Buying iPads, Cellphones and Gadgets in Chiang Mai

Like any good modern city, Chiang Mai is a place where you can satiate your gadget lust and need for technology easily and quickly, and you will find fewer places where you can buy an entire desktop PC, custom-built, for less: cheap computers, cheap unlocked cellphones, peripherals and accessories like Bluetooth headsets, speakers, keyboards, HDMI or USB cables, and mice are readily available nearly everywhere-in fact 7-11’s have started selling headsets and mini-speakers to go with your netbooks, smartphones, or iPods. If you are just here to visit, it’s also extra helpful to buy expensive gadgets in Thailand and claim tax refunds when you depart which can net you back quite a bit of cash. In particular, you can find them gathered into IT sections or digital malls at the following locations:

Panthip Plaza

Located on Chang Klan Road in the Night Bazaar (also known as the Night Market), the Panthip Plaza is a miniature version of the renowned digital shopping mall in Bangkok of the same name. Though considerably smaller in scale than its older counterpart, it also has the advantage of being much less cramped, less noisy, and having a little more class: the building includes a dental clinic, a Shabushi restaurant, and the Fuji Japanese restaurant as well as a food court on the top floor, plus a SE-ED bookstore and several coffee outlets. You can find software, games (PC, XBOX 360 and PS3 alike; if you are a little retro, you can also buy very cheap PS2s), digital cameras, and hardware components ranging from RAM sticks, external USB drives, graphic cards, power supply units to LCD monitors large and small. There are also several shops in the building that will let you choose these component parts and assemble them for you at no extra charge: the alternative, if you will, to Newegg if you are living in Thailand. This way, you can get yourself a very powerful gaming desktop for nearly half the price you would have paid in the States, United Kingdom or Australia. At the time of writing, there is almost nothing on offer for those looking for a new shiny smartphone. However, there will be an HTC shop opening soon at the Panthip Plaza if you’re looking for some Windows Phone 7 or Android goodness in your life.

Siam TV

A glitzy electronics shop that sells everything from washing machines and ovens to the latest and greatest HDTVs and 3D televisions from Samsung, Sony, and LG. Naturally their catalogue includes laptops and netbooks from leading brands including but not limited to Toshiba, Acer, Asus, Dell and HP as well as smartphones, feature phones, and all the peripherals they entail. They also stock Android tablets and iPads. The second floor is home to a True Vision office (if you need to get your cable subscription dealt with) and a small café offering cold and blended beverages.

Computer Plaza

Situated in the Old City area by the canal on Manee Nopparat road, this digital mall is very similar to the Panthip Plaza but has the disadvantage of being rather older and a little grubby around the edges. It offers a range of goods very much like Panthip Plaza’s, however, but is much farther from the Night Bazaar and somewhat more inconvenient to reach if your accommodation isn’t in its immediate vicinity.

Computer Square

Adjacent to the Computer Plaza; offers similar custom computers shops, software, and hardware components.

Central Airport Plaza

The third floor of the Central Airport Plaza is devoted almost entirely to technology: whatever section you are in you will be seeing many, many brands of computers and indeed the most famous names have their own shops here, including Dell, Lenovo, HP, Sony, and Acer for computer makers. For smartphones OEMs, you can expect to find a nice, classy shop displaying HTC’s latest and greatest (Desire HD, Incredible S, HD7, and Mozart) showing off their vibrant AMOLED or Super AMOLED displays and the latest version of Android. If you are after a TV or two, there are Sony and LG shops dedicated just to those too, with the latter also offering smartphones such as the surprisingly affordable dual-core LG 2X running on the Nvidia Tegra 2 system on a chip. Nokia is also represented in a fairly large store and you can find a Nokia service center just opposite the shopping mall itself. Off to the side, next to the IT City shop, you will find many smaller cellphone counters that buy and sell secondhand devices (today not limited to just phones but also iPads, the Blackberry Playbook and the Samsung Galaxy Tab as well as an Acer Iconia Tab or two), which is quite ideal if you are the type of gadget lover who needs to switch handsets or tablets every few months-sell yours, collect the money and off to get a shiny new one.

Flexible Solar Panels – Using Small Solar Panels to Power Toys and Gadgets

There are many different types of flexible solar panels that use different material as its substrate. What you eventually buy to power your toys and gadgets depend on what your requirements are.

Thus it is crucial to know what you want from your flexible solar panels in terms of its voltage, current and power output. On top of this, certain applications require you to use a light flexible solar panel so the power-to-weight ratio will be high. A solar-powered aircraft is one of the applications that require its PV panels to be as light as possible.

