Geoff Brash, who died in 2010, was a gregarious Australian businessman and philanthropist who encouraged the young to reach their potential. Born in Melbourne to Elsa and Alfred Brash, he was educated at Scotch College. His sister, Barbara, became a renowned artist and printmaker. His father, Alfred, ran the Brash retail music business that had been founded in 1862 by his grandfather, the German immigrant Marcus Brasch, specialising in pianos. It carried the slogan ‘A home is not a home without a piano.’
In his young days, Brash enjoyed the good life, playing golf and sailing, and spending some months travelling through Europe, having a leisurely holiday. He worked for a time at Myer department stores before joining the family business in 1949, where he quickly began to put his stamp on things. In one of his first management decisions, he diverged from his father’s sense of frugal aesthetics by re-carpeting the old man’s office while he was away. After initially complaining of his extravagance, his father grew to accept the change and gave his son increasing responsibility in the business.
After World War II (1939-1945), Brash’s had begun to focus on white goods, such as washing machines and refrigerators, as the consumer boom took hold. However, while his father was content with the business he had built, the younger Brash viewed expansion as vital. When Geoff Brash took over as managing director in 1957, the company had two stores, but after floating it on the stock exchange the following year, he expanded rapidly and opened suburban stores, as well as buying into familiar music industry names such as Allans, Palings and Suttons. Eventually, 170 stores traded across the continent under the Brash’s banner.
Geoff Brash learned from his father’s focus on customer service. Alfred Brash had also been a pioneer in introducing a share scheme for his staff, and his son retained and expanded the plan following the float.
Geoff Brash was optimistic and outward looking. As a result, he was a pioneer in both accessing and selling new technology, and developing overseas relationships. He sourced and sold electric guitars, organs, and a range of other modern instruments, as well as state-of-the-art audio and video equipment. He developed a relationship with Taro Kakehashi, the founder of Japan’s Roland group, which led to a joint venture that brought electronic musical devices to Australia.
In 1965, Brash and his wife attended a trade fair in Guangzhou, the first of its kind in China; they were one of the first Western business people allowed into the country following Mao Zedong’s Cultural Revolution. He returned there many times, helping advise the Chinese in establishing a high quality piano factory in Beijing; he became the factory’s agent in Australia. Brash also took leading jazz musicians Don Burrows and James Morrison to China, on a trip that reintroduced jazz to many Chinese musicians.
He stood down as Executive Chairman of Brash’s in 1988, but under the new management debt became a problem, and in 1994 the banks called in administrators. The company was sold to Singaporean interests and continued to trade until 1998, when it again went into administration. The Brash name then disappeared from the retail world. Brash was greatly disappointed by the collapse and the eventual disappearance of the company he had run for so long. But it was not long before he invested in a restructured Allan’s music business.
Brash was a committed philanthropist who, in the mid-1980s, established the Brash Foundation, which eventually morphed, with other partners, into the Soundhouse Music Alliance. This was a not-for-profit organisation overseeing and promoting multimedia music making and education for teachers and students. The Soundhouse offers teachers and young people the opportunity to get exposure to the latest music technology, and to use this to compose and record their own music, either alone or in collaboration. The organisation has now also established branches in New Zealand, South Africa and Ireland, as well as numerous sites around Australia.
Early occupations around the river Thames
A In her pioneering survey, Sources of London English, Laura Wright has listed the variety of medieval workers who took their livings from the river Thames. The baillies of Queenhithe and Billingsgate acted as customs officers. There were conservators, who were responsible for maintaining the embankments and the weirs, and there were the garthmen who worked in the fish garths (enclosures). Then there were galleymen and lightermen and shoutmen, called after the names of their boats, and there were hookers who were named after the manner in which they caught their fish. The searcher patrolled the Thames in search of illegal fish weirs, and the tideman worked on its banks and foreshores whenever the tide permitted him to do so.
B All of these occupations persisted for many centuries, as did those jobs that depended upon the trade of the river. Yet, it was not easy work for any of the workers. They carried most goods upon their backs, since the rough surfaces of the quays and nearby streets were not suitable for wagons or large carts; the merchandise characteristically arrived in barrels which could be rolled from the ship along each quay. If the burden was too great to be carried by a single man, then the goods were slung on poles resting on the shoulders of two men. It was a slow and expensive method of business.
C However, up to the eighteenth century, river work was seen in a generally favourable light. For Langland, writing in the fourteenth century, the labourers working on river merchandise were relatively prosperous. And the porters of the seventeenth and early eighteenth centuries were, if anything, aristocrats of labour, enjoying high status. However, in the years from the late eighteenth to the early nineteenth century, there was a marked change in attitude. This was in part because the working river was within the region of the East End of London, which in this period acquired an unenviable reputation. By now, dockside labour was considered to be the most disreputable, and certainly the least desirable form of work.
D It could be said that the first industrial community in England grew up around the Thames. With the host of river workers themselves, as well as the vast assembly of ancillary trades such as tavern-keepers and laundresses, food-sellers and street-hawkers, shopkeepers and marine store dealers – there was a workforce of many thousands congregated in a relatively small area. There were more varieties of business to be observed by the riverside than, in any other part of the city. As a result, with the possible exception of the area known as Seven Dials, the East End was also the most intensively inhabited region of London.
