Tuesday, July 19, 2011

The Joys of Technological Progress

I enjoy creator of the Dilbert cartoon Scott Adam's blog site. He loves to put out off-the-wall controversial stuff to see what reaction he gets. I must admit I go ballistic on some of his stuff. But on things like the following, I simply bask in the joy of reading material that is dead on in its critique but sly and humourous at the same time. He has nailed the joke that is "technological advance":
I remember when my only communication device was a phone connected to the wall. I'm old! Then came wireless handsets. They seemed so space age. I was untethered! I could wander all over the entire living room without dropping a call. The bedroom was too far for the signal to travel, but hey, you can't have everything.

Time passed.

Then along came the brick-sized cell phone. I thought of it as more of an emergency device. I kept it in the car and tried to use it as little as possible.

Then came the Blackberry. OMG. It was like a little miracle in my hand. Not only could I walk around (anywhere!) and talk on the phone, but I could do email like a demon thanks to its nifty keyboard. I was talking and typing all day long. I was addicted. I was a communicating fiend.

Then came the iPhone. In theory, it would do all that the Blackberry did plus apps! In practice, it dropped every call that lasted more than a minute. That has more to do with the AT&T network where I live and how the iPhone works with it, I'm told. No problem. I weaned myself off of voice calls. I don't like talking on the phone anyway. I trained my friends to use email to contact me.

But I couldn't do email anymore either. At least not much of it. The iPhone keyboard was too frustrating. Every message came out like xmopoi aljsdo vooe. I could go back and fix each word, but it wasn't worth the time. Instead, I used the iPhone to check incoming mail, but I waited until I was back at my computer to respond with more than a sentence.

Then came the Android phone. I just got one. I can make phone calls again! It's just like the 1970s! I sound like I'm underwater in a barrel, but you can usually tell what I'm saying, unless I call another cell phone, in which case the call is largely unintelligible. And that's not counting the dumbass things I actually say that don't make much sense even if you hear me perfectly. I'm just saying you should email me. Don't call.

To make things worse, a call between cell phones creates just enough of a transmission delay that I can't interrupt the other person. And if you happen to get a talker on the other end, you're in for a long ride. You can't break in.

By the way, if you're one of the people who owns a cell phone and doesn't understand that you have to use it like a CB radio, meaning you say your part and then pause a second to see if there is a response, let me be the first to say everyone hates talking to you on the phone. Talk briefly, pause at least a second, and listen for a response. That's the rule. The talk-until-you-get-interrupted model is something that only works in person and on landlines.

Anyway, my Android phone works most of the time for voice calls. But I'm afraid to actually use it because the battery life is about an hour and it's no good to me with no power.

Now I only think of my phone as an emergency device, like my first brick-sized cell phone. I wouldn't use it to make a social phone call. My battery wouldn't last. And I wouldn't often use it for email because the keyboard sucks and the battery drains then as well.

Yes, I have researched all the many ways to save battery life. I have apps that kill other apps. I turn off Wi-Fi and 4G and Bluetooth until I need them. Nothing seems to keep my battery from draining like a frat boy's bladder on a Saturday night. Result: I leave my Android plugged in all the time, whether I am at my desk, near my bed, or in the car.

Thank you Google for inventing a corded phone. I can't wait for your next innovation: the butter churn.
I confess I'm an old fuddy-duddy who hasn't had anything other than the old fashion corded phone. I worked in the high tech industry. I learned the hard way that most of the "advances" were painful and costly and really didn't provide any functionality that you need. But the stuff was exciting. I did jump onto the personal computer bandwagen and of course wasted money on devices that quickly became orphaned and unsupported. I became bitter. So I refused to join the parade with the succession of cordless phones. The above warms my heart. I feel rewarded for holding back and missing out on all that pain.

Sure I made phone calls to guys with mobile phones, but half the time they would wander in and out of cell phone range and I would strain to make sense of the static-filled, on-and-off voice. Sure it sounded grand and exciting as a concept, but I just couldn't see the point of having a device with such crappy service.

So I'm off the tech train to the future. I feel no need for a 3D TV (or 3D movies). I'm not interested in smart phones with cameras that let you do videophone calls (that was technology tried back 30 or 40 years ago and people didn't want it and they still don't) or run apps that make you squint at a 3 inch screen. I'm at the age where a 14 font is getting hard to see and I need at least a 30" screen to give me the footprint to see the "big picture".

I love it when tech companies create stuff that is useful like spreadsheets and word processors, but I hate it when they foist techie crap and hype it and convince millions to throw good money after an ephemeral vision of a "tech future".

No comments: