It’s been months since I’ve blogged and it’s not necessarily because I’ve had nothing to write about, but more so because I felt that I’ve had nothing original to contribute. I’ve got plenty of rants I could jot down regarding politics or healthcare but, seriously, who wants to hear one more person’s opinion on that? So, I think I’ll write about something that’s been on my mind for quite a while now; I don’t think a day goes by that I don’t comment about this particular topic and yet, despite its relative unimportance to issues like the environment or terrorism, it does seem to be something that’s difficult to ignore in today’s culture.
It feels like technology is moving backwards.
Our society is filled with smart phones, touch-screens, fast passes, easy-pay systems, online banking, keyless entries, wifi, fiber optics and all sorts of technological advancements that are supposed to make our lives easier; and yet simple tasks seem to take longer than ever.
With each new iOS upgrade on my iPhone, I experience noticeably annoying bugs: there is a serious problem with screen rotation (either a delay or it doesn’t work at all), the space bar often disappears on the landscape mode keypad, my ringtone and/or vibrate randomly doesn’t work at times, and apps constantly crash. I have considered switching to Android, but hear similar complaints from owners of droid phones.
I own a Mid 2012 MacBook Pro, 2.9 GHz with an Intel Core i7 and 16 GB of DDR3 RAM and a 750 GB hard drive. Sure, it’s not brand new, but it’s a pretty solid laptop with an excellent processor, plenty of memory, lots of available hard drive space and I try to keep it well maintained. Despite my best efforts, I experience more and more problems with each update of OSX. Two years ago, I would have boldly stated “My MacBook does not crash!”, yet that is no longer the case. I am sure Apple would blame my “aging” hardware, but it seems too coincidental that there is a remarkable correlation between my OS updates and rise in crashes.
I recently borrowed a Windows laptop to teach a software class and when I saw the Windows 8 logo appear on boot, my immediate feeling of dread was quickly confirmed after just a few hours of use. I found the interface to be not only non-intuitive, but absolutely non-sensical. From the cluttered application list to the incredibly slow search function to the illogically renamed control panel that makes it impossible to find anything. Windows 8 was labeled Microsoft’s “biggest, boldest redesign” and to that, I would agree wholeheartedly. However, a redesign does not equal a better design.
On the web, I see a whole lot of redesigns seemingly using the same logic (or lack thereof) as Windows 8. Every day I seem to encounter sites, both large and small, still shiny from their recent re-launch yet providing a subpar user experience; the result of either a poorly designed UI, slow load times, broken links, or (and I experience this the most often) severe deficiencies/bugs when using on tablet or cell. At the other end of the website spectrum are the surprising number of never-redesigned websites, still sitting in their circa 2000 states, completely inaccessible via mobile device and virtually unusable on desktop/laptop.
I recently tried to register for a puppy obedience class. The company, small and independently owned, has a basic informational website with contact information. Based on the design and a quick look at the source code, I could see the website was designed using GoDaddy’s Website Tonight and I would guesstimate the original build happened at least 10 years ago. Visually, the mobile experience wasn’t great, but I was able to access the information I needed so I was satisfied; however when I tried to register for a class, I received a server error. I tried again and received the same error. Frustrated, I called the company, not once but twice before I finally received a return phone call and was able to register.
Similarly, I recently contacted a new chiropractor via his website and had a comparable experience. The difference, however, was that his website was recently redesigned, offering a friendly UI, attractive graphics, and pleasant mobile experience. Still, though, when I clicked the submit button, I received an error.
I am not just experiencing these frustrations on small websites. I recently decided to take a hiatus from Facebook so I disabled my account. A few days later, when I tried to log into my Spotify Premium account, I was reminded that, since it was linked to my Facebook account, I could no longer access it. After a lot of searching, I found one FAQ that told me that the only workaround would be to contact Spotify directly to change my account to an email-based account and then have them transfer over my playlists. I filled out the only form I could find on the Spotify website and now, several days later, have not heard back. That seems pretty unacceptable to me seeing as I am paying for the Spotify service; it also seems like a pretty convoluted way to switch my account credentials. Tired of waiting, I went ahead and did the following:
- I re-activated my Facebook account
- I logged into Spotify using my original account
- I canceled my account
- I de-activated Facebook (again)
- I created a new Spotify Premium account
- I began creating all new playlists because I lost all of the ones I had
The list goes on.
Why, in 2015, do I experience more dropped cellphone calls than I have in the past 10 years? I haven’t switched carriers.
Why, in 2015, do I suddenly have problems with my fiber optic cable tv? Again, I haven’t switched carriers and yet certain channels often appear with wavy lines across them, even on my large LCD HDTV.
Why, in 2015, do I have to wait 7-10 business days for a new debit card after a security breach at my bank? Isn’t there technology to allow them to create a new card in-house?
The 19th century gave us steam engines, railroads, the telegraph, the light bulb, the internal combustion engine, sanitation, the automobile and the birth of science fiction. During the 20th century came airplanes, semiconductors, personal computers, the internet, smartphones, genetic engineering and green technologies.
Now here we are in the 21st century and what have we contributed? We are a society of bug fixers and feature enhancers (or maybe they are the same thing). Has anything been developed? discovered? cured? Or are we just latched on to the achievements of those gone before us, convinced we can make enhancements rather than create something original and meaningful.
If technology is heading backwards and we, as an “advanced” society, have passed our peak, I sure wish someone would let me know so that I could ditch my iPhone with its $160/month plan package price and return to a sturdy little flip phone, where for $20/month I could just call and text. If online forms and websites aren’t going to work, it’s really all the technology I need anyway.
“We are stuck with technology when what we really want is just stuff that works.”
– Douglas Adams