Your roundup of tech, culture, and nostalgia for

February 13, 2024 // Web version //

TimeMachiner. Tech, culture, nostalgia. By Aaron Crocco
Inside Today's Issue:
Dreaming of 2001

Read to the end for a post about talking heads.

I've been a lifelong Sega fan. From the day my parents brought home a Genesis, I was hooked. My teenage years were spent rushing Sonic through Emerald Hills zone, blasting monsters in the sewers, and virtually fighting. There's been leaks of news lately that Microsoft may stop making the Xbox console and let me tell you, it's giving me large Sega Dreamcast flashbacks. Why? Let's get into it.

The Dreamcast was Sega's final console. Released on 9/9/99, it was the company's last attempt to recover from the debacle of everything that came after the Genesis.

Through incredible mismanagement and what amounted to a rivalry between the US and Japan arms of Sega, everything after the Genesis was a dud. Sega CD: had few compelling games. 32X: a weird add-on that never enhanced the Genesis in a meaningful way. Saturn: launched so prematurely, retail stores had no inventory and developers wanting Day-1 games available were months away from finished versions.

But Dreamcast was different. It was developed to have equivalent hardware to what was in arcades at the time. It had a modem (in 1999!) to enable online gaming; something that is so essential today it's impossible to not have this in a modern console. The games looked great, played great, and were tons of fun.

And then Sony released the PS2 about 18-months later.

The Dreamcast went into a tailspin because the PS2 was a cheap way to get a DVD play into the home and Dreamcast games were so easily copied, Sega was losing money on the console AND not selling the software to make up for it. And then in 2001 it was over. Sega went into the business of only making games. That continues to this day, proving they've always been good at that.

Microsoft is echoing a lot of what were the final months of the Dreamcast before Sega killed it. Xbox games have been coming out on the rival PS5 and more are planned. Microsoft spent $68 billion on Activision, which finally went through. Sales of its Series X console were dismal and the company is simply not selling enough hardware these days.

While it's not a 1-to-1 copy of what happened to Sega, Microsoft seems to be walking a similar path. An ominous post by Phil Spencer, head of Xbox spoke of an announcement soon about the "future of Xbox". To me, that tracks with everything else: making games is more profitable than making hardware. What will this announcement be? Nobody truly knows, but it is very possible Microsoft has decided to cede its market to Sony and Nintendo.

Microsoft only got into the console business in order to protect the PC Gaming / Windows business. It was a way to keep players 'in the fold' in order to make sure they kept spending money on Microsoft offerings. Today, especially with antitrust and the intense scrutiny of the Activision purchase, it's possible the work to keep making actual Xboxes simply isn't worth it anymore.

Sega learned the hard way that you can make amazing games and still have a console that can't compete. They made the decision to discontinue the Dreamcast (which I still love and have) in order to live on as a game developer. Microsoft may be looking to that story to dictate its future. We'll learn what that is on the 15th.

Thanks for reading. Now, onto the rest of today's issue.

Outhorse Your Email
One things Americans have been accused of is never being fully disconnected while on vacation. We sorta have a reputation for continuing to check email, dialing into calls, and overall monitoring things when we're on PTO and trying to relax. Iceland's tourism board is looking to change that. A scenic and beautiful country, Iceland's tourism board is looking to help you disconnect and enjoy everything it has to offer. To help facilitate this, it came up with delegating your out of office email responses to a horse. Yes, a horse. When you visit the site you get to choose one of three horses. One takes naps and another is 'trained in corporate buzzwords'. Any of them are perfect options! Once you pick your horse, it will create a random message by walking across a giant keyboard. You can then use it as your auto-reply in your work email. And it's…
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No, Mr. Bond. I Expect You To Print
Printers suck. You know this. I know this. It is a universal truth. Aside from paper jams and managing setups that are complicated, the modern printers are even worse than that. Long ago companies went to a 'razor blade' sales model to sell the printer cheap and make money on the ink. HP has taken this cat and mouse game to the next level. Its CEO declared that ink must be a subscription and it can only be HP's ink. Scharon Harding at Ars Technica has more. HP CEO Enrique Lores addressed the company's controversial practice of bricking printers when users load them with third-party ink. Speaking to CNBC Television, he said, "We have seen that you can embed viruses in the cartridges. Through the cartridge, go to the printer, from the printer, go to the network." That frightening scenario could help explain why HP, which was hit this month with…
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Clean Mail
Nearly a year after the USPS announced it would shift a sizable portion of its delivery fleet to electric vehicles, the first signs of this are coming to fruition. A few weeks ago in Atlanta there was a press event that showed chargers in the ground and showed off the new Ford E-Transit EV delivery van. Jennifer Mossalgue at Electrek has more. The US Postal Service showed off its first EV charging stations, and some spiffy new Ford E-Transit BEVs, at an event in Atlanta yesterday, with hundreds of new sorting and delivery centers set to open around the country this year. It’s all part of the $40 billion plan to upgrade its service while assembling one of the county’s largest EV fleets, with more than 66,000 delivery vehicles in service. “The work USPS is doing to electrify those vehicles is making EVs commonplace on every road and street in…
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