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Redundant Tech

April 18, 2012

My son, t’other day, pointed at my iPhone screen as I was checking my messages and said, ‘what’s that?’ pointing to the answer machine icon, ‘it looks like a pair of glasses.’ I looked at it again and it dawned upon me: it’s supposed to represent a tape recorder. In fact it’s supposed to be like one of those really old school tape recorders that are actually the size of a family pizza and would wind around slowly in ’60’s spy films. I got me a wondering: did Vodafone or Orange ever have a guy with two fingers on play and record waiting until the right time to start recording? In the age of digital music and MP3s this seems ludicrous.

Then I started thinking about other things that are basically defunct bits of visual imagery or terms that no longer represent the actual reality of the object:

  1. The Phone Symbol When I want to phone someone then I have to press a symbol that looks like a phone. Not an iPhone…or a HTC or a Galaxy Nexus…an old dial-up phone. We have an old telephone, merely as a decorative object sadly – it used to work, but booking a cinema ticket on it was a mission des doits – and when kids see it it is like a alien artefact. Isn’t it weird that we used a bit of ’40’s tech to help us identify the icon on our touch screens that will dial (ha!) a number? It’s bloody bonkers.
  2. Footage I love this. I can scan through hours of encoded video on my Mac and it’s referred to as footage. Footage is a completely old school way of talking about film…about how many feet of it you have. You used to be able to buy spools in feet and there used to be some weird formula that you’d work out depending on how many feet of film you had and what speed you’re shooting at which would determine how long your shot could be. Then you can take it into iMovie and cut and splice it together! Hahaha!!!
  3. Address Book The address book on my Mac looks like…an address book. Does Apple worry that although we can embrace the idea of cloud computing, wireless syncing, multi-account machines, progressive back-ups and remote desktops we cannot get our teeny, tiny brains around a simple database application unless it is depicted as an actual book – even when half their user base have never used a real address book…ever?!?! Is the address book department run by the Antiques Roadshow? FFS.
  4. www The World Wide Web. Okay, we obviously still use it but you don’t have to put www in front of every URL that you type, haven’t for years. Try it. It’s not like there is another internet out there that we can access by typing something else. Half the sites I use don’t even display it anymore. I’m wondering when all the http//; bollocks is going to be binned as well – that’s a pain in the arse to type sometimes. Even the suffix is becoming irrelevant. Just type in google into the address bar and it’ll go straight to google. No .com or .co.uk necessary. Eventually a friendly UI will replace all the legacy code that was used to build the internet and it’ll just be apps and we’ll barely use browsers at all. Mark. My. Words: Walled. Garden.

I was at the Dechetrie the other day (a dechete is the Swiss version of a dump – except it’s weirdly clean and has a nicer name) and there is a section for old electricals and in that were stacks of old CRT televisions, PCs and CD players. It made me a bit wistful – I cannot believe that in such a short time CDs, CRT televisions and radios have become obsolete. It’s kind of crazy that technology that was once cutting edge is now redundant.

I remember (cue violin music and plucked string section) buying storage for a company that I worked for. We needed fast hard-disks that were large. So we bought the biggest we could afford – a whopping 6gb of fast (5400rpm) disk storage and it cost us….£7,0000.00. Yes, 7k for 6gb. So, I just did a quick search on Amazon and found a 8GB flash drive for £1.69…for something that can fit on your keyring.

I wonder if the same thing will be true for our kids. Will they know what a CD is? Will it become a completely bizarre format that they just will not be able to understand? Will Blu-Ray be relevant? Will they be able to spell without a T9 dictionary? Will they need to speak a foreign language when Google Translate will translate realtime as they converse? Will handwriting be a thing of the past? Will the high street as we know it cease to exist?

So, I am sounding like an old codger now, but we’re going to be the link between the past and the future and when the internet breaks (after we have sucked every available resource out of the ground) we will have to explain what all these things are to a bunch of people who’ll think we’re making shit up.

2 Comments leave one →
  1. April 20, 2012 10:40 am

    The pace of change is quite terrifying sometimes. I remember buying a 1MB RAM expansion pack for my Commodore Amiga about 25 years ago. It cost something like £100 (about £200 in today’s money) and was about half the size of a paperback. Compare that to your 8GB flash drive – available for about 1/100th of the cost, 8,000 times the capacity and maybe 1/25th the size.

    It’s playing with tech with my kids that really brings home how advanced they are and how I am increasingly struggling to keep up. They will marvel at how we used to get my with computers whose capacity was measured in kilobytes, or how we used to listen to music on vinyl or cassettes.

    I wrote a short series looking back fondly at analogue audio technologies and mourning their passing, prompted by a fantastic image I saw of a cassette tape and a pencil. I understand why these two items went together – my kids won’t. I’ve included a link here …

    http://slouchingtowardsthatcham.com/2011/09/19/analogue-audio-memories-part-1-vinyl-records/

  2. April 23, 2012 3:54 pm

    The dismissal of all those wonderful machines which gave such joy and expansion to the older generations is sad and inevitable, but not as sad as the effect technology can also have on the younger generations. Just back from Ashbury Primary and their French class, I find your piece while I am still reeling from today’s experience. When asked to work out the English translation of the 12 months listed in French and in disorder, the children rushed to the computers and dictionnaries : no one sat down and tried to see whether, a vue d’oeil, there was any connection between the English words they know and the French ones they don’t know. When I asked to close computers and dictionnaries, and suggested there could be a third means of discovery, after the initial aghast moment one child did come up with the word “brains”. They actually got the answers far quicker than they would have with the other props. I was appalled at the reaction, and very concerned that most chidren, if not also the adults, rely far too much on technology, leaving their memory unused and their brains to rot.
    Yours frustrated.

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