Corrections or additions?
These articles were prepared for the April 19, 2006 issue of U.S. 1
Newspaper. All rights reserved.
Survival Guide: Negotiating Deals For Smart Athletes
`Dumb" has become the unfair adjective jealously attached to both
blondes and jocks. In the case of professional athletes, a myth has
sprung up that equates muscle with mental midgetry. Critics snipe that
the players could not spell the signatures on their incredibly lavish
contracts without the guiding hand of their agents to see them
Their supporters rebut, asking, "How much did you know about literary
and endorsement rights at age 20?"
Yet all agree, even when representing the new Bill Bradley, the
agent’s lot is not an easy one. So many lawyers and financial pundits
would love the chance to rub up against the big leagues’ aura – with
the big league remuneration – but it takes more than desire, as will
be shown at a New Jersey Institute of Continuing Legal Education
seminar on Thursday, April 20, at 9 a.m. at the Newark Club in Newark.
Cost: $119 (www.njicle.com).
This seminar is moderated by attorney Thomas Curtin of Graham, Curtin
& Sheridan in Morristown. Panelists include NFL agent Arthur Weiss of
the Arthur Weiss law firm in Franklin Lakes; Richard Anslow of Anslow
& Jaclin in Manalapan; Adolpho Birch, labor relations counsel for the
NFL; major league baseball and boxing agent Lee Marc Burg of Lee Marc
Burg law offices in Philadelphia; and NBA player agent Leon Rose of
Pennsauken-based Sherman, Silverstein, Khol, Rose & Podolsky.
"Athlete representation is tough, competitive work, which I fell into
rather serendipitously," says Weiss. Born in Manhattan, Weiss grew up
in Franklin Lakes, where he now practices. He confesses to not being a
great athlete himself in high school or college, but always loved
sports. Upon graduating from New York University in l972 with a
bachelor’s degree in history, and then earning his law degree, Weiss
hung out his own shingle, practicing general law. Increasingly, he
leaned toward corporate contract and business law. "I had no idea how
handy this was to come in later on," he says.
In the late l980s Weiss began doing some real estate work for New York
Giants linebacker Gary Reasons, whose career ran from l984 through
l992. Impressed by Weiss’s straightforward manner and negotiating
skills, Reasons urged him to get certified with the NFL as a
professional agent. Weiss did so, and word of mouth did the rest.
Since then he has represented many top NFL professionals, including
Wayne Chrebet of the Jets, Dan Klecko of the New England Patriots, and
Seattle Seahawks quarterback Glen Foley.
Players get savvy. "It’s not at all like it was even 10 years ago,"
says Weiss. "Athletes turning professional today are far more educated
and equipped to ask the right questions." Much of this Weiss credits
to an explosion of information available to them even before tryouts.
The Internet, countless handbooks, and player biographies all carry
tips and caveats.
It used to be that players would be greeted and hustled in hotel
lobbies by a series of slick agents. The slick agents, short on
knowledge and big on greed, still cluster, but most of the players
walk right on by. "These players come into my office, bringing their
family and their attorney," says Weiss. "And I am just one of several
agents they interview to see if I measure up."
Curtin agrees that players are becoming sharper and more cautious
about their own interests. For years Curtin was an agent for several
major league baseball professionals. He recalls one player who was
given $1 million to sign and, upon hearing that banks only insure
deposits up to $100,000, went and placed his signing bonus in 10
different banks. "I know it sounds simplistic, but this athlete was
taking care of his own funds," says Curtin.
Getting the most. When an athlete signs on, Weiss rolls up his
sleeves. He helps arrange training and other schedules. If the
football player is invited, he’ll accompany him out to the
Indianapolis Combine, where all the NFL coaches look over the new
crop. "My goal is to give my player the maximum exposure – to market
his skills to his best advantage," says Weiss. This may mean
additional trips and interviews with potential teams.
When the player is signed, Weiss really begins to earn his percentage.
He comes to the table having studied the rookie pool, the team’s
salary structure, and his man’s specific value for the upcoming
Armed with this knowledge, he negotiates for the top salary – and much
more. Signing bonuses are the biggest goal. Incentive clauses for good
performance, length of contract, and trigger points for early free
agency are all part of the package. For many players, becoming free
agents may spark competitive bidding, but this is not always the case.
"There is no one single way to handle a client," says Weiss. "Each
client has different skills, which suit each team differently. You’ve
got to assess that and make the most of it."
Weiss says that no team has provided him with an enjoyable experience
during negotiations. "I’m here trying to get them to part with what
they most value – money," he says. But the teams that he has found
most professional and fair in getting the deals done are the Patriots,
the Jets, the Rams, and the 49ers.