Flexible solar cells and modules are made by depositing a layer of photovoltaic semiconductor material on a flexible substrate. They are usually not as effective as polycrystalline solar cells. However they are widely used for small applications like toys and gadgets due to its weight, thickness and its ability to bend.

Recently scientists have broken new records in the efficiency of thin-film solar cells. The previous record of 17.6% efficiency is now pushed up to 18.7% by scientists at Empa, the Swiss Federal Laboratories for Materials Science and Technology. These solar cells are made using copper indium gallium selenide (CIGS) deposited on a flexible substrate.

There is yet another type of flexible PV panel discovered recently. This time, researchers at the New Jersey Institute of Technology (NJIT) experimented with photovoltaic material that can be painted or printed on pieces of flexible plastic. They expect the manufacturing process for this type of flexible PV panel to be relatively simple and cost-effective.

These advances have indeed been a great encouragement to the scientific community and the world at large. If flexible PV panels can be as efficient as polycrystalline solar cells, the cost of solar panels will drop dramatically. As a result, many more people will be able to buy PV panels to power entire homes and offices. This will also help to reduce pollution and there will be less greenhouse gases released into the atmosphere every year.

However the efficiency of flexible solar cells that we use every day is currently below ten percent. Even though scientists and engineers are able to create high performing samples in the lab, they have not found a way to manufacture these products using a cost-effective process.

Therefore high-efficiency thin-film solar panels remain very expensive and are only found in labs. Till the day manufacturers are able to make money from high-efficiency flexible panels, we are not able to use them to power toys and gadgets.

Technology and Design History (Timeline Infographics) Part 1

Have you ever wondered what attracted you in a new iPad, new smartphone, or any other modern gadget? Was it its fascinating technology or its simplicity of design? Design has become an essential communication tool and it’s hard to imaging new technology without it. I wanted to look at the history timeline to define correlation between technology and design and their impact on each other. I used an art history timeline to compare evolution of both areas.

1750-1850 The Industrial Revolution and Romanticism.

The first prominent interaction between technology and design (art at that time) began with the Industrial Revolution. Needless to say, the Industrial Revolution was the starting point in modern technology development and has changed the social, economic and cultural conditions of the times.

Design existed mostly in the form of art at that time and was in transition from Baroque movement (1600-1750) to Neoclassicism (1750-1850) and later – Romanticism (1780-1850). While Neoclassicism was inspired from the “classical” art and culture of Ancient Greece and Rome, Romanticism was already a reaction to the Industrial Revolution with its population growth, and urban sprawl. Romanticism portrayed the achievements of heroic individualists and artists, whose pioneering examples would elevate society.

Highlights of the period:

  • 1765 Steam Engine.
  • 1783 First Hot air balloon.
  • 1796 Lithographic printing process.
  • 1816 First photographic negative.
  • 1835 First photograph.
  • 1843 Typewriter invented.
  • 1847 Rotary printing press.

1850-1900 The Second Industrial Revolution and Realism.

The second part of the Industrial Revolution is also known as electromechanical age. The technological and economic progress lead to the development of steam-powered ships, railways, electrical power generation, and many more.

Visual art of the period was about truth and accuracy and was called Realism. Many paintings depicted people at work, emphasizing the changes brought by the Industrial Revolution. The advances in photography, made through 19th century, took popularity of Realism to the next level, creating a desire for people to reflect everyday reality. Art during the second half of the 19th century was called Impressionism and emphasized an accurate depiction of light that could have been influenced by discoveries of photography.

Highlights of the period:

  • 1867 Dynamite.
  • 1876 Telephone.
  • 1879 Electric light bulb.
  • 1892 Diesel engine.
  • 1894 Radio waves.

1880-1914 Art Nouveau.

By the end of the 19th century machine-made art production was increasing. The first device that could easily and quickly set complete lines of type for use in printing presses – the Linotype machine (1886) – revolutionized the art of printing. This invention increased demand in typography and resulted in design of Akzidenz Grotesk (1898) – the first sans serif typeface to be widely used.

The same 1898 was a year of the first commercial motion picture. Soon followed by many others, initiating a new, separate form of visual art – Motion pictures.

This period was critical in the history of design as it branched out from the art, making its way into all types of commercial design. The movement called Art Nouveau initiated graphic and advertising design and by 1909 magazines had become major ad channels. Art continued evolving from one movement to another – from Post-Impressionism, Expressionism to Cubism and others.

