We are stuck with technology when what we really want is just stuff that works. -Douglas Adams
For a successful technology, reality must take precedence over public relations, for Nature cannot be fooled. -Richard Feynman
For as long as I can remember, I have always been beholden to the the tech gods. It starts back in the early 80′s when my Dad brought home a Sony 19′ Trinitron TV. I didn’t know what a “sony” was, really had no idea what a “trinitron” was and really didn’t care, it was just simply gorgeous to behold! *
In addition to the new TV, my Dad had a succession of personal computers in his den in our house in Belle Harbor. Starting off with the Tandy Corp TRS -80 with a whopping 8k of memory to the early “B” Model Commodore 64 computers then later on the ubiquitous Commodore 64 “C” models with colour monitor 1541 Floppy Disk Drive and blazingly fast 2400 Baud modem to connect to Q-Link the precursor to AOL.
My Dad was always an early adopter of technology. In the mid eighties he had a pocket pager. The same year he had his Z-Car (Datsun, not IROC, we’re Jews not Italians) fitted with a car phone. Why? Because he could. Because the tech enhanced his life. His friends were similarly minded, Marc was and still is an audiophile, he rightfully convinced my Dad to outfit his new bachelor pad with then state of the art Polk Audio SDA Speakers, which I still have and use daily. He also suggested that my Dad forgo the purchase of a LP player in favor of the bleeding edge technology of the Sony CDP 10 CD player, very forward thinking for its day. Marc’s car, a mid 80′s Mitsubishi Starion, was in every way the epitome of Japanese automotive Tech at the time (still wasn’t as cool looking as the Datsun though…).
This is what I was surrounded by growing up. So, no surprise, I got the bug too. I devoured tech manuals, waited patiently for the monthly Popular Science and Popular Mechanics subscriptions to arrive. Begged and pleaded non-stop until one of my parents bought “The Space Shuttle Operators Manual, 1988 Edition”, so I could further research the STS program, by the way I was 10 at the time….. I had the Sega Master System instead of Nintendo Entertainment System, why? It had a faster processor, better graphics, and superior games to the Nintendo! I went through countless Walkmans, had unknown quantities of Casio Data-Bank Watches, and enjoyed every single one of them.
Until now, technology hasn’t let me down. I weathered the BS over which operating system was superior Os2/ Warp or Win95, (in my opinion win 3.11/ DOS 6.22 worked just fine) I made the challenging decision to use a Texas Instruments 486 DX4 chip instead of an Intel Chip, I stood in line at CompUSA for the midnight release of Windows 95, mind you not for the operating system, but for the 4 meg SIMM I was gonna buy for $95.00! I watched as WinNT was replaced with Win2000. I did not join the bandwagon bitching about 98, ME, or Vista. I saw countless tech companies come forward, shine brightly, then die a horrible painful death. In a few words borrowed from Roy Batty “I’ve seen things you people can’t imagine”.
Which brings us painfully to today. A few weeks ago I installed Win8 on my wife’s laptop. She used it, albeit like every other end user, grumpily. Users do not like change, ever. I know that. I once did a phone refresh a national chain bank and had a user point blank ask me how to make a call on the new phone! I always expect a little change fear whenever an update come out.
This was different. I have Win8 on my laptop as well, and have been noticing usability issues that were simply annoying. Its not that the operating system is flawed, its that it isn’t designed to work appropriately with what I guess now is legacy devices such as non touch screen PC’s. Is it fast? Yes. Stable? You bet. It just doesn’t do a good job of presenting its GUI without touch.
So, after hearing a few weeks of complaints from my wife, I performed an operation that I had never done before. I reverted to a previous operating system. Those that know me can imagine how disappointed I was to actually have to do that. There simply wasn’t any good reason to keep the new Win8 OS on the machine. It broke my heart that Microsoft did such a poor job of implementation that I couldn’t stand by it like I normally would.
And then the next thing happend; I purchased for myself a Samsung Galaxy SIII phone. I love mobile tech! I love that my server room from 10 years ago doesn’t remotely have the same processing power or speed as a new quad core phone! And it fits in my pocket!
I’ve been carrying a succession of Motorola Android phones starting with the Atrix 4g, then the Atrix 2, and recently the Atrix HD. The reason is the phones are tightly integrated with their peripheral devices. In all cases the phones had a car dock, a charge dock, and in the case of both the 4g and the 2 they had a really cool feature called a Lapdock that consists of a large battery and LCD screen that converts the phone into a mobile workstation. Ridiculously cool device! The trade off of this integration is that Motorola has locked down a lot of features available to the Android system in order for them to make sure the user doesn’t booger the device. Makes some sense, these things are incredibly complex, with literally thousands of points of configuration. But, me being me, I caught wind that the Atrix line had been bested by Samsung. So, of course I had to check it out.
I got on upgrade, a Samsung Galaxy SIII, then Samsung’s top of the line handset, they’ve since released the SIV. The screen was fantastic to look at! The device itself was the lightest handheld I’ve seen since before the days of smartphones (I had a Moto Star-Tac clamshell that was lighter). The sound quality was phenomenal! In short, this was a techie’s dream.
Then reality set in; the device has a car cradle. It doesn’t do anything but hold the phone firmly. It doesn’t charge, it doesn’t change the GUI to car mode, in short it’s simply a suction cup holder that Samsung suggests a retail price of $50.00. I drive a 6 speed manual, car mode is not just nice, its necessary!
Then I tried to pair it to my car stereo, the pairing went fine, stereo and phone found each other quickly. But, another shortcoming came to light; The Samsung didn’t have the voice prompt system that I had come to love and rely on with my Motorolas. Again, 6 speed manual, Voice prompts are not just nice, its necessary!
Now what? I did the thing I said I was never going to do and reverted back to my Atrix HD and gave the Samsung to the BocaFrau.
I guess the problem is that technology isn’t being made to please the techs anymore. And there is nothing wrong with that. The average user doesn’t know or care that the Samsung’s integration with its car dock is troublesome. They only care that the screen looks great for playing Youtube Videos on it. That their contacts are there and that the case is particularly stylish. Its a fundamental change on how these devices work and what’s expected of them. As a die hard nerd; I care for technology for technology’s sake. But, the caveat is: it must work flawlessly! The new buyer, the unwashed masses, they care about technology as well, but only the superficial “coolness’ factor. hence your iDevice buyer.
Again, thats ok. I have to come to terms with that. Sometime. But not today!
*admin note: “trinitron” was Sony’s proprietary technology designed to enhance both sharpness of picture by modifying the basic RCA shadow mask and changes to the chemical makeup of the phosphors embedded into the screen to enhance brightness