Price of fame. Almost every professional player can get some kind of
endorsement side deal. The best ones can get literary rights. It all
depends on the status and value of the player. The agent tries to
craft the most advantageous endorsement deals. And if he is lucky
enough to represent an unusually talented and charismatic athlete,
this is not necessarily difficult.
"The good player can pick and choose what endorsements he wants to
make," says Weiss. Fees for a single day’s shooting may begin at
$20,000 to $100,000 and roll up to untold amounts, depending on
residuals. Here again, it is part of the agent’s job to advise his
athlete on which endorsements best fit in with the image he is trying
Awash in cash. The complaint that professional athletes make too much
money has reached the point of cliche for years now. Yet somewhere out
there is a public willing to pay to watch the best athletes compete on
a big stage – and there are television and radio stations eager to
spend tens of millions of dollars to bring the action to those who
can’t make it to the stadium. The media outlets, in turn, have a large
cadre of advertisers happy to pay astronomical sums to grab the fans’
With all this money being spent to create this entertainment, who more
deserves a major piece of it than the very individuals playing the
sport – and all too often incurring injuries that will affect them
throughout their lives?
Granted seven or eight-figure salaries and millions more in
endorsement money, it is not surprising that players, some barely out
of high school, may make a bit of financial splash. Yet Weiss says
that out-of-control spending is not the norm. "People do not realize
how smart these professional athletes are," he says. "With very few
exceptions, I have found them to be level-headed, and very bright
people who put money away and keep their name out of the papers for
– Bart Jackson
Americans don’t like to hear that the Europeans and Japanese are way
ahead of them in adopting a new technology. But that has been the
reality with GPS (global positioning system) applications and devices.
GPS is the system of 24 satellites developed by the U.S. Department of
Defense in the 1970s so that military units in wartime could know
their own location and those of other units. This completely free
system sends signals intercepted by GPS receivers, which determine
latitude and longitude by computing the difference in the time it
takes for signals from different satellites to reach the receiver.
Michael Goodman, product manager for ALK Technologies at 1000
Herrontown Road, talks about "GPS Navigation: From Map Databases to
the Mass Market" on Thursday, April 20, at 8 p.m. at a meeting of the
Princeton ACM and IEEE-Computer Society chapters at Sarnoff. For
information, call Rebecca Mercuri at 609-587-1886 or Dennis Mancl at
Goodman believes that the success of GPS today in Europe and Japan is
largely due to its chic as the "cool" technology, much like iPods in
the United States.
But Goodman also attributes the rapid growth in these markets to their
more flexible technology for an allied product – mobile phones.
Because many GPS applications combine the navigational capabilities of
GPS with the communications potential of wireless to create what are
dubbed "location-based services," the structure and pricing of mobile
phone service is critical for the GPS market.
In the United States mobile operators make their money on voice plans,
which for many years were tied to particular devices. As a result, for
a long time Americans did not have the kinds of phones and devices
that could accommodate GPS. They only had the phones their mobile
companies gave them free every two years.
The European technology, however, enables users to switch from device
to device with ease using a SIM card, which carries all voice plan,
data, and account information. The SIM card effectively separates the
device from the cell phone service, which in turn encourages users to
update their devices more often. Consequently, says Goodman, in Europe
consumers buy a new device every 6 to 7 months versus every 16 months
in the United States.
Nonetheless, in the last couple of years Americans have been waking up
to GPS technology, and Goodman is finding that he no longer has to
explain GPS to nearly every person he meets at a trade show. Many
consumers are beginning to realize that GPS will save them time – no
more lengthy queries about the best ways to get places – and money –
less gas wasted on getting lost.
GPS also saves enormously on frustration for those on the planet who
find themselves completely befuddled by how to get from A to B. "When
you’re on the road," says Goodman, "the problem with paper maps or
driving directions off the Web is that if you make a wrong turn or a
road is mislabeled, there is no way to recalculate." But a handy GPS
device makes wrong turns a thing of the past by always providing a new
optimized route to your destination.
Goodman talks about two categories of GPS applications:
Purely navigational GPS applications. Most of the products in this
category help people find their way around. They are popular with
drivers, hikers, and surveyors. "They are used to finding directions
and points of interest in a static map database loaded onto a device,"
says Goodman. These devices also support games such as "geocaching,"
where people find and leave rewards in hidden "caches," whose
locations are posted on the Internet.
GPS receivers can also be great for sales people. With ALK’s CoPilot,
they can enter up to 10 stops and hit an optimize button to determine
the optimal route among their customers.
Location-based services (LBS). When GPS systems are combined with
wireless communication between the GPS user and a back office or an
Internet service, a number of business possibilities arise for
location-based services (literally, services that depend on knowing a
user’s location). These opportunities exist both in the consumer and
the commercial markets.
