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Take a radio trip back in time

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To celebrate World Radio Day on 13 February, Ford South Africa highlights some rock and pop music milestones over the past several decades.

From in-car AM to FM radio, eight-track tape players to cassette tape decks, in-car CD players to iPods and beyond, we’ve come a long way in how we listen to music in our cars.

To celebrate World Radio Day on 13 February, Ford South Africa highlights some rock and pop music milestones over the past several decades. And classic rock aficionado Benjy Mudie, host of ‘The Jukebox on 702’, takes us on a trip down memory lane, sharing some of his favourite memories of listening to music on the car radio.

1950s

“Back in the late Fifties, when I was a young boy, whenever Bill Haley and His Comets’ ‘Rock Around The Clock’ used to come on the radio, I remember my dad turning it up and pointing to the big dial of the car clock.” – Benjy Mudie

13 February 1950 – Peter Gabriel is born. One of the founders and original lead singer of Genesis, he goes on to have a successful solo career. In 1987, the now-iconic video for his song ‘Sledgehammer’ rakes in a record nine MTV Video Music Awards, still the most wins for a single video in the VMAs to this day.

1960s

“My dad loved muscle cars, and in the early Sixties he had a red Ford Fairlane 500. When The Beatles’ ‘She Loves You’ used to come on the radio, I remember we kids used to scream out the “yeah, yeah, yeah” part of the chorus.” – Benjy Mudie

13 February 1961 – Frank Sinatra launches his own label, Reprise, under Warner Bros Records. Although he vows he will never sign any rock artists, Reprise will go on to become the home of many influential US acts, including Neil Young, Jimi Hendrix, Joni Mitchell, and The Beach Boys.

13 February 1967 – The Beatles release the double A-sided single ‘Strawberry Fields Forever / Penny Lane’ on Capitol Records in the US, which peaks at #1 on the charts.

1970s

“When I worked in the EMI stores in 1974 and 1975, I had an old, fawn-coloured Ford Prefect that my folks helped me buy. It had an eight-track and radio combo, with four large and loud speakers that blasted LM Radio until it was shut down by the Frelimo government in 1975. The song I remember turning up whenever it played was The Who`s ‘Won’t Get Fooled Again.’ – Benjy Mudie

13 February 1972 – Led Zeppelin is forced to cancel a concert in Singapore when officials won’t let them off the plane because of their long hair.

13 February 1973 – Elvis Presley takes ill during a concert in Las Vegas. He is attended to by Dr Sidney Bowers, who is later gifted with a white Lincoln Continental (produced by Lincoln, a division of the Ford Motor Company), in appreciation for his services.

13 February 1974 – Robbie Williams is born. In 1990, the then-16-year-old is the youngest member to join Take That. After he quits the boy band in 1995, he goes on to have a hugely successful solo career, becoming the best-selling British solo artist in the UK, with a record 18 Brit Awards under his belt, and also the best-selling non-Latino artist in Latin America.

1980s

“In 1981, I remember AC/DC’s ‘Back in Black’ ruling the airwaves. During my time working for WEA Records (later Tusk Music), I listened constantly to radio in the car, flipping through the dial, checking what WEA tracks were being played by each station. The one I heard the most in 1983 was éVoid’s ‘Shadows’, which was a huge buzz for me as they were hometown friends of mine (I played bass in the original band), and I had signed them to WEA.” – Benjy Mudie

13 February 1982 – Pink Floyd’s album ‘The Dark Side of the Moon’ marks 402 weeks in the charts. Released in March 1973, the now-legendary album has racked up more than 1 500 weeks on the Billboard chart – a record that has yet to be broken, and continues to sell around 8 500 copies a week.

13 February 1988 – Michael Jackson buys a ranch in California which he names Neverland, after the fantasy island in the story of ‘Peter Pan’, about a boy who never grows up. Neverland becomes the artist’s private residence, and the grounds contain, amongst other things, his own amusement park and petting zoo.

13 February 1989 – The Brit Awards is hosted by Sam Fox and Mick Fleetwood. Winners include Phil Collins for British Male Solo Artist, Annie Lennox for British Female Solo Artist, Erasure for Best British Group, Fairground Attraction’s ‘First of a Million Kisses’ for Best British Album, Bros for British Breakthrough Act, Michael Jackson for International Male Solo Artist, Tracey Chapman for International Female Solo Artist, and U2 for Best International Group.

1990s

“In 1998 I started my own label, Fresh Music. That same year, local band Egyptian Nursery had a huge radio hit with ‘God`s Window’, and I always turned that up in my car, because they were my first signing.” – Benjy Mudie

13 February 1996 – Take That announce they are disbanding, prompting the UK government to set up counselling phone lines for distraught fans. Across the pond that same day, Tupac Shakur releases his fourth studio album ‘All Eyez on Me’. He will pass away in Las Vegas exactly seven months later.

Beyond 2000

“I still listen to car radio, but generally avoid the mainstream stations who play generic wallpaper pop. I mainly listen to Hot 91.9 for classic pop and soul, and Mix FM for classic rock. Plus every so often I dial over to Classic FM for chill tunes, and when I really feel I need some happy time, it’s Bollywood tunes on Radio Lotus. Although I host ‘The Jukebox on 702’, I never listen to myself.” – Benjy Muddy

13 February 2005 – Readers of ‘The Sun’ newspaper vote George Michael’s ‘Careless Whisper’ the greatest British pop single of the past 25 years.

13 February 2012 – Adele wins all six categories she is nominated for at the Grammy Awards.

13 February 2015 – Bob Dylan’s 36th studio album ‘Shadows in the Night’ debuts at #1 on Billboard’s Top Rock Albums chart, and #7 on the Billboard 200.

