Quick notes: a computing radio show, and custom shoes on the web

Computer Outlook is a syndicated radio program that covers various computing topics (it's also streamed over the Internet, so you can hear it by going to the website). They did a boradcast live from the last PalmSource developer conference, and I had a nice time talking with them at the end of the conference. Last month they asked me to come on the show again. We had fun talking about various topics, mostly mobility-related. They've posted a recording of the program here.

This second item has only the most tenuous connection to mobile computing, but I'm posting it anyway because I think it's cool. You can now design your own Jack Purcells tennis shoes online. The revolutionary importance of this is probably going to be lost on...well, just about everyone reading this, so let me give you a little context. Jack Purcells are tennis shoes that first became famous in the 1930s because they were endorsed by a famous badminton player, Jack Purcell. (Why they're not called badminton shoes, I don't know.) The design has barely changed since then, and today they are ju
st about the most primitive tennis shoes you'll ever see, basically a flat slab of rubber with stitched canvas glued on top. When I was a kid, they were quite popular, and there's a famous photo of James Dean wearing a pair. Gnarly. Unfortunately, in the 1980s, with the rise of sophisticated shoes from Nike and others, Jack Purcells almost completely disappeared from the market.

And yet they never quite completely disappeared. Sometime in the 1990s they became a hot ticket in the Hip Hop community. The Urban Dictionary put it best: "Eternally hip and understated, this is the maverick shoe of simplicity. Its design is has been virtually unchanged since the 1930's. It is a clean and bold casual court shoe and its subtleness has transcended time....Converse All-Stars are cool...but the coolest people on the planet wear Jack Purcells."

The coolest people on the planet, okay?

In an ironic twist, Nike bought the Converse and Jack Purcells brands a couple of years and has been putting a lot of investment into them. The most interesting thing Nike has done is its online shoe design engine, which lets you custom-design your own pair of Jack Purcells. You can pick the colors for everything from the rubber sole to the stitching in the canvas, and they'll also monogram the shoes for you.

Here's the shoe I designed:

If this were the Long Tail blog, I'd wax rhapsodic about how the Web lets individuals get exactly the shoes they want. But I'll leave that to others. I do think it's interesting that there's a customizer for Nike shoes as well, but to me it's a lot less appealing because Nikes are so diverse already. The fun thing about custom Jack Purcells is that there's a single well-understood design that you get to do your own riff on. It's kind of like customizing a '67 Mustang.

If you want to create your own Jacks, follow this link and hover over "Design your own." In addition to having fun with the shoes, you'll be exposed to one of the nicest animated sites I've seen on the Web. And that's really why I posted about this. Although the shoes themselves are fun, what I admire most is how Nike used the Web to make the world's most primitive tennis shoes feel cutting edge.


Anonymous said...

You guy should checkout the shoes that came out from Nike with Ipod applications. Nike and Apple coming together is a perfect combination and if this can motivate a healthier lifestyle than more power to them.