Businesses, for example, can deliver ads to a GPS user who is passing
a billboard for a product or service, and can offer reduced rates. Or
restaurants can advertise to drivers in their vicinity and offer them
discounts. GPS devices can also provide real-time weather information,
which allows long-distance travelers to re-route and avoid bad
Another potential LBS is real-time traffic monitoring, usually a
subscription service. For the European and Australian markets, which
have real-time traffic feeds, Goodman’s company already offers this
But for the U.S. market, ALK Technologies revisits the issue about
every six months because of the 30-minute delay here in reporting
traffic conditions. A route that may have been a good alternative a
half hour ago could well add commuting time if the backup has eased.
As an alternative to real-time traffic monitoring, ALK’s CoPilot has a
detour button, which blocks off the next several miles of road and
gives the user a route around the traffic jam.
One place that location-based devices have been a great business
investment for ALK Technologies has been in the area of commercial
trucking. Its Fleet Center application combines tracking of trucks or
other vehicles by dispatchers with wireless communication between
dispatchers and drivers. The dispatcher generates stops and sends them
wirelessly to the truck’s navigation system, at which point the
software optimizes the trucker’s route. The system may also include a
service called "geo-sensing," which sends a message to the client or
the dispatcher when a truck enters a designated perimeter around the
customer. The message might say, for example, "Your delivery is 10
The return on investment for trucking companies is substantial and
easy to quantify, says Goodman. "A truck is expensive to operate, and
any mile saved, any efficiency, means a huge amount of money." Other
potential customers for this kind of system are real estate agents,
repair services with 20 to 30 vans, taxicab companies, ambulance
services, police and fire departments, and school buses – any fleet
where location and proximity to events is important as well as
communication with a back office.
Goodman grew up in Palm Springs, California, through middle school,
and went to high school in North Rose, New York, near Rochester. His
entry into the GPS arena was serendipitous. Graduating from Princeton
University in 1999 with a degree in political economy, Goodman’s first
job was a civil service gig with the Parks Department of New York
City. When he decided that the economic possibilities afforded by the
civil service were too limiting, he thought he should get in on the
Internet boom, which was at its tail end at the time. Through a
website, he happened on a job with ALK Technologies as an Internet
Although the boom didn’t last, his job did, and his responsibilities
have been growing with the company and the GPS market. Last year he
was marketing manager for North America for CoPilot products and is
now working on development and production of solutions for corporate
As with many technology-based industries, the only dependable quantity
is change. Each year ALK Technologies updates its CoPilot product
line, providing existing customers with a new version for $99. Updates
include upgraded maps as well as any new services, the most recent
being three-dimensional maps and the ability to link into Outlook
E-mail and pull-down contact information.
New technologies are also being developed. An example is storage cards
for map data, and the price for these devices has dropped
dramatically. "Soon you will be able to buy a storage card and pop it
into a phone, and it will have all the streets in the United States
and a full navigation system," says Goodman. A year ago these cards
cost $200 and now they cost $45. At first users had to use their
computers to put the maps on storage cards and devices, but soon the
storage card will be part of the product.
Costs for the data plans and Internet access, essential to
location-based systems, are also going down, from $100 per account for
unlimited data down to $20 to $30 a month.
Finally, people are simply getting more comfortable with the
technology. Earlier a company not only had to install and pay for
systems, but also train people to use them.
According to an article in the April edition of GPS World, projected
sales of in-vehicle GPS systems will grow from 4 million in 2006 to 30
million in 2020 and sales of mobile phones with GPS systems will grow
from 200 million in 2006 to 2 billion in 2020. But for the GPS cell
phone market to achieve that level of growth, it must overcome the
problems of unreliability in urban canyons, inside structures, in high
foliage areas, and in underground transportation systems.
As for the industry’s future, Goodman says, "We think it will take off
in the next couple of years – in some fashion." And as for ALK
Technologies, he says: "We’re just trying to figure out which way that
– Michele Alperin
Regional marketing is one of the best ways to increase awareness of
Mercer County and package it to make it more attractive to variety of
potential customers: businesses considering a move to the area,
tourists looking for a vacation spot, or even current residents
looking for resources in the area.
The Mercer County Regional Chamber of Commerce, in conjunction with
the Princeton Regional Chamber, the Greater Philadelphia Chamber, and
Wachovia bank host "Advancing the Game Plan for Growth," on Friday,
April 21, at 8 a.m. at the Nassau Inn. Call 609-924-1776.
The purpose of the event, says Thomas Moor, CEO of Select Greater
Philadelphia, is to highlight the regional collaborative effort to
transform the 11-county greater Philadelphia region into a top U.S.
business location by 2010.
