For what its worth I really, really dislike the new Jennifer Aniston ad from
Emirates. And I dislike it on so many levels.
Here it is - have a look:
It is clearly a cheap shot at the main US carriers - part of the ongoing
feud between the ME3 and the US3.
The ad sees the "Friends" (now-faded) star ridiculed by the cabin crew of an
airline when she turns up (at the back of the airplane in economy) wearing a
dressing gown, and asks where the shower is. The big reveal at the end is
that it was a "nightmare" and she was actually on board an Emirates A380.
Boutros Boutros, Emirates divisional senior vice president of corporate
communications, says in a statement: "In a departure from the usual airline
industry ads, we chose to take a humorous approach to showcase the amazing
products we offer on board. We couldn't think of anyone better suited for
the role than Jennifer Aniston and we wrote the script with her in mind. Her
professionalism and comedic talent shone on the set and we are very pleased
with the outcome."
Oh dear - where to start.
First: the campaign costs US$20 million. Ouch. Ms Aniston
apparently gets US$5million. She had probably never flown (maybe never heard
of) Emirates until her agent told her there was some good money to be made.
Second: I hate celebrity endorsements. Miss Aniston probably did not even
know Emirates was an airline until her manager came to her and said she can
make some easy money doing an airline ad. I also have no idea why a paid for
celebrity endorsement would influence anyone's choice of airline.
Third: let's compare like with like. Aniston is wandering into the rear
galley of economy asking about a shower. The towel and peanuts gag is
clearly aimed at the US airlines. They have big domestic networks where
snacks or buy on board are economy catering. But Emirates does not have a
Indeed on their international flights the US airlines do not operate a first
class. Usually the choice is business, premium economy or economy. Their
business products are probably as good as it not better than Emirates -
especially the tired 2-3-2 economy seating.
Fourth: the portrayal of American flight attendants is
offensive. There are three - how shall I say it - older crew. They are in
the galley; eating. They laugh at their customer. This is not the crew that
rescued all the passengers from Sullenberger's stricken A320. For the most
part I have found US crews experienced and welcoming. There is only so much
they can do with their onboard product. But their experience counts for a
great deal when safety becomes an issue.
Fifth: Why antagonise the US carriers? It simply is not a
valid comparison The ad simply escalates the war of words. Sell the positive
about Emirates. Do not go negative on other airlines.
So Emirates has a shower on board. It is only on the
A380s. It is available to just 14 out of 513 passengers on each A380. just
2.8% of the passengers on each flight. And at
a cost. A quick search on Emirates.com for a mid-week return flight from New
York to Dubai in December yielded a ticket costing $26,950. Yes. That shower
will cost you. The same flight in economy class is US$2,200.
I suspect 97% of Emirates passengers will stick with the
cheap airfare and hold off on the shower until they land.
If Emirates wants to appeal to US travelers it needs to sell
its economy product. Sell the movies and catering; sell the $1 wifi; sell the
amount of space on the A380. But dont ever try to tell your economy
passenger that the 777 experience is in any way better than long-haul on a
Remembering IP Sharp Associates
6 October 2015
Watching the excellent "Halt and catch Fire" takes me back to the mid 1980s
and to Reuters 1987 acquisition of IP Sharp Associates.
Halt and Catch Fire is a tv series made by AMC. Set in the 1980s it was a
well-informed look into the roots of the technology boom...the dawn of the
computer age. The show talked of old IBM mainframes; 3081s and 3090s; of
timesharing; of networks and of communities. It was clever - showing how
something that in the 1980s was almost hippy-ish has become mainstream. Even
in the tv show the issue is funding; experimenting with new toys was far
more fun that making money from them.
Which takes me back some 30 years ago to my first visit to IP Sharp
Associates in Toronto in February 1986.
