In 1997, at the start of the technology boom, an aspiring consumer technology expert established his credibility when he correctly predicted the revolutionary effect MP3 files would have on the music industry.
Having spent the last 15 years building a successful career as a technology journalist, author, radio host and TV personality, it’s tough not to take Marc Saltzman’s latest predictions seriously – even if he’s talking about flying cars or robotic sous chefs.
“Flying cars are coming out next year,” Saltzman told The CJN as he boarded an airplane on his way to a business trip.
As he described in an article published in the Toronto Star last year, the Transtion, a “roadable aircraft” with retractable wings, will have to use local airports to take off and land like any other small aircraft, but it can be driven on our roads and parked in our garages.
According to his award-winning technology blog Sync.ca, Saltzman predicts that by the end of the decade, modern homes will have cutting-edge innovations that will make microwaves and dishwashers seem primitive.
He said kitchen appliances will be wired to download recipes and display them on flat-panel screens.
“Your entire kitchen table might be a video screen, in case you want to catch up on your favourite television shows while eating alone, while also reading email, surfing the web and using your finger to flip through digital recipes,” he wrote.
Saltzman predicts that the technology is going to evolve from touch to talk.
“The gadgets are going to get smarter,” he said.
Smart phones will become “the most critical gadget we carry. It will be our lifeline to the world. It’s going to interact with our homes, our cars and our offices. I already call them our digital Swiss army knives,” he said.
Saltzman said he’s passionate about bringing technology to laypeople, and turning “geek speak into street speak.
“That’s been my whole mandate… to make sense of technology. Not just to serve as a technology evangelist or enthusiast, but also a translator.”
He said evolving from a video-game enthusiast into a technology expert who news outlets such as CNN rely on took a lot of persistence and “good old-fashioned Jewish chutzpah.”
His journey into forging a career as a tech expert began when he realized he had a knack for explaining the appeal of video games to an adult audience.
“But to be honest, the motivation was that I didn’t want to pay $70 for games, and I thought if I reviewed them, companies would send them to me for free,” he said with a laugh.
Saltzman became even more motivated when publications began paying him for his articles.
“I would then use one publication as a springboard to get into another publication.”
But freelancing for newspapers and web-based magazines was just the beginning for Saltzman.
“I had no radio experience, but in 1997, I walked into 102.1 The Edge – it was CFNY back then – and I said, ‘You should put me on the air every week for a segment to talk about what’s hot on the web. It was called Marc’s Web Watch and I did it live every Monday.”
His big break came in 2001 – while he was working as Global TV’s tech expert – when Peter Kent, who was then a broadcast journalist on Global, wrote a letter to a contact at Turner Broadcasting Systems in Atlanta, the media group that created CNN.
“I was not only brought in for an interview, but the guy I interviewed with brought me into the office of the president of CNN and said, ‘This guy can explain technology in plain English. He can make it fun and understandable.’”
To this day, he does his segments for CNN from his Richmond Hill home via Skype.
In spite of having his byline appear in more than 50 North American publications, hosting three Tech Talk radio shows on NewsTalk 1010, and appearing regularly on television newscasts, it wasn’t until he landed a gig with Cineplex Entertainment that people started recognizing him.
“Cineplex asked me four years ago to create a one-minute tech segment called Gear Guide that airs before the movie starts,” he said, adding that the segment is seen in 95 per cent of Canadian theatres by about six million people each month.
“Who would have ever thought that along with movies and music, that they would want a technology update before a movie started? That was unheard of just a few years ago, when tech was something reserved for the hard-core users, a very small minority of people,” Saltzman said.
“I think a majority of the population enjoys technology and they like hearing about and buying new gadgets and games and whatnot, but they just need a little help in understanding it. The industry changes so quickly. There are new products all the time. There is a whole new language we need to learn… It can make your head spin.”
The author of 14 technology-themed books, Saltzman hopes his 15th book, titled Siri For Dummies, will help people stay current.
Saltzman himself knows how important it is for him to stay ahead of the trends. In October, he’ll be travelling to Israel on a tour organized by the Centre for Israel and Jewish Affairs (CIJA).
“I’ll be going to Israel to visit more than 20 technology companies. It’s a trip I’m organizing with CIJA, and I’m joining a delegation of high-tech journalists from Canada,” he saud.
“There is a ton of innovation happening in Israel. A lot of the technologies we use today were designed and developed in Israel. A lot of people aren’t aware of the amount of innovation that comes out of Israel.”