Moor is one of several panelists at the meeting. Others are Helene
Garcia, director of community and strategic initiatives for Merrill
Lynch; Jim Harbaugh, senior director, corporate real estate,
Bristol-Myers Squibb; Rick Lovering, senior vice president for
operations, Robert Wood Johnson University Hospital at Hamilton; Dr.
Eli Mordechai, CEO of Medical Diagnostics Laboratory; Katie
Rielly-Gauvin, vice president of marketing, Janssen Pharmaceutica; and
Mark Vitner, a regional economist with Wachovia.
Select Greater Philadelphia is an organization devoted to marketing
the 11-county tri-state area surrounding Philadelphia as one
metropolitan region. The counties extend from New Castle, Delaware,
through Chester, Delaware, Philadelphia, Montgomery and Bucks counties
in Pennsylvania, to Glouster, Salem, Camden, Burlington and Mercer
counties in New Jersey. The Mercer County breakfast is part of a
series of meetings held in several of the regions.
The greater Philadelphia region is a great place to do business, says
Moor. It is the fourth largest metropolitan area in the nation, with
more than 6 million residents, as well as 100 million people within a
Location, location. The greater Philadelphia region is centrally
located between New York and Washington, D.C., giving business easy
access to both the financial and political capitals of the country at
a much lower cost of living. Mercer County, almost equidistant from
downtown Philadelphia and Manhattan, is an easy commute for people who
work in either area, and the cost of living throughout the 11-county
region is lower than in many other regions. "Average household
expenses are 50 percent lower than in New York, Boston, or San
Francisco says Moor.
Moor points out the greater Philadelphia region is also more
economically diverse than either Washington, D.C., or New York City.
"New York is known mostly for its financial industry, as well as for
Broadway and theater. Washington’s economic base is political."
Greater Philadelphia’s economy, however, includes pharmaceutical and
biotech industries, information technology, telecommunications,
software development, financial services, and transportation.
Transportation. "Commerce occurs where trade routes intersect," says
Moor. Whether you are commuting to work by car or train, traveling
across the country, or shipping products across the world, the region
offers easy transportation. The ports of Newark and Philadelphia are
easily accessible, rail lines and highways such as I-95 and the
Pennsylvania Turnpike make it easy to move goods throughout the
country. "Greater Philadelphia is two hours by air to 50 percent of
the U.S. population and six hours non-stop to California, Great
Britain, Europe, and Latin America."
Healthcare. "The region is home to the second largest concentration of
health resources in the country, including five medical schools and
120 hospitals. Eight leading pharmaceutical and biotech companies are
based in the region, and established tech companies make our area a
top-10 location for high-tech employment," Moor says.
Education. There are 83 colleges and universities in the region,
including two Ivy League schools. In addition to training young
people, many of the schools partner with industry and spawn new
companies – and even new industries.
Lower business costs. Along with a lower cost of living, the Business
Cost Index, which "bundles the costs of labor, energy, taxes, and
office space," explains Moor, is lower in the region than it is in New
York, San Francisco, or Boston and comparable to the business cost
index in Washington, D.C., Chicago, and Seattle. Office rental rates
in greater Philadelphia are about half that of the New York City metro
area and lower than Boston, Chicago, and Washington, D.C.
Diverse talent pool. The greater Philadelphia region is the home of 17
Fortune 500 companies and 33 Fortune 1000 companies. More than 31
percent of residents have at least a bachelor’s degree, and the area
also has three times the national average of engineers, architects,
scientists, and computer professionals," says Moor.
International resources. There are 33 foreign consulates located in
the greater Philadelphia area, a fact that helps to make it easier to
do business internationally. In fact, there are currently 2,000
foreign-owned companies in the area. "The greater Philadelphia region
is ideal for the operation of firms located outside the United States
or those that do business internationally," says Moor.
The diversity of the residents also makes international business
easier. "Within the Greater Philadelphia region you have a 45.3
percent probability that the next person you meet will be of a
different ethnicity," says Moor.
Many more statistics about the region can be found at the Select
Philadelphia website, www.SelectGreaterPhiladelphia.com. The website
is just one of the many tools used to help persuade businesses to
locate to the region, Moor says. He hopes that the county breakfasts
will promote greater cooperation between the various counties in the
area, making it even easier for companies to do business in Greater
Philadelphia or consider relocating here.
"In today’s global economy we need to compete as an economic region.
If you leave the area, people do not know where Cherry Hill or New
Hope are. In Europe they have heard of Princeton University, but they
don’t know in which state it is located. But they have heard of
– Karen Hodges Miller
The loan officer leaned back in disbelief. "You want this bank to give
you good money so you can put movies on tape and rent them to people
to watch on their little TV screens at home with this new VCR thing?"
he spluttered. "That’s the stupidest thing I ever heard of. Why would
people do that?" Roger Amidon still remembers those words, spoken in
l974, about six months before those little movie rental kiosks began
appearing in malls.