I. P. Sharp Associates, IPSA for short, was a major Canadian computer time
sharing, consulting and services firm of the 1970s and 80s. IPSA is
particularly well known for its work on the APL programming language, an
early packet switching computer network known as IPSANET, and a powerful
mainframe-based email system known as 666 BOX. It was purchased in 1987 by
Reuters, in part for access to the extensive historical information database
that the company had built. Reuters kept IPSA until 2005 as a data warehousing center for
IPSA's eight founders had worked as a team at the Toronto division of
Ferranti, Ferranti-Packard, which sold numerous products to the Canadian
military and large businesses. In 1964 Ferranti sold off its computing
division to International Computers and Tabulators, which almost immediately
closed the Toronto office. Ian Sharp, the chief programmer, decided to found
his own company, and named it for himself.
The company started with contract programming on IBM System/360 series
mainframes, and to some degree took over Ferranti's former military work. In
the early years, IPSA collaborated with its "sister company" Scientific Time
Sharing Corporation (STSC) of Bethesda, Maryland, USA, each retailing the
same services in their respective countries. IPSA and STSC jointly developed
their software. Eventually they devised separate product names. They
separated as Sharp APL and APL*Plus.
IPSA sold time on its mainframes by the minute to customers across Canada,
and rapidly developed into a major time sharing service in the 1970s. Long
before the Internet, IPSA developed IPSANET to provide cheap
telecommunications between the Toronto data center and IPSA clients across
North America, Europe and eventually to Asia. Packet-switching also made
their transatlantic links much more usable, since on previous equipment,
frequent "line hits" would produce user-visible errors. As the network grew,
and as Sharp APL was available on in-house computers, Sharp clients with
their own mainframes could join the network, access their own or the Toronto
mainframe from anywhere on IPSANET, and transfer data accordingly. The
network eventually provided "Network Shared Variables" that allowed programs
running on one mainframe to communicate in realtime with programs on another
mainframe. This was used for file transfer and email services.
I. P. Sharp Associates offered timesharing users access to a variety of
databases, plus sophisticated packages for statistical analysis,
forecasting, reporting, and graphing data. Databases included historical
stock market time series data, econometric data, and airline data. All of
these were available from the 39 MAGIC workspace, an easy-to-use time
series, query, and reporting language, which among other things featured
integrated high-quality business graphics from Superplot. In 1982, IPSA
produced its first printed catalog of all online databases and proceeded to
document for its customers the content and use of single databases or sets
These databases were of obvious interest to Reuters who provided real time
data without the historical analysis.
IPSA was heavily involved in the development of the APL language, eventually
employing its inventor, Ken Iverson, in the early 1980s. Roger Moore, a
company co-founder and vice-president, won the 1973 Grace Murray Hopper
Award for the development of APL\360 (along with Larry Breed and Dick
Lathwell). APL\360 was later greatly enhanced and extended to become SHARP
IPSA employed a team of expert APL implementors and contributors in its
Toronto head office location, including Ian Sharp, in his role as enabler,
Roger Moore, Dick Lathwell, Brian Daly in his role as marketing guy in
Toronto, Bob Bernecky, Leigh O. Clayton, Doug Forkes, Dave Markwick, and
Peter Wooster. This group was headed by Eric B. Iverson, Ken Iverson's son.
It was affectionately known as the "Zoo" and was very well respected inside
and outside the firm. The term "Zoo" is attributed to a visitor from the
"establishment" who witnessed the long hair, beards and unconventional dress
amongst some of the team. Sharp APL and APL Plus, and variants, were all
based on the XM6 IBM program. Further extensive APL development was done in
Toronto and elsewhere.
It is perhaps this group that most resembles the creative chaos of the tv
Later, in the 1980s, a branch office in Palo Alto, California, managed by
Paul L. Jackson, made significant contributions to APL and later J. This
office included Joey Tuttle, Roland Pesch, and Eugene McDonnell.
666 BOX, written in APL, was one of the first commercial email services,
known colloquially by its users as the "Sharp Mailbox." The original 666 BOX
was written by Larry Breed of STSC. It was later rewritten for higher
security by a student hacker from Lower Canada College, Leslie H. Goldsmith.