E It was a world apart, with its own language and its own laws. From the sailors in the opium dens of Limehouse to the smugglers on the malarial flats of the estuary, the workers of the river were not part of any civilised society. The alien world of the river had entered them. That alienation was also expressed in the slang of the docks, which essentially amounted to backslang, or the reversal of ordinary words. This backslang also helped in the formulation of Cockney rhyming slang*, so that the vocabulary of Londoners was directly’affected by the life of the Thames.
F The reports in the nineteenth-century press reveal a heterogeneous world of dock labour, in which the crowds of casuals waiting for work at the dock gates at 7.45 a.m. include penniless refugees, bankrupts, old soldiers, broken-down gentlemen, discharged servants, and ex-convicts. There were some 400-500 permanent workers who earned a regular wage and who were considered to be the patricians of dockside labour. However, there were some 2,500 casual workers who were hired by the shift. The work for which they competed fiercely had become ever more unpleasant. Steam power could not be used for the cranes, for example, because of the danger of fire. So the cranes were powered by treadmills. Six to eight men entered a wooden cylinder and, laying hold of ropes, would tread the wheel round. They could lift nearly 20 tonnes to an average height of 27 feet (8.2 metres), forty times in an hour. This was part of the life of the river unknown to those who were intent upon its more picturesque aspects.
Video game research
Although video games were first developed for adults, they are no longer exclusively reserved for the grown ups in the home. In 2006, Rideout and Hamel reported that as many as 29 percent of preschool children (children between two and six years old) in the United States had played console video games, and 18 percent had played hand-held ones. Given young children’s insatiable eagerness to learn, coupled with the fact that they are clearly surrounded by these media, we predict that preschoolers will both continue and increasingly begin to adopt video games for personal enjoyment. Although the majority of gaming equipment is still designed for a much older target audience, once a game system enters the household it is potentially available for all family members, including the youngest. Portable systems have done a particularly good job of penetrating the younger market.
Research in the video game market is typically done at two stages: some time close to the end of the product cycle, in order to get feedback from consumers, so that a marketing strategy can be developed; and at the very end of the product cycle to ‘fix bugs’ in the game. While both of those types of research are important, and may be appropriate for dealing with adult consumers, neither of them aids in designing better games, especially when it comes to designing for an audience that may have particular needs, such as preschoolers or senior citizens. Instead, exploratory and formative research has to be undertaken in order to truly understand those audiences, their abilities, their perspective, and their needs. In the spring of 2007, our preschool-game production team at Nickelodeon had a hunch that the Nintendo DS – with its new features, such as the microphone, small size and portability, and its relatively low price point – was a ripe gaming platform for preschoolers. There were a few games on the market at the time which had characters that appealed to the younger set, but our game producers did not think that the game mechanics or design were appropriate for preschoolers. What exactly preschoolers could do with the system, however, was a bit of a mystery. So we set about doing a study to answer the query: What could we expect preschoolers to be capable of in the context of hand-held game play, and how might the child development literature inform us as we proceeded with the creation of a new outlet for this age group?
Our context in this case was the United States, although the games that resulted were also released in other regions, due to the broad international reach of the characters. In order to design the best possible DS product for a preschool audience we were fully committed to the ideals of a ‘user-centered approach’, which assumes that users will be at least considered, but ideally consulted during the development process. After all, when it comes to introducing a new interactive product to the child market, and particularly such a young age group within it, we believe it is crucial to assess the range of physical and cognitive abilities associated with their specific developmental stage.
Revelle and Medoff (2002) review some of the basic reasons why home entertainment systems, computers, and other electronic gaming devices, are often difficult for preschoolers to use. In addition to their still developing motor skills (which make manipulating a controller with small buttons difficult), many of the major stumbling blocks are cognitive. Though preschoolers are learning to think symbolically, and understand that pictures can stand for real-life objects, the vast majority are still unable to read and write. Thus, using text-based menu selections is not viable. Mapping is yet another obstacle since preschoolers may be unable to understand that there is a direct link between how the controller is used and the activities that appear before them on screen. Though this aspect is changing, in traditional mapping systems real life movements do not usually translate into game-based activity.
Over the course of our study, we gained many insights into how preschoolers interact with various platforms, including the DS. For instance, all instructions for preschoolers need to be in voice-over, and include visual representations, and this has been one of the most difficult areas for us to negotiate with respect to game design on the DS. Because the game cartridges have very limited memory capacity, particularly in comparison to console or computer games, the ability to capture large amounts of voice-over data via sound files or visual representations of instructions becomes limited. Text instructions take up minimal memory, so they are preferable from a technological perspective. Figuring out ways to maximise sound and graphics files, while retaining the clear visual and verbal cues that we know are critical for our youngest players, is a constant give and take. Another of our findings indicated that preschoolers may use either a stylus, or their fingers, or both although they are not very accurate with either. One of the very interesting aspects of the DS is that the interface, which is designed to respond to stylus interactions, can also effectively be used with the tip of the finger. This is particularly noteworthy in the context of preschoolers for two reasons. Firstly, as they have trouble with fine motor skills and their hand-eye coordination is still in development, they are less exact with their stylus movements; and secondly, their fingers are so small that they mimic the stylus very effectively, and therefore by using their fingers they can often be more accurate in their game interactions.