Magazine Article


Digicams Can, Part 2

Digicams Can, Part 2

Over The Top, Under Their Noses

By Don Sutherland

September 2001

Let the tale be told of Harry the Hypster, who won the Brooklyn Bridge in a card game. Alas his plans for a revenue stream were thwarted, when the Department of Buildings denied application to build toll booths. A harangue ensued, wherein architects and contractors demanded the payment Harry had promised. So Harry hied himself to Canada. Needing a product to sell, Harry developed a way to chop perfect cubes from glacial ice, which he was certain would make his fortune — or at least keep him fed - in his homeland adopted for better or worse.
Harry took a poll of his neighbors, and found a blazing one-hundred percent already familiar with the term, "ice." This could be important to brand identification, and would attract investors. Of those sixty percent, 85 percent said that the first word to come to mind upon hearing the word "ice" was "cold." This gave Harry inklings of how to position his product for the male market ("guys sometimes ask what a product is for," he later recalled). Harry's survey suggested strongly that he was on to something hot.
But blue skies oft turn gray, as did Harry's upon Item Three in his questionnaire. It asked respondents to rate ice as a rarity and treat, at five levels from "Scarcer than a free pound of Beluga Caviar" to "Commoner than sand at the beach." Harry was doubly troubled to find 97 percent of all respondents chose the last answer, despite never having seen sand at a beach.
But Harry was undaunted. "If ice were perfect," his next questionnaire asked, "would you be interested?" Not knowing what perfect ice might precisely be, but admiring perfection in the abstract, a full 98 percent of respondents replied, "yes." And that's when Harry's El Perfecto Ice Cubes hit the market, under the Harry's EPIC brand.
"Perfect corners! Perfectly square! Guaranteed perfect dimensions to the thousandth of the mil," proclaimed his placard, "prior to meltage." Calipers in hand, 76 percent of the 98 percent came and measured, uttered their admiration for such perfection, and continued on their way.
Harry decided to develop new customer benefits. "Floats in water of all kinds! Impossible to swallow by mistake (within limits defined in Meltage disclaimer below)! Guaranteed fireproof!" proclaimed his next placard. He still sold no ice cubes. "Easy to sculpt! Special slow-dripping formula! Attractive in any décor!" Nothing. "All natural! The crystallized form of the substance from which 75 percent of every man, woman, and child is made! Refreshing and cleansing when taken internally!" Zip. "Natural and organic! Relieves bruises and sprains! Keeps fish fresh!" Zilch.
Harry was desperate, and would have sobbed manfully if the tears didn't freeze in their ducts. But just when things looked darkest, the President came on TV. The White House was going up on stilts, he said, but they'd be 20 feet shorter than predicted by America's effete intellectual snobs. Global Warming was nowhere as severe as they'd preached, causing the Potamac to rage not 80, but only 60 feet over Washington D.C. The Chief Executive renewed his attack against "nagging nabobs of negativity" who had predicted the Congress a full fathom under.
Harry's El Perfectos, having been stockpiled in naturally cool caves throughout the full production run, were at-hand by the millions as the North Pole sprouted palms. Harry's business boomed for years, needing no sales-promotion at all, right up to the day of his final liquidation.
Harry bought the whole of Bermuda, constructed a refrigerated meat locker two football fields long, twelve stories tall, and spent the rest of his days having Victoria's Secret models "over for a cup of cool."
Moral: It's not just the product that counts. Ya gotta consider the climate.

Does our author look strangely different, or differently strange? What could make something look so similar, yet somehow so different? Maybe it's just the weather.

Take digicams please!
I never met Harry, but I gather he later gave seminars in his promotional techniques. Anyhow, a lot of the people hawking digicams in the early days showed some of Harry's unmistakable stamps.
They certainly spoke like they had something as desirable as ice in the Great White North. They claimed "film quality?" Who needs a digicam for "film quality," when film cameras already have it?
Besides, their claims for "film quality" were specious. No, they couldn't be dismissed altogether, because there must have been at least one film with as many limitations as VGA and SVGA quality. Do you like really small prints? These cameras were fine then, but another potent force - the ink jet printer - was luring digicustomers toward the notion of printing 8x10s. You can make good 8x10s from film originals, but 8x10s from VGA was pushing your luck.
Or how about the "instant gratification" myth? This was justified by the presence of an LCD screen, which displayed some semblance of a picture just taken. How accurate that semblance was — from the standpoint of focus and sharpness, color and contrast — was anybody's guess.

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