Sunday, 25 September 2011

Prophet misguided.

My next technological purchase is in the planning stage.  I'm sharing this information with you as a community service.  I have a bad track record when it comes to choosing technology.  History shows me leaping onto new technology that ends up occupying a sliver a time between the old technology and the Next Thing to be Omnipresent.  So, I'm sharing information about what I want to buy as a warning of change to come.

If I had been financially independent when the Betamax vs. VHS wars were on, you can bet that I would have gone Beta.  I read the stuff.  I talk to my friends.  I make a decision, and then suddenly I'm the only person in the world holding that technology.

I bought a double cassette player just as the world switched to CDs.

I bought a mini disc player and recorder.  I loved the mini disc.  So small.  So light.  So portable.  So pretty.  So redundant!  Not only that, I had time to buy a new stereo which has five CD capacity AND 5 mini disc capacity!  How handy!  Let's not forget that in the history of music only about five artists in the world released recordings on mini disc format.  The attraction was the re-recordable disc, the excellent sound quality and stability on the go;  unlike portable CD players, mini discs didn't skip even if you did.  I had a couple of friends who had mini discs and they made an excellent platform for sharing music.  I think I may be the only person in the world with this particular model of stereo system.

I bought an Advanced Photo System camera.  This was the one that produced no negatives and you could change the finished format of the photo and take panoramic shots. Can't remember beyond that, but it seemed like a good idea at the time.

In both the case of the camera and the mini disc player, the world changed about five minutes after both purchases.  In the case of music it was the ipod and MP3 music format and photography went digital and I was left holding obsolete technology and paying a fortune to have my photos developed.

So here I sit thinking about whether it's time to upgrade my computer, or perhaps buy a big external hard drive and invest in an ipad and finally get an ipod to store and carry my enormous music collection.  This probably means that these items will soon be redundant.

 I even had an "electronic" typewriter.  It could store in memory a whole line of words, allowing you to edit and correct errors before printing the line of text.  Sounds like a good idea, but actually it really slowed down the writing.  I've always thought that writing and editting are two different processes which should be kept separate.  Writing is a creative, right brained activity and editting is an analytical, left brained activity.  Why would you want to do them at the same time?  I should add that computers seemed like overkill when all you wanted to do was type stuff.  Computers were for geeks!

As I told my story of technological misfortune to a friend who found the whole thing hilarious, his reaction to the consideration of the external hard drive was "what about the cloud?"  I worry about the cloud.  What if it rains?  Can't it be hacked?  Can't everything be hacked?  I think I'll rely on the cloud the day that Centrelink or the Tax Office puts everything there.  That would mean it's definitely secure, right?  Department of Defence?  I suppose my 1 terrabyte will therefore soon be on the pile of non-recyclable e waste.

On the music front, initially I was thinking ipod Touch, but now I'm thinking ipod Classic because of its huge storage capacity.  I know Apple is making a big announcement soon.  I'm delaying making my purchases until after that, but now you know, you heard it here first - ipods will soon be passe!

Give me the old technologies that have survived over centuries - pencils, paper, books, scissors, knitting needles, fire, the wheel.  It's incredible that simple things like these are still pretty much the same as they ever were.  The materials may have changed, but essentially a pencil is still a pencil; paper is still paper (the last big innovation was probably the post-it note - wish I had thought of that!).

And what about the book!  (My favourite author) Jane Smiley describes the book in chapter two of her book "13 Ways of Looking at the Novel":  "As an object, it is user-friendly and routine, a mature technological form, hard to improve upon and easy to like."  As usual, JS has nailed it.

I have an e-book reader (Sony - a gift from a friend).  I was sceptical at first, but the built in dictionary and customisable font size sold me, as well as the ability to pack dozens of books for holiday reading without leaving me to choose between my toothbrush and a clean pair of knickers to fill the rest of the available baggage allowance. I still have so many actual books to read though, I spend about 25% of my reading time in the electronic format.  I won't be getting into wee books.  They've used a sans serif font which makes it very hard to read.  That declaration probably means that they're here to stay and will become the dominant form of the non-e book.  Sorry!


  1. I even bought a zip drive. That was useful for about 20 seconds. I still have stuff saved on zip disks. But don't have anything to play them on. I too had a mini disc and an APS camera. Got some excellent panoramic shots.
    I now wait to see what my brother is into. He is an early adapter, but seems to make the right choices. I let him do the research and make the decisions, and then copy.

  2. I'm not alone! Can you speak to your brother in the next week and let him know what I'm contemplating? See what he knows?
    The zip drive passed me by. Thankfully.