March 20, 2010

Good tech, bad tech: just fix it.

I am tired of the latest, brightest shiny toy to come out of any so-called technology box. What I want is for the folks who thought they were so clever to invent things, to come through on FIXING what is already invented, not going on to muck up something new.

For example, take the cordless phone: great idea, bad ergonomics, and unreliable reception. Is it that challenging to take the old-time technology that made our corded phones connect so reliably and apply it to more recent "innovations"?

And television: it used to be so easy. Press one button for on/power; change the channel or the volume with two simple arrow points. HD TV? Hell to define it. No better definition, because the cable signal now pixilates at random. Make the signal too complicated, and the TV can't manage to make it smooth and constant, as the signal did so smoothly back in the day.

Hell to make the TV clicker work to get you to one of more than 1000 channels you may wish to cut back to a manageagble, say, 100? Can the video recording box manage to fast-forward or reverse as easily as a VCR? Not in my house.

Then, the cell phone -- may it rot in hell. How important are you? Do you need to broadcast your lovers' quarrels, your medical test results, any call other than say, can't make it on time, got an emergency going on. Are the recipients of these calls so stupid that they can't assume, as in other times, that you've been delayed?

More people than not show up less than on-time. Planes never do on-time, unless they are fudging the schedule. If you're not a cop or a fireman or, dare I say a doctor, on duty, on call, do you really need to chat on the sidewalk?

In the car -- no one ever promised driving excitement. Vehicles are simply transit. Perhaps distracting yourself with the radio is enough. Be daring -- have a cup of coffee. Try not to spill it. Don't give me your traffic updates. I promise: they're boring. Moreover, maybe you should keep your eyes on the road, cut down on accidents.

And ergonomics? Kids are going to text themselves into early arthritis, strange tendon problems, shoulder strain, back troubles -- then they will have to learn to talk. Wonder if they'll be able to catch up with their less technology dependent peers: the people you see having conversations, ordinary verbal exchanges, with one another. They are few and far between these days, at least in public.

If the techno-folks wanted to be useful, they might look into improving voice recognition software. At this rate, no one will be able to type -- or given how language has deteriorated, maybe everyone will get by with grunting. Once for yes; twice for no.

Apart from texting, which is for people who are too lazy or incapable of using a telephone for its original purpose, which was not to be Western Union on a regular basis, there is a problem with cell phones that makes me laugh.

It is this: an entire generation of people are growing up without having an unimpeded conversation, without interruption, either by another call or, to go back to the original technology complaint: IF YOU CAN'T GET A CALL TO GO THROUGH WITHOUT DROPPING OUT, what exactly was the point of losing the cord in the first place?

Then, the speaker phone: nice concept, lousy execution. Yes, you avoid ergonomic incidents, but the echos and sputters over the line make the conversation more challenging. And privacy? Long since gone by the wayside, not that most people seem to care, or even make a distinction between personal and business. Scary.

Granted, someone's good techno idea made blogging possible. A place for people like me to rant where we want, in case someone's listening, or, to be precise, reading.

Yet I can't help coming back to my first point: why can't technology be perfected before the next ingenious idea comes along? Short attention spans? Another failure of our time? If someone would take back fiber optics in favor of copper wires, we might be able to find out. And while the sole techno-perfecto in the land is at it, can't the digital camera shutter press in a timely fashion?

Why go forward when we haven't succeeded at backward? Alice wants to know.

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