Ford SYNC

The sophisticated in-car infotainment systems available in new Ford vehicles today have almost 90 years of development behind them. And the latest generation of Ford Motor Company’s award-winning SYNC system is at the cutting edge of this technology.

Besides being able to tune into your favourite radio stations, or play your favourite music, it offers a myriad other features like voice-guided navigation, live traffic information, estimated travel time, and voice commands to make hands-free calls, read text messages through the speakers (SYNC even understands emoticons and popular abbreviations), send quick replies by selecting from a list of pre-set text responses, listen to voicemail, and climate control.

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Smart home arrives in SA

The smart home is no longer a distant vision confined to advanced economies, writes ARTHUR GOLDSTUCK.

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The smart home is a wonderful vision for controlling every aspect of one’s living environment via remote control, apps and sensors. But, because it is both complex and expensive, there has been little appetite for it in South Africa.

The two main routes for smart home installation are both fraught with peril – financial and technical.

The first is to call on a specialist installation company. Surprisingly, there are many in South Africa. Google “smart home” +”South Africa”, and thousands of results appear. The problem is that, because the industry is so new, few have built up solid track records and reputations. Costs vary wildly, few standards exist, and the cost of after-sales service will turn out to be more important than the upfront price.

The second route is to assemble the components of a smart home, and attempt self-installation. For the non-technical, this is often a non-starter. Not only does one need a fairly good knowledge of Wi-Fi configuration, but also a broad understanding of the Internet of Things (IoT) – the ability for devices to sense their environment, connect to each other, and share information.

The good news, though, is that it is getting easier and more cost effective all the time.

My first efforts in this direction started a few years ago with finding smart plugs on Amazon.com. These are power adaptors that turn regular sockets into “smart sockets” by adding Wi-Fi and an on-off switch, among other. A smart lightbulb was sourced from Gearbest in China. At the time, these were the cheapest and most basic elements for a starter smart home environment.

Via a smartphone app, the light could be switched on from the other side of the world. It sounds trivial and silly, but on such basic functions the future is slowly built.

Fast forward a year or two, and these components are available from hundreds of outlets, they have plummeted in cost, and the range of options is bewildering. That, of course, makes the quest even more bewildering. Who can be trusted for quality, fulfilment and after-sales support? Which products will be obsolete in the next year or two as technology advances even more rapidly?

These are some of the challenges that a leading South African technology distributor, Syntech, decided to address in adding smart home products to its portfolio. It selected LifeSmart, a global brand with proven expertise in both IoT and smart home products.

Equally significantly, LifeSmart combines IoT with artificial intelligence and machine learning, meaning that the devices “learn” the best ways of connecting, sharing and integrating new elements. Because they all fall under the same brand, they are designed to integrate with the LifeSmart app, which is available for Android and iOS phones, as well as Android TV.

Click here to read about how LifeSmart makes installing smart home devices easier.

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Matrics must prepare for AI

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students writing a test

By Vian Chinner, CEO and founder of Xineoh.

Many in the matric class of 2018 are currently weighing up their options for the future. With the country’s high unemployment rate casting a shadow on their opportunities, these future jobseekers have been encouraged to look into which skills are required by the market, tailoring their occupational training to align with demand and thereby improving their chances of finding a job, writes Vian Chinner – a South African innovator, data scientist and CEO of the machine learning company specialising in consumer behaviour prediction, Xineoh.

With rapid innovation and development in the field of artificial intelligence (AI), all careers – including high-demand professions like engineers, teachers and electricians – will look significantly different in the years to come.

Notably, the third wave of internet connectivity, whereby our physical world begins to merge with that of the internet, is upon us. This is evident in how widespread AI is being implemented across industries as well as in our homes with the use of automation solutions and bots like Siri, Google Assistant, Alexa and Microsoft’s Cortana. So much data is collected from the physical world every day and AI makes sense of it all.

Not only do new industries related to technology like AI open new career paths, such as those specialising in data science, but it will also modify those which already exist. 

So, what should matriculants be considering when deciding what route to take?

For highly academic individuals, who are exceptionally strong in mathematics, data science is definitely the way to go. There is, and will continue to be, massive demand internationally as well as locally, with Element-AI noting that there are only between 0 and 100 data scientists in South Africa, with the true number being closer to 0.

In terms of getting a foot in the door to become a successful data scientist, practical experience, working with an AI-focused business, is essential. Students should consider getting an internship while they are studying or going straight into an internship, learning on the job and taking specialist online courses from institutions like Stanford University and MIT as they go.

This career path is, however, limited to the highly academic and mathematically gifted, but the technology is inevitably going to overlap with all other professions and so, those who are looking to begin their careers should take note of which skills will be in demand in future, versus which will be made redundant by AI.

In the next few years, technicians who are able to install and maintain new technology will be highly sought after. On the other hand, many entry level jobs will likely be taken care of by AI – from the slicing and dicing currently done by assistant chefs, to the laying of bricks by labourers in the building sector.

As a rule, students should be looking at the skills required for the job one step up from an entry level position and working towards developing these. Those training to be journalists, for instance, should work towards the skill level of an editor and a bookkeeping trainee, the role of financial consultant.

This also means that new workforce entrants should be prepared to walk into a more demanding role, with more responsibility, than perhaps previously anticipated and that the country’s education and training system should adapt to the shift in required skills.

The matric classes of 2018 have completed their schooling in the information age and we should be equipping them, and future generations, for the future market – AI is central to this.

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