There were just a handful of the pioneers back then – the
techno-revolutionaries of the 1960s. Tinkering in their basements,
guys like Gates, Wozniak, and Amidon built their own computers and
envisioned the day that the little machines would be standard in every
home. Gates and Wozniak became iconic American business titans as
their prediction came true. Amidon’s success is not quite on that
level, but he has spent the last 35 years designing platform after
platform at his Hopewell-based DX Computer Company.
Amidon speaks on "Spams and Scams" – and other online nuisances – at
the Trenton Computer Festival on Saturday, April 22, at 1:30 p.m. The
two-day computer festival, the first and largest in the country, takes
place at the College of New Jersey. It begins at 9 a.m. on Saturday,
and continues on Sunday, April 23, when the kick-off time is also 9
a.m. Cost: $17 for two days. Visit www.tcf-nj.org for complete
Talks range from the "The Apollo Guidance Computer" to "Buying a
Digital Camera." This is one of the rare shows with equal offerings
for the professional designer and the novice. Allen Katz, a founder of
the computer festival, says that the novelty of the computer itself
has worn off, but that applications – including downloading music,
making movies, organizing photos, and instant messaging – are hotter
than ever. This year’s computer festival, he says, revolves around
those applications. In addition to scores of speakers, the event
features an expansive flea market full of computers and every
No, Amidon is not a household name, but industry experts estimate that
his top 10 inventions alone have made several billions for his
employers. He is credited with a variety of breakthroughs, including
one of the first liquid crystal displays for watches, the Zapple
monitor, smart terminals, home and portable video game cartridges, and
the Z 80 CPU board.
Amidon grew up in Verona. His father was a banker who taught him to
look toward the latest innovations for the greatest profits. Halfway
through his studies at Upsala College, Amidon took his father’s
advice. He realized he was making way too much money in electronics
repair to continue in college. A ham radio operator since age 12, he
was soon running a successful TV repair shop in Kearny.
By the end of the 1960s, he had become intrigued by the possibilities
of the brand new digital world. In l970 he was part of the team at
Optel Corporation in Princeton that designed the first digital liquid
crystal display (LCD) wristwatch utilizing a dynamic scattering
Meanwhile, literally in his basement, he built a TTL computer, which
was heralded on the cover of fledgling "Byte" magazine. In l976,
working for Princeton’s Technology Design Labs, he designed the Z 80
circuit board for the Atari computer, which increased the computer’s
power five times over. In l981, after a brief stint with IBM, Amidon
formed Rising Star Industries, where he designed the Epson QX 10, a
user-friendly computer. He now works at his own company, DX Computers,
which is located in Hopewell.
In on the computer revolution from the beginning, Amidon nevertheless
views some of functions the machines have made possible with a
slightly jaundiced eye. "Be a little suspicious," he warns. "E-mails
should not make you paranoid or overburdened. But a little wariness
and a few tools can help."
An old scam made new again. Older than the bank passbook, this scam
still flourishes. An individual phones or E-mails you that your
account information needs updating. It may be your bank, or a service
you use, perhaps a utility or a credit card company. Often a little
enticement is thrown in such as "we fear a security breech," or "we
must terminate your service if you do not respond." So, dutifully, the
recipient types in information ranging from his password, bank
balance, credit and Social Security card numbers, and medical history.
The drawbridge is lowered. An attachment automatically sends your
private information to the dummy site indicated on the E-mail, and
your identity is no longer yours alone.
The solution is simple: call and check before giving out any
information. Get your past bill from the retailer, credit card, or
utility company and report such requests to them. The E-mail could be
from a retailer with whom you deal constantly. Regardless of the
claim, this info seeker is a stranger knocking at your door. Beware.
Debit card woes. "Debit cards are the sirloin of the bad guys," says
Amidon. Not only are they easier than standard credit cards to steal
and scalp, but the issuing bank typically offers no aid or protection
to the victim.
After a lovely meal, the host whips out his debit card to settle up.
At some point during the transaction, the owner’s pin code is
demanded. He has been assured that this information is sent encrypted.
But in the back room, while the merchant is sending the details,
another machine copies them down prior to encryption and sends the
information to a flat in Moscow, where his identity is stolen and his
bank account cleaned out.
Anyone can make a phony ATM card with your information on it.
Quietly, every year, these scams rake in billions, with most of the
losses borne by customers. Amidon suggests two ways to prevent this
theft. First, never purchase online with a debit card. Use a credit
Second, call a representative of your debit card issuer and tell him
not just when you do plan to travel, but when you do not. If you have
told the bank that you intend to remain in the tri-state area for the
next month (preferably in writing), it will be able to red flag
purchases from outside that area. Unfortunately, banks are not always
set up to handle this information, but even if they do not, your
warning does give you legal leverage if theft occurs.
