And of course, Mario also hosts the radio show Digital Cafe on Baltimore Public Radio station WYPR.

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