Technological Losses Add Up: Curmudgeon at Full Tilt (corrected)
I did some late-night shopping at King Soopers, thinking it would be an opportune time, since no one else would be there. I stupidly assumed a checker would be there, though. I was wrong. The wonderful automated checkout machines were the only thing open. I had a full cart and the robot wasn't up for it. I drank an organic fruit drink during shopping. I scanned it and threw out the bottle. The robot didn't like that. "Please put the item in the bag," it insisted. Right, you mindless moron. I asked the attendant, but he was utterly clueless as to how to face this emergency. So, I took the empty bottle out and put in the bag. I guess that registered or the assistant ended up doing something. I won't bore you with more problems that ensued, but here is the point. Numerous new technologies rob us of functions better performed by their predecessors (or by mere humans). A regular checker (even the dimmest ones) can understand the idea of an empty bottle. Robots cannot. Consider other losses:
1. Cassettes are superior to CDs for listening to lectures. You simply stop them when you are done and they remain where they were--a determinate spot on the tape. Not so for CDs, unless you keep them in the player. Moreover, most CDs do not have individual tracks for lectures. Thus, you cannot stop where you are to continue.
2. Old VCR machines are simpler than DVDs. Moreover--like the cassette--you can simply stop the video where you are, take it out, and put it back in at exactly the same place later. Not so DVDs.
3. My first printer for my first computer (A Kay Pro, a dinosaur if there was one--and still in my basement) was essentially a typewriter, which typed about 80 words a minute. The quality of the type was impeccable. Yes, it was slower and had only one kind of type. But so what?
4. Many automobile cassette players do not have the old fashioned fast forward and reverse. No, too simple for the Jetsons (yes, I watched cartoons as a benighted youth way back in the last century). We are now graced with an automated function--these things are killing us--that finds the next song or the previous one. This is terrific, except when you want to fast forward or rewind a lecture tape. Then, it does no good at all; and you must find an older, primitive cassette player to actually do the job.
5. Lapel mics work just fine, thank you. But now I sometimes--not too much yet, thank goodness--have to don a bizarre, tormenting device that hooks around your ear and juts out in front of your face (sometimes called a "Madonna mic"). I don't want to wear anything having anything remotely to do with Madonna. And what is the point? I already have my hands free with a lapel mic. Nor do I want to look like a football coach or a jet pilot.
6. Older cars--such as our 1976 Gremlin--had no computers. Thus, they were simpler and easier to fix. Not so for our 1994 Dodge Intrepid, which we ended up giving away in 2003, because its computer problems stumped the dealer and a "specialist." We sold the Gremlin for $300 in 2003.
7. I won't even comment on PowerPoint, since I am able to avoid it entirely when I teach (unless a church demands that my outline be "PowerPointed"--what an ugly word and ugly reality). See the on-line essay, "PowerPoint is evil."
8. Before automated voice messages, one could talk to a human and get information. Now, with endless menu options (which have all "recently changed," so you have sit through an exciting run-down of how the numbers relate to different categories of requests) you are doing well to get any information at all quickly. And consider the so-called "music" you have to listen to while you wait! It is usually right up there with water boarding.
9. Land phone lines sound much better than cell phone connection and land phones sound better than cordless phones.
One can go on. But tell me your stories. Go ahead: rage at the machine.