Nigerian scam. Under the category of "you cannot cheat an honest man,"
Amidon offers a warning on the many variations of an old money
laundering scam. The thief sends an E-mail asking to borrow your bank
account so that he can temporarily store some politically stranded
soul’s untold riches in it. The greedy victim gives out his bank
number, and again, down goes the drawbridge.
Spam squelchers. The best protection against invasive spam is that
which is installed by your Internet service provider. The easiest way
to get it is to phone, rather than E-mail, the company and discuss the
options available. Amidon boasts that he went from 120 spam messages a
day to six by having his provider install the Wildcat system. Most
Internet providers provide spam protection. If yours doesn’t Amidon’s
advice is: get another provider – quickly.
Souped-up filters. A variety of mail filters can prowl your E-mail for
taboo words. They keep out any E-mail containing them in the title or
address. Frequently these are employed to protect youngsters from what
parents deem as profanity. But many of these software packages allow
you to insert your own list of taboo words. Think how much less spam
you would be receiving if missives with words such as "home mortgage,"
"pharmaceuticals," "generic," and "dysfunction" were deleted from your
Cut rate deals. "If you receive an E-mail offering the entire
Microsoft office software package, normally retailing for $300, for a
mere $40, think a moment. The odds are high that something other than
a discount is going on here. First, it is possible that the sender may
take your offer and send you his bootleg knock-off version of the
software, akin more in labeling than performance to the original.
A worse possibility is that the sender is luring you into giving him
your credit card information. Down drawbridge. One basic defense
against this scam is to install, via E-mail server or through your own
computer, a guard that accepts no E-mails without a specifically
Amidon admits that our computers are under siege. But he insists that
we need not take up a siege mentality. Says he, "If you verify
accounts, look for company logos, and beware of uncommon deals, you
can remain fairly scam-free online."
– Bart Jackson
So how is a computer like a high definition television set (HDTV)? One
possible way is suggested by Alfred Poor, HDTV expert: "Any HDTV you
go out and buy has more processing power than the Apple II did."
That’s true, but it’s not his real answer to this question. What is
virtually identical about the two, he claims, is that the buying
dilemma of today’s HDTV buyers is nearly the same as that experienced
by PC buyers two decades ago.
Twenty years ago a PC cost $3,000. "It was a big investment," says
Poor. "It would have to last five years or more, and you didn’t want
to make a stupid mistake." But consumers were bewildered by the
jargon, the acronyms, the unfamiliar terms – ROM, RAM, and CPU, to
name just three. Then there was the variety of brands, both
recognizable and unfamiliar. "They would go to stores and get
conflicting information, if any at all," he says, "and there was no
easy way to know what was good."
Fast forward 20 years and the same descriptions apply to first-time
HDTV buyers. Says Poor, "now technological bewilderment has settled on
the HDTV market."
Poor tries to end HDTV confusion when he speaks at the Trenton
Computer Festival on Saturday, April 22, at 11:20 a.m. See the article
above for full information about the festival.
According to Poor, there is little dependable help for the HDTV buyer.
"Today product reviews are useless," he says, admitting to the irony
of slamming the very source of his own livelihood for the past 20
years – writing technology product reviews. Writing a good technology
evaluation requires equipment as well as standardized protocols and
procedures for comparing products – but resources are extremely
scarce. Also, because the pay is often quite low for such reviews,
magazines and web publications sometimes turn to people without the
necessary breadth of industry understanding. Finally, even with the
right people available, it is nearly impossible for the consumer to
stay on top of so much product. In 2005 manufacturers released 850 new
plasma and LCD models, and that doesn’t include rear or
Although product reviews may be useless, it is certainly helpful to
understand the basic terminology and concepts of HDTV technology.
First and foremost is the difference between digital (and its
subtypes) and analog television. A standard television receives
approximately 300,000 dots 24 times per second, and it translates the
signal into a format that will fit on screen, says Poor, by "streaming
electrons across the inside like a fire hose," creating dots that
An LCD or plasma screen, on the other hand, has a direct address
display where each dot is a physical structure – with three little
dots for each dot in a color TV – and has a transistor associated with
it that will turn a dot on or off. "There are about 1 million switches
switching on and off all the time," says Poor. Rear projection
displays use a format called DLP, in which microscopic mirrors wiggle
and bounce light back and forth, with tiny circuitry operating each of
the tiny dots
Not only are product reviews not dependable, but there is a lot of
actual misinformation out there for the millions of people planning to
buy an HDTV in 2006. The truth, according to Poor, includes the
Your set will stay on when analog signals stop. Televisions won’t stop
working in February 2009, which is the proposed shutoff date for
over-the-air analog broadcasts. For years now, stations have been
broadcasting both digital and analog signals.
