Story in today's UK Guardian about the farcical cultural disconnects that result from a language translation gadget known as the Phrasealator (not to be confused with the Shizzolator):
"The object of discussion was an ancient, dust-clogged, diesel-powered water pump which the [Iraqi] farmers wanted to start, with the help of the US marines, who control the roadside area east of the town of Diwaniya where the farmers have their fields. The pump lies under the very guns of the marines, hunkered down in foxholes behind a high sand wall, scanning the landscape for signs of the elusive, intangible, incomprehensible enemy.
Cooper, a major in the military's civil affairs department, didn't have an interpreter, exactly. He had a handheld black plastic device the size of an eggbox called a Phrasealator. Users run a stylus down a series of menus on a screen, pick a phrase in English, touch the line, and the Phrasealator squawks the equivalent in Arabic.
The machine lacks elementary social skills. It only covers a handful of situations, such as crowd control, law and order and emergencies. If you want to tell someone to get out of their car slowly or not to be frightened, it's great. If you have to talk to farmers in rural Iraq about intimate details of their lives, families, crops and horticultural needs, and understand what they say back, it's useless.."
You’d be forgiven for thinking the videocassette format long-dead, but it turns out that Betamax is still around. Sony is finally going to withdraw tapes from sale, bringing a 40-year story to an end. The last recorders were sold in 2002. ベータビデオカセットおよびマイクロMVカセットテープ出荷終了のお知らせ [Sony; via The Verge]
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