An actual moment when technology became invisible

As technology professionals, we often say that technology should be invisible, but all of the little parts are extremely visible to us. We are the men behind the curtain (or perhaps the ghost in the machine). This week, I actually experienced a moment when a technology became so invisible that I completely forgot about it. I was helping a teacher transfer .wma files from an audio recorder to an iBook G4, and the files would not play properly. Neither QuickTime player nor iTunes would recognize the files as playable. When I took the audio files to my computer or another iBook I had, they played just fine in these applications. What could be wrong? I told the story to my colleague David, who immediately fingered Flip4Mac. It allows QuickTime to play .wma files, but it runs so quietly behind the scenes that I had forgotten completely about it. Flip4Mac is free and invisible. You never see it launch. QuickTime player doesn’t report Flip4Mac’s existence, even though QuickTime suddenly gains the ability to play .wma files. The technology became so invisible that it completely fooled me.

One comment

  1. Antonio says:

    Ahh, yes…<a href="…">Flip4Mac</a> is quite the remarkable little "invisible" plug in. I remember wondering how to actually find, and use, it’s initial installation.
    Since then I’ve moved on to the paid upgrade version which allows me to convert to other formats, and the same invisibility is repeated. Quicktime suddenly has the ability to encode a wmv, or wma, into all sorts of options.
    Actually, there’s really a mountain of functions hiding within the Mac, and it’s various apps, which work their magic without much attention from the user, but certainly F4M is one that is worth a mention.