Stop Upgrading and Start Improving

Why is tech moving backwards?

Okay, obviously most tech is moving forwards at astronomical speeds.  You compare technological advances over the last fifty years with technological advances over the previous several millenia and it’s not even worth starting the stopwatch.  We are making newer, better, faster gadgets faster than we can figure out what to do with the old ones.  It’s a good thing, as tech magazines and websites and tech advertisers will be the first to tell you.

But then you look at something like Google Glass.  Here’s the height of technology being developed by a giant of the industry, but the idea of strapping a computer to your face didn’t get shot down in the spitballing phase?  We’re a country where automobile accidents are one of the leading causes of death, and Google wants to enable Mikey McMerkerson to livestream the NFL draft or the latest episode of Nasty Housewives of Nashville or whatever else while he’s cruising down the freeway at ninety miles per hour?  Sure, right, they’ll say that the technology is not meant to be used while driving, and that’s fantastic and all, but their little admonition makes about as much difference as that “No U-Turn” sign in front of my neighborhood.  Sharknado, everybody and their brother knows that texting and driving is one of the most efficient ways to accordion your Corolla, but that doesn’t stop us from doing it.  I don’t even have to tell you to take a look around you at the next traffic light you come to, or to sneak a peek at the land cruiser zipping past you on the freeway.  You already know what those drivers are doing.  You put that technology out there, it’s going to be misused, and if Americans have demonstrated one thing through the outbreak of obesity and a movement that thinks eliminating vaccinations is a good idea, it’s that we need protecting from our fargoing selves.  Creating the next, newest, best bit of technology with the brightest flashing lights and the fastest clicking clickers and the longest electrical dongles is no longer worth doing for its own sake.  Comes a point when technology does not need significant improvement, and we need to stop pretending that it does.

Case in point, I had two bits of technology catastrophically fail on me today, one a fairly indispensable staple, the other a trifle, but both together have my blood boiling.  (Yeah, yeah, first world problems, whatever.)

First, the phone.  I’ll preface that about a year ago, my phone dies and it was under warranty and they replaced it.  Okay, nothing’s perfect in this world, the warranty worked, it was all good.  (For the curious, I took the phone on a long run in the summertime, and when I got back, the phone’s display didn’t want to work anymore.  Since it’s a shiny smartphone that only functions through its screen, the phone had become a sharknadoey electrical brick.)  Today, I’m using the phone to catch up on some scores from yesterday’s sporting matches and look at some facebook pictures — YOU KNOW, REALLY TAXING STUFF THAT PHONES ARE NOT DESIGNED TO HANDLE — and it just goes dark.  Total failure, identical to the one I had a year ago.  I fiddle and tinker, but it’s not coming back.  I call up the dealer and I’m informed that the product is out of warranty, but would I like to sign up for their new plan and get a new smartphone every 18 months for free today?  It will only cost an extra $20-30 per month depending on the model I choose.  Yeah, no thanks, I’d prefer it if you’d a) stand by the product that you manufacture and distribute and replace it, given that there is obviously something wrong with that model, or b) manufacture a decent goldfingered product in the first place that doesn’t crap out at, what, the nine-month mark?  But I’m getting onto the cell phone companies now, and that’s not my focus.  My focus is the phone.

I’m of that magical generation that saw the first widespread use of cellphones during my formative years.  Hell, I’m of that generation where the cool kids had pagers in high school, so the cell phones of today are nothing short of monkey-math miracles.

But are they really?  The first phone I had was one of those Nokia jobs that everybody born before 1995 recognizes, the little gray brick with a keypad and the calculator display.  It was indestructible, it could run for seven and a half days without needing a charge, it played the best game ever (MOTHERFARGOING SNAKE AM I RIGHT).  My phone today runs for about 16 hours before it needs charging — that’s if I’m not using it much during the day — and it breaks when the East wind blows, apparently.  THIS IS AN UPGRADE.  And yeah, it’ll check my e-mail and my facebook and let me take pictures and post my dinner to instagram, and that’s nice, but THAT’S NOT WHAT A PHONE IS DESIGNED TO DO.  I have been on the smartphone train for about a year and a half, and I am starting to wonder if this is the station where I get off.

The other bit of technology was my tablet, a Nexus 7 which today decided that life was too hard and pooped itself in a cloud of unintelligible technicolor dots and squiggles run across its display.  Again, I was using it to — brace yourself — browse the net at the time, which, I’m sorry, should hardly force it to break a sweat, let alone overload its tiny little robot brain, but there you have it.  The tablet crapping out isn’t the pulled hamstring that the phone is, but it’s an annoyance, and happening as it did on the same day — in fact in the same morning — it felt downright conspiratorial.  And again, it makes me wonder how much I need the tablet to do things that, in all fairness, I can do on the laptop with slightly less portability and convenience.

I love technology, I really do.  But it feels like more and more it’s designed to be disposable, and that’s a thing which just strikes me as completely backward.  We don’t need a brand new iPhone model to drop every year (and for that matter, we damn sure don’t need to be camping out overnight for days to get it — what is wrong with us [just to clarify, by us I mean people who actually do that crap, which does not and never will include me]).  What we need is technology that enriches our lives and that can be depended upon.  Like that goldfingered little gray brick of a phone.  How I miss her sometimes.