The reason that Congress wants to stop analog, says Poor, is a matter
of money. Congress wants to squeeze TV broadcasts into a smaller band
of frequencies so they can sell underused analog frequencies for
things like emergency response and pull in revenue by doing so.
Digital television does not necessarily mean high definition. HDTV
means more dots in an image, and you would need a digital signal to
get HDTV, but not all digital signals are high definition. Most sets
are in standard definition, and with a box that costs $50 or less
sitting on your old TV, it will still work when analog stops – even if
it doesn’t give the most wonderful picture available.
Most people use cable or satellite, so over-the-air signals are mostly
irrelevant. "More than three-quarters of the country doesn’t need to
know about this," says Poor. "Because they get TV programs not over
the air, but from cable and satellite, they will be totally
unaffected." Anyone with digital cable can get HDTV. Satellite is
already all digital, and the box is taking the digital signal and
converting into a signal a standard television can use.
If you do use over-the-air signals, lots of high-definition
programming is available right from your roof – and it’s all free. In
contrast to analog TV, where a weak signal will produce snow and
distortion, the high-definition signal will either work or it won’t.
Even if you are on the fringe with an analog signal, you may be able
to pull in a digital signal.
Prices for new sets aren’t too bad. "If you are looking for a diagonal
length of less than 40 inches," advises Poor, "the best buy is an
LCD." Televisions with picture tubes are still being made, but their
images will not be as good. High-definition televisions with a
diagonal in the 19 to 20 inch range cost about $500, and those with
32-inch diagonals are under $1,000. Poor characterizes prices as
stable for the past month or two, but trending downward. Over the past
year, for example, the price for a 40-inch diagonal LCD TV has dropped
Poor grew up north of Belair, Maryland, and went to Harvard College,
graduating with a bachelor’s degree in biology. "I was going to be a
marine biologist and then discovered the vagaries of funding for
science," he says. So he went into teaching, explaining, "Teachers
didn’t eat well, but they ate regularly."
He learned a thing or two about himself during a three-year teaching
stint at the Germantown Friends School, and he went off in yet another
direction. First, he realized that he wasn’t well suited to preparing
45-minute class segments, because he works best in fits and starts.
Second, he realized that he had a knack for taking complex concepts
and making them accessible.
Then he happened into the computer field. While doing public relations
for a public school district in Connecticut and working on a Ph.D. in
school/community relations, which he received in 1982 from Union
Graduate School, he started working with computers. After getting a PC
for himself, he was invited to set one up for the superintendent and
then went on to design the middle school computer lab. From there he
moved to consulting and freelance writing magazines, including PC
Magazine. He adds that he has had a Q&A column for 12 years in
Computer Shopper, quipping, "I’m the Anne Landers of the computer
Now his focus is on HDTV. He does less freelancing, but has started
his own self-publishing operation on the issue of HDTV with a partner
who is savvy about web marketing. His website, www.Hdtvprofessor.com,
includes a daily almanac on HDTV, consumer electronics, and home
entertainment, as well as a "truth patrol," where readers send in
examples of questionable claims and explanations they’ve come across.
He also offers an E-book, the first in a series, called Professor
Poor’s Guide to Buying HDTV. He is senior editor and a senior research
associate with Pacific Media Associates, a market research firm in the
large screen display market.
Despite the misinformation, the confusing terminology, and the variety
of equipment available, Poor claims it’s not quite as difficult as it
sounds for typical consumers to choose an HDTV. They will first decide
upon a size and then add technological preferences. Most will be
constrained by a budget. Then, in local stores, they will find only a
handful of products. With 10 to 15 minutes in the showroom, especially
with some research behind them, consumers can review products for
themselves and make a decision.
But be careful and don’t be fooled by the "information" available,
advises Poor. "There is lots on the web, both free and for sale, and
it is inconsistent in quality. Some is good and some is appallingly
– Michele Alperin
Counterfeiters are getting much better. In l948 a quiet retired
printer/junk dealer, Emerlich Juettner, living in Brooklyn, was
quietly arrested by the FBI for whipping up a batch of ones, fives,
and tens to pay his rent. Despite the fact that he occasionally
misspelled "Washington," it was years before anyone caught on.
Today, with over 60 percent of America’s hard currency located in
foreign nations at a given time, literally everybody has a chance to
imitate the almighty dollar with the most sophisticated equipment.
Even easier, but no less lucrative, is providing passports, ID papers,
product labels, pirated film and music labels, and sensitive
These illegal counterfeiting profits can fund anything from a furtive
competitor to a terrorist cell.
