Thursday, November 16, 2017

I’m Tired of Technology

Written by  Jim Nakoneshny


I’m getting tired of technology. It’s not that I don’t appreciate it or that I’m opposed to it. (In many ways I’m quite dependent upon it, as I discovered these past four weeks while my laptop has been in for repairs). I’m just tired of it. 

Year after year, the tech companies keep promising the ultimate solutions to all of our problems… until they come out with something newer and “better”. But how many times can you re-invent the wheel? After decades on the tech treadmill I just can’t be bothered to keep up any more. 

I wasn’t always this jaded. I’m trained as an Electronics Engineering Technologist and worked as a technical service rep for 25 years. When I was younger, I owned the world’s first commercially available CD player, the Sony CDP-101, which I purchased new in 1983. That made me one of the first people in the county with an operational laser in my living room. How cool is that! (I still have it, by the way). There were maybe 25 CDs to choose from at the time (average price of a CD in 1983: $35).

Things changed much more slowly back in that (mostly) pre-digital era. Like many people, at home we had our stereo system for music and a TV…for TV shows. Documents were written by hand or sometimes on a typewriter. Our camera used film – basically the same stuff people used 50 years earlier. But, like the CD player, technology was creeping in slowly. When I travelled for work in the late 80’s (in the days before cell phones) I had all of my contacts entered in a pocket dialer – a device that you could hold up to a pay-phone handset and it would beep out the touch tones of the number you were calling (I still have that too).

In the early 90’s I bought a fancy new 4-head Video Cassette Recorder – much better than the 2-head version we had previously. You could do rock-steady freeze-frames and flicker-free slow motion! That machine cost slightly more than $1,000 (yes, for a VCR), but it would last forever… Then DVDs came along. I now had a beautifully engineered, perfectly working high tech VCR that was collecting dust. It still did everything it did before, but now it seemed archaic. It was old news.

A few years later, I acquired my first cell phone. I could sometimes get a full day out of a battery charge if I didn’t turn it on too often. I think it had about 20 minutes of talk time per overnight charge. A few upgrades later I had a nice little Nokia flip phone. I could talk. I could text. It had a great camera, a useful calculator. My fingers knew where all of the buttons were without looking. That phone was amazing. Then the iPhone was introduced. Suddenly the Nokia was a Model T. 

I love my iPhone. My current phone is a nice shiny iPhone 6 that I got when I wore out my previous model. It’s in my hands probably 3-4 hours out of any given day answering emails, exchanging text messages or updating my calendar, among other things. Even so, I probably use only about 1% of what the phone is capable of. I haven’t even looked yet at last year’s iPhone 7. Now the new 8 is out along with the fancy iPhone X. Is it all really necessary?

Many of the new products or new features and functions constantly being released sound great on the surface, but in reality are often much less practical. I laugh at the idea of my phone automatically uploading my photos to the cloud where they can be instantly viewed by friends and family. Unlike the promotional ads, my albums wouldn’t feature snapshots of mountain vistas and smiling children at the beach. It would be pictures of plumbing parts, store shelf tags, items I’m selling on Kijiji, and the other things I really use my phone’s camera for. 

Ads show us all of the great things we can do with our devices – or could do with them if we had the time. In 2008 there were some 23,000 apps and games available on the App Store. In 2017 that number had grown to 3.1 million. If you took just ten seconds to look at each one it would take a full year, working 24 hours per day, without eating or sleeping. How can we possibly keep up? 

A big thing now is automation. From new cars to entertainment systems to home lighting and security, with the right equipment you can control all of your devices remotely from your phone, or your tablet, or your watch… provided that you have the time to figure out how everything works and can be bothered to properly set it all up. Of course, once you finally get it figured out you’ll discover that the system you have is out of date and no longer supported.

It makes one slightly nostalgic for the days when “high-tech” was knowing whether to plug the red or white wire into the back of your stereo and when most things could be repaired with a screwdriver and a spare piece of wire. What’s the old line from the ‘60’s? Stop the world, I want to get off!



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