Monday, April 30, 2012

I Don't Want a New One!

For sure, the digital age continues to provide a panoply of devices and services that would have been looked at as magical only a decade or two ago. We have smart phones with more computing power than the original space shuttle. We drive cars that not only can park themselves but can find the nearest parking lot. Using the Internet we can talk to and see family members as clearly as if they were in the next room when they are actually half a world away. Yes, we have grown to rely on technology for most every thing we do.

One less-than-positive byproduct of this explosion in technology is how quickly the products and services become obsolete. There are four words that send chills up my spine when talking to a tech sales person. “We no longer support …” You can fill in the blank. It might be a mobile phone, a laptop, a GPS or even a coffee maker. So we end up replacing a perfectly good device, perhaps with fewer features than a newer model, because the manufacturer feels that we need a new model.

Recently I convinced my wife that she would really be better served with a Mac instead of a PC. She is quite computer literate and had been using a PC for many years. Once we had the new machine we quickly found out that some of the peripherals that we have been using with the PC were “no longer supported.” So a perfectly good laser printer had to be replaced. In business the cost of keeping up with the changing technological landscape can be expensive.

In my business, broadcasting, our equipment has always been very expensive but with good maintenance the devices could be used for ten or more years. There were always newer models with advanced whistles and bells but you were not forced to buy a new model until the old model was failing. Today it is not uncommon to be required to replace equipment after only three or four years, not because it does not work, but because parts or software support has been discontinued.

When the phone company introduced touch tone dialing they did not make the customer ditch the dial phone. When color came to TV all black and white sets were not rendered useless. “Backward Compatibility,” once the hallmark of technology innovation has been abandoned. I am all for advances in technology, but my sock drawer is filling up with stuff that is “no longer supported.”
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