Our current security answer? Implanting holograms – little traces or
designs that identify the item’s true source and are virtually
impossible to emulate. The technology behind holograms is on display
at the annual Mid-Atlantic Homeland Security & Defense Expo on
Tuesday, April 25, at 2 p.m. at the Princeton Plasma Physics Lab in
Princeton. Cost: $40. Visit www.njtc.org. Sponsored by the New Jersey
Technology Counsel, this expo features 35 special exhibitors, poster
presentations, and a panel discussion of our region’s "Future
Military/Homeland Security Opportunities."
Panelists include Bill Evanina, an FBI agent assigned to Trenton;
Timothy Teen, CEO of InSitech; and Ken Traub, CEO of American Bank
Traub took the reins of American Bank Note Holographics in l999. Since
then he has ridden America’s security explosion and guided this
Robbinsville-based corporation to the top of the holographics heap.
Grossing over $30 million in 2005, American Bank is the major supplier
of security strips and holographics for Visa, MasterCard, Discover,
and most of the country’s other major credit cards.
Evaluating our responses, Traub feels that America is neither too lax
nor too paranoid about its security and potential invasions.
"Consumers are not, for the most part, vigilant, and we must now
recognize the new range of threats to IDs and so forth," he says. "But
I think generally institutions and individuals are becoming aware of
what they need to do."
Traub graduated from Emory University in l983 with a degree in
psychology – a discipline he claims to use every day. After gaining
his Harvard University MBA, he went to work in corporate America. He
was vice-president of the giant Manhattan holding company Trans
Resources before co-founding Voxware, a voice recognition and speech
processing company with offices at 168 Franklin Corner Road.
As head of American Bank Note Holographics, Traub says that his firm’s
goal is to raise the bar and make counterfeiting or tampering
expensive beyond the resources of the bad guys. At the same time, he
strives to keep his product so minimally invasive and so inexpensive
that it is cheap enough for mass application.
Card subtleties. Don’t you just love those picturesque little
butterflies on your credit card? They seem to appear and vanish.
Pretty as they are, they may be art for security’s sake. The
fluttering beauties are just one of the many other hologram features
American Bank Note provides on its clients’ cards to drive
An array of other holographic features can be placed on a card to make
it truly original. Animation may be included to give an image the
illusion of movement. Faces may appear in tri-dimensional modeling or
be set to changing color schemes from various angles. Diffractive
mercurial coloring can emblazon colors bolder than life, while a dot
matrix pattern can hide certain images.
And, of course, if all this obvious display isn’t enough to ensure
authentication, the company can move to nano imagery in which a
microscopic logo can be specifically placed, making counterfeiter
detection, let alone imitation, nearly impossible.
A security holostripe, about two to five millimeters wide, is
typically placed on the back of the card. This stamped foil strip can
also be configured with a host of individual features.
Paper and notes. The surest way to secure the authenticity of any
paper is at the paper mill. Working with established paper maker Crane
& Co., American Bank Note Holographic can embed a holographic thread
as the pulp is turned into paper. Coded like DNA, it is virtually
impossible to emulate. Holographic patches and stripes may be hot-foil
pressed into the document to blend or even enhance letterheads and
Probably the thriftiest way to make your mark on an ordinary paper
document is to embed a standard hologram, which remains hidden until
read with a handheld HoloScan reader. A quick click assures the viewer
it is yours. Micro and even nano images may also be embedded on paper
documents and bank note-style blends of cotton, linen and paper.
Product protection. We live in the age of the knockoff. Computer
software, auto parts, and especially pharmaceuticals are subject to
brand piracy from all over the globe. "For the pharmaceutical
companies, this has become a real horror," says Traub. "Under the
guise of false labels, people are taking `medicines’ that at best
provide no cure, and at worst may poison them."
Obviously, with physical products, the holographic security approach
must come up with new configurations. Currently the solutions are
solid, and for mass marketers, like drug companies, becoming less
expensive. Most common is the nonmetallic pressure sensitive label
that identifies the manufacturer or vendor, and may even contain a
hidden bar code. American Bank Note also offers a line of transparent
covers and shrink sleeves, which serve the dual role of verification
"There is great evidence of terrorists using counterfeiting to spread
their destruction and to fund their activities," says Traub. "But it
goes deeper. For our society to function, we have to be able to trust
our documents and trust our products." At the same time, Americans
will not be lured into a siege mentality, either by powers within or
abroad. With technological advances like those of American Bank Note
Holographics, security can be as it should: a noninvasive, relatively
inexpensive aspect of our lives.
We don’t need fear, we need answers.
– Bart Jackson
Corrections or additions?
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