Tuesday, July 3, 2012
OH YEAH: I REALLY LOVE TECHNOLOGY
“If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.”
T. Bert (Thomas Bertram) Lance,
Director of the Office of Management and Budget
in Jimmy Carter's 1977 administration
I damned near threw my i-Pad through the third floor window of the Hyatt Hotel at the Denver airport last night. Following a week in the Rockies without connecting to the Internet, I found myself receiving e-mails, only one of which was critical enough to deserve an answer. I composed something succinct and pushed send. After thirty seconds, a message appeared telling me that the “my server” was not authorized to relay messages. Huh? In any circumstance other than those technological, “my server” serves me.
I carry a basic cell phone in my pocket. My current model, made by Samsung – highly rated by those other than me – has a button on the front of the closed face that, when pushed, shuts off external button functions. The problem is, when I drop the phone in a pocket, change or keys or whatever else in there, repushes that external control thereby reactivating the buttons. Soon, the ringer is drubbed down to silent so I miss any incoming calls and the flashlight function is activated making it appear that one of the nickels in my pocket is cast out of weapons grade plutonium. I’ve been told I need to check for upgrades. I don’t want to check for upgrades. I want my phone to ring on the chance occasion that someone wishes to contact me. Nothing more.
A week or two ago, we used Netflix to rent a Blu-Ray DVD of a recently released film. Subsequent to twenty minutes of previews and ads, we expected to see the movie. No such luck. All we saw was the wheel that gives the optical illusion of the viewer spinning in space. We sent the DVD back requesting another copy. Same deal. Turns out, in order to prevent piracy, the film is encrypted on the disk and my 18-month-old Blu-Ray player is unable to access the film without an upgrade. I’m paying how much per month for this “service?”
I own a Mac that I like a lot. I use it mainly for writing, storage of photos, posting to my blog and to various motorcycle forums, sending and receiving e-mails and a little bit of comparison shopping. Although others are able to do so, my Mac is unable to post i-Photo pictures to the motorcycle forum boards. I have read and reread the instructions and am still unable to do it. The help menu works up until they drop in the first acronym. Although back in high school I never “pantsed” one in the locker room or cafeteria, the geeks are exacting their revenge.
I, for one, am damned tired of technology that sets an expectation and then falls short of delivering it. I am tired of being told that technology is in its infancy. I am tired of security measures being put in place that make access to the advertised function unachievable. But mainly, I am tired of being a fairly intelligent, reasonably literate, more-than-marginally competent human being who feels stupid because something that should be simple – something that should be intuitive – is not.
Too frequently, in the name of innovation, we improve on products with solid performance until they don’t work any more. Perhaps this is because “they” always want to market the next big idea or push the next best thing or sell the next product as “new and improved” – marketing’s most over-taxed phrase. Lipstick on the Mona Lisa, I would opine.
Making or receiving a phone call, creating a document and passing it through cyberspace, sharing a photo: all of these should, by now, be as easy as turning on a faucet (clockwise on, counter-clockwise off – or is it the other way around?), pedaling a bicycle (once you learn how to do it, it doesn’t change), or merging onto a freeway (outside of rush hour). Smooth.
If technology creates more frustration than it provides solutions then it does not improve our lives. And frankly, under those circumstances, I’d rather be walking a beach or mountain trail, motorcycling on a back road, or blasted back into the 19th century.
Please, don’t call me a Luddite: just make the damned product work. And once it does, don’t fix it.
Church of the Open Road Press