I write this on the day that Joseph Plateau was born, way back in 1801. At the same time 218 years later, Apple have just launched their latest iPhone offering with no less than four cameras as its unique selling point.
As always, the arrival of Apple’s new device was heralded with trumpeted words and phrases like “magical” and “best ever” and “innovative”. Words that seem to accompany every new product the company launches.
So, what do Apple’s platitudes have to do with Joseph Plateau?
I'm glad you asked.
Plateau was one of the first people to demonstrate the illusion of a moving image with his invention called a Phenakistiscope.
Say it three times quickly. You’re sorry you asked now aren’t you?
If ever a device was in need of Apple’s marketing department to come up with a name, I feel it would be this, but here was a device that was truly innovative and magical.
Imagine living in a time when books and drawings were the only means of delivering visual content using technology that had been around for four centuries and then suddenly, amazingly, there is a table-top device that shows you what appears to be dozens of snakes wriggling across it again and again. You can see it, but you can’t quite believe it.
Plateau's invention led to other devices being developed that could display moving images to more than one person at a time - the easier to pronounce ‘Zoetrope’ for example - and coupled with the invention of photographic images at around the same time, it wasn’t long before we had arrived at ways to capture life around us and replay it to others in the form of movies.
I am shortly to help produce an event which will be held in one of my favourite places in London, The Regent Street Cinema.
This venue is famous for being the first to show a moving picture film by the Lumière Brothers in the UK in 1896 and remains the only cinema that can still show 16mm, 35mm, Super 8 as well as 4k. As legend had it, back in 1896 audiences would flee in terror as they watched the Brothers' film of a train pulling into a station, fearful that it would burst through the screen.
Our own event at the cinema will hopefully be much less terrifying, mainly because the technology we use to deliver it has come a very long way in the last 218 years. As event professionals we can rely on the features and developments that are continually added to the equipment we use, such that you could in theory anyway, film and stream the event to many thousands of people from a device you keep in your pocket.
For me though, cramming technology into a phone every year isn’t innovative let alone magical.
The use of technology on the other hand, can be - and it is this that as an event agency we must focus upon to inform our offering to our customers. Our unique selling point if you like.
As a fan of Apple products, I'm always excited to see what they will develop next. But the true magic in my view is seeing what people do with it. From there, innovation must surely follow.