Highlights of the period:

  • 1886 Linotype (typesetting) machine.
  • 1892 Alternating current generator.
  • 1900 First mass-marketed camera – the Brownie.
  • 1903 Powered airplane.
  • 1907 Color photography and helicopter.
  • 1908 First mass-production of the Ford Model T automobile.

1910-1930 Art Deco.

The growth of the professional graphic design industry has grown in parallel with the rise of consumerism. While technology continued improving and monetizing its inventions, design was evolving into communication tool. Art Deco was an ornamental design style based on geometric shapes inspired by technologies such as aviation, radio, electric lighting, and others. Its linear symmetry was a distinct step towards simplicity from the flowing asymmetrical organic curves of its predecessor style Art Nouveau. Art Deco design was suitable to be read from a speeding car.

In 1919 the first model of the modern art school was founded in Germany – the Bauhaus.It had a profound influence in art, architecture, typography and all forms of design, eventually providing the framework for modern design.

Highlights of the period:

  • 1919 First air service and first electric typewriter.
  • 1920s Regular wireless broadcasts for entertainment.
  • 1923 Television Electronic and first sound film.

1930-1945 Modernism.

Technology of the Industrial Revolution found its way into daily life of ordinary people. Electricity, the telephone, the radio, the automobile created the most visible social changes of that period. The need to learn, work, and live with the technology demanded new skills and ability to perceive lots of information.

Modern ideas in art and design appeared in commercials and logos in rejection of the ornate flourishes of preceded design styles. With increased amount of new information that an average person had to grasp, the need for clear, easily recognizable and memorable design increased as well. Straight lines, minimalism, lack of clutter, primary colors prevailed in the design and art of Modernism.

Times New Roman font was designed (1932). First TV commercial was aired from Bulova Watch Company with the slogan “America runs of Bulova time!” (1941).

Highlights of the period:

  • 1936 BBC began transmitting world’s first public service.
  • 1937 Jet engine.
  • 1938 Ballpoint pen.
  • 1941 Kodak negative film.
  • 1943 Aqua-lung.
  • 1945 The atomic bomb.

1955-1980 Pop Art and Minimalism.

Post-war technology of that period cheered us up with various great inventions and gave birth to a new type of human species – geeks. Invention of a personal computer dramatically impacted and forever changed the way people live, work, and communicate.

In art history this period is known as Pop Art and Minimalism, which we can see reflected in design as well. The rise of different media forms and the modern advertising industry increased the need for a readable, easily displayed typeface. The new font, designed for simplicity, was Neue Haas Grotesk font (1957), later renamed Helvetica. With the rise of personal computing in the 80s, Helvetica was replaced by Arial as a digital standard.

Minimalism played critical role in advertising as well. Among clustered and flashy ads appeared a new, simplified advertising approach. “Think Small” ad campaign (1959) for the Volkswagen Beetle became the No. 1 campaign of the 20th century.

Highlights of the period:

  • 1951 The Universal Automatic Computer (Univac).
  • 1956 Videocassette recorder.
  • 1961 The first human to orbit the Earth.
  • 1968 First computer mouse.
  • 1968 Computer video game, compact discs, and email.
  • 1974 Personal computer.

1980 – 2000 Postmodernism.

With the release of first Macintosh computer in 1984 a new era has began in technology and design – an era of collaboration. Technology continues to open new doors in consumerism and every day life, but design drives the esthetics and usability of the most tech innovations. Apple computers gained popularity not for its unique technology (first personal computer was created a decade before Mac), but for its unique design and simplicity.

Apple created a new standard in design – in web, print, advertising, marketing, product design, but didn’t invent any of the above. It surely was the first to successfully leverage symbiosis between technology and design.

In 1990 first Photoshop software was released and at that point technology gave everything it could at that time to invite design on its side.

Highlights of the period:

  • 1984 First Macintosh computer from Apple, featuring bitmap graphics.
  • 1985 CD-ROM; digital imaging processor by Pixar.
  • 1990 World Wide Web.
  • 1994 Online Advertising.
  • 1995 DVD.

Ever since industrial revolution technology began developing rapidly and today it occupies every corner of human life. Though art as a form of communication existed way before technology (since cave men), it only became a powerful communication tool after merging with technology in the mid of 20th century.

So, even though art and technology had different roots and developing process, both are now parts of one inseparable unit. One cannot exist without the other.