Monthly Archives: April 2017

It’s no accident… Arizona knew how to rock a good beta test long before Uber started crashing robot cars

The first McDonalds restaurant among many other franchises were opened in Phoenix. In a 1978 documentary of the rock band The Tubes, band members testify to the evanescent scene that was Phoenix Arizona where due to nearly perennial, oppressive heat kids watched TV almost twenty-four hours per day. Thanks to a lack of tourist attractions and cable television this practically intravenous diet of all things new led to a peculiar opportunity. Because people in Phoenix had nearly universal access to every form of media yet being four hundred miles on the wrong side of Death Valley from California they became the ideal control group to test products and marketing with little word-of-mouth influence. What, use crash-test dummies? Not a chance. These folks would try anything.

In an 1983 interview with David Letterman Fee Waybill describes the laboratory Phoenix became for a new form of entertainment called “Trampoline City”. The modern version of it is well known, fun and safe. But long before the padded, netted mother approved bouncing paradise was a more crude example. Arranged in a grid, the Trampoline City mentioned here consisted of improvised cube shaped holes excised from a defunct K-Mart parking lot with a trampoline canvas hastily stretched over the 6′ x 8′ x 10′ deep holes leaving nothing but residual parking surface around each one of the dozen or so jumping areas. There were [a lot] injuries; in Phoenix.

Whether we think about who builds skyscrapers, tests the water supply for contaminants or who discovered that the northern leopard frog swallows its prey using its eyes the answer is always, “they”. Every ask who is “they”? And so it is the denizens of Phoenix who help make up the crucial hive of this mysterious group of sentients known as “they” who try out technology for the rest of us to enjoy; safely.

Fast forward to 2017 and we have this:


If this were still the 80’s this might be the result of an experiment testing the effect of side airbags deployment on kazoo playing but instead what we have is opposite of what was promised on the Jetsons, gone wrong. Uber, needing a hearty sort to drive along side their unproven self-driving cars on the open road, where did they go? Phoenix. Read the full article here. But as it turns out the brave lads of Arizona do not have a monopoly on courage. Somebody had to be Guinea Pigs for the airline industry:

Tony Jannus conducted the United States’ first scheduled commercial airline flight on 1 January 1914 for the St. Petersburg-Tampa Airboat Line.

Sadly nothing was recorded about the people who boarded that flight but I wouldn’t be surprised to find out they were all actually from Phoenix.