(HumanEdgeTech/TT Sjogren) It's now 12 years since Explorersweb kicked off the first Tech Week compiled by HumanEdgeTech. Before the upcoming recommendations let's revisit some of the stories from the past.
Tech Week 2003
Our opening piece in 2003 was a 5-part series describing Hillary and Tenzing's summit, news of which took 4 days to reach England with 1953 technology. The series concluded with the biggest story breaking on the internet at the time: The 1996 "Into Thin Air" disaster uploaded live from BC over a prehistoric Inmarsat terminal.
Another story was a fact few people knew then, and many still don't know today; that live video from Everest summit was done already back in 1988! The Asian Friendship Expedition met on top after climbing the mountain from both sides, and broadcasted from the summit live to 280 million viewers back home.
The cost? More than $20 million but in 1988 only 191 people had reached the summit of Everest and the event ignited minds young and old similar to the astronauts landing on the Moon.
An unstoppable evolution
By the new Millenium all kinds of tech firsts had been achieved on Everest but most had come at a huge cost. This changed with the launch of Iridium in 1998 and Thuraya in 2001; affordable handheld satellite phones that made it possible to call home from the summit.
It was unheard of and some of the early pioneers (such as an American female climber on Everest) actually caught quite some flak for using this tech. Mountaineering was always ripe with luddites preaching clean climbs devoid of technology and gadgets. It's a fair point but so is the argument that nostalgia is a dead end:
“The Greek word for return is nostos. Algos means suffering. So nostalgia is the suffering caused by an unappeased yearning to return." (Milan Kundera in Ignorance)
Either way, the movement was unstoppable.
Typing with a finger and plotting a map before Google, smartphones and Glass
Following lightweight expeditions to the polar regions in 2002 Humanedgetech introduced small laptops and PDA's to connect with the new satellite handhelds. Early adopters complained that the screens were small and lacked keyboards which required typing either with a stylus or a finger (this was before the arrival of smartphones)!
But the units made it possible to upload images and text from anywhere in the world using gear weighing less than 1 kg (2 lbs).
The hardware came with a custom software, CONTACT, that allowed live updates to personal websites over satellite. This required tricks such as offline editing to make it possible as well as affordable.
In 2003 maps and tracking were added before Google maps arrived in 2005. Now that Google maps engine support apparently will end next January - sadly along with the Explorer Glass edition (we used a version at Antarctica in 2001, yes we did) - the original HET mapping system is getting a revival.
The solutions spread beyond polar and mountain expeditions to just about any extreme spot of the world; ocean rowers came onboard, so did long trekkers and even military and scientists who needed to travel light and fast.
The Everest story changes
Before the year 2000 few Himalaya expeditions could master the skill and afford the cost of daily reports to the internet. It was downright impossible to do it anywhere near lightweight from the polar areas and we went through quite some pain to bring out a solid solution in 2001 at last.
In fact, we didn't even know what to call the live short stories we planned to transmit. It was back in 1999 in a Stockholm internet cafe started by Tina's brother for Quake tournaments that we picked up an English dictionary and decided, we'd call them dispatches.
The tech still dominates far Arctic areas and other extreme spots but popular mountain base camps such as the south side of Mount Everest now offer everything short of a dedicated line themselves.
Things changed dramatically over only a few years and to date more than 50,000 dispatches have been uploaded from Everest with CONTACT alone. Overall we estimate that between 5,000 and 10,000 internet updates are made from the mountain by climbers during a typical Everest season these days.
The increasing live reports spiked general public interest: Google Ngrams show that Everest is mentioned in books just as often today as during its high point right after the Hillary/Tenzing climb.
Old media sees the light
Last week New York Times published 9 Instagram images from the snow storm in New York. It was the first time NYT had user-generated pictures on its front page. Citizen journalism has become part of our daily life. News from mountains and other explorations are made by the expeditions direct, giving the world a new and fairly uncensored insight into the extremes and the human struggle to overcome them.
When we sent our first live dispatches from Everest in 1999, setting up a wifi station in each and every high camp, this was exactly our vision: The mountain's true story, bypassing the media middle-man. But we never imagined how fast and profound the transition would come to be.
Tech week 2015
Two years ago we predicted a smartphone revolution in the mountains and lately the laptop has been made even more redundant by new technology from Iridium and Inmarsat. Check in this week for full reviews of the Iridium GO and Inmarsat iSathub: cheaper, lighter, and easier to use.
Links to the 2003 Tech week:
2003 ExplorersWeb Everest tech week Part I - Everest technology from Hillary to today
2003 ExplorersWeb Everest tech week Part II - Getting the whole picture from up high on the mountain to you
2003 ExplorersWeb Everest tech week Part III - Higher speed Internet - Everest style
2003 ExplorersWeb Everest tech week Part IV - The Who's who of live summit video
2003 ExplorersWeb Everest tech week Part V - Everest tech - today and tomorrow