Eventually it was extended to support transferring email among multiple
domains (mainframes) over IPSANET.
The timesharing business started to deteriorate in mid-1982, as some key
timesharing clients moved their operations from timesharing to in-house
Sharp APL. Around that time, IBM started offering smaller mainframe
computers, such as the IBM 4300 series, which could be leased for less than
the cost of using external services. Clients who did not depend on the
network were the first to migrate to small mainframes. Initially, the
presence of the IBM PC posed little threat to the timesharing industry as
the computing horsepower and storage capacity offered by these small
machines was insufficient. As a major slice of Sharp's business was
buttressed by database business, this had the beneficial effect of delaying
the eventual downslide. IPSA also started to build value added financial
applications such as Instant Link and Blend that made use of the existing
Reuters purchased I. P. Sharp Associates in 1987, partially for the
historical financial data. Ian Sharp continued as president until 1989, when
he retired. In 1993, IPSA's "APL Software Division" was purchased by its
employees from Reuters and renamed Soliton. Reuters closed the Toronto
facility in 2005.
Timesharing has had a rebirth with the concept of cloud computing and teh
need to store, access and use massive amounts of data. Lib Gibson who was
one of the Soliton team that acquired Sharp APL from Reuters wrote on her
blog of "a
pioneering software and network communications company, led by the brilliant
and unassuming Ian Sharp."
Her description of the company can be found in a review of Stev Job's
biography. It maybe a little rose-tinted but it is instructive; "Ian's penchant for hiring bright
people resulted in a company full of them. Like Jobs, many 'Sharpees' had
dropped out of university (often leaving the US motivated by the Vietnam
draft). Like Jobs, some of them had nevertheless earned a BA (brilliant &
abrasive) or a BE (brilliant & eccentric). Ian exhibited huge tolerance of
eccentric behaviour as long as people were contributing and were respectful
of their colleagues and focused on solving customer problems. Jobs'
success arose, at least in part, from the diversity of his interests and his
appetite for ingesting ideas from many fields. Ian's disregard for people's
area of specialization meant that I.P. Sharp was seething with people from
diverse backgrounds - computer science as well as education, mathematics,
biology, music and many fields. (It was also full of 'minorities', because
Ian seemed blind to nationality, religion, skin colour, or sexual
It was a unique and talented culture. It had also run itself financially
into the ground and by 1986 it needed a white knight to re-finance the
Reuters mistake was not in buying the company but in trying to fit it into
the Reuters geography rather the the business units. IPSA was initially
supervised by Reuters America who had no interest in a business when they
had not been involved in its acquisition. Existing management was left in
place; Reuters was seen as the new banker. It was a year before real change
could start and an integration of the businesses could commence.
Of course it is telling that IPSA had a 50th
anniversary reunion in 2014. It appears that not one person from Reuters
was invited. Given how many of the company's employers were shareholders
they had a lot to thank Reuters for. But memories can be selective.
"I didn't want to talk about it, so I wrote a song about it."
Compelled to add their voice to the chorus of voices protesting Prime
Minister Harper's Conservative government, Blue Rodeo has written the modern
day protest song "Stealin' All My Dreams".
Recorded and filmed on September 9, 2015, the song and video chronicle the
failings of the current government and asks the question, "Have you
forgotten that you work for me?"
"Blue Rodeo does not always speak with one voice. However we feel
collectively that the current administration in Canada has taken us down the
wrong path. We do not seem to be the compassionate and environmentally
conscious nation we once were. As respectful as we are of the variety of
opinions held by our audience, we felt it was time to speak up and add our
voice to the conversation." Jim Cuddy
The song and video are available for free download on BlueRodeo.com. The
facts included in the video are also on the site accompanied by articles
encouraging the reader to delve further.
The key message to all Canadians is please vote on October 19, 2015. And
ideally vote for change.