Technology. Specifically, digital technology. Isn’t it wonderful? Not!
Obsolescence (we’ve another one planned for next year). Firmware “upgrades” (it wasn’t working right when you bought it but now we’ve fixed it). Malfunctions (it’s not supposed to do that, must be an undocumented glitch). Component failures (not our fault). Increasing complexity (look, there’s all these extra features that you’ll never use). Power failures (you’ve killed the battery by… er… charging it). Incomprehensible manuals (we couldn’t find a literate translator). Lack of standardisation (we like to be different even though it’s more hassle for you). Non-intuitive interfaces (well, the designers thought it was stylish). The list is practically endless.
Whatever happened to the good old days (pre-digital) when you’d buy a bit of kit and, apart from very simple and basic maintenance (clout it with a hammer if it starts playing up) you’d have it for life without needing to constantly nursemaid it. Doing what it’s supposed to do. No fuss, no hassle. And you could sus out how it worked just by fiddling with it a bit.
Now I tend to have one of those notorious “love/hate relationships” with all this digital stuff. It appeals to the gadget-freak in me and, I have to admit, it does occasionally make certain tasks easier and quicker. Plus it opens up whole new areas and disciplines that, to someone transported forward in time by a century or so, would appear to be, in the words of a mate, “dark magics”.
And let’s face it, if it weren’t for the digital era I wouldn’t be doing stuff like this blog for example. Or photography even! So it clearly has some things going for it. Ahem.
On the hate side, I get infuriated when things don’t work as they should. Or, perhaps more accurately, as I expect them to. Even more accurately, how all the marketing hype has led me to believe they’d work. And “user friendly” so often means “you won’t be able to fix it yourself when it goes wrong”… as it inevitably will.
I detest having to update stuff to a new version or whatever. Yeah, these “upgrades” may well be taking advantage of the latest innovations etc… but that’s a game without end. And what it basically resolves into is just paying out ever-increasing amounts of dosh. If not for the thing itself then for the things (inevitably digital) that work with it or are needed to make it work… or all those extra “must have” accessories.
Allied to which there’s generally some sort of additional learning curve involved as well. That I also detest. Once I’ve learned something I want it to stay learned… not get myself locked into a perpetual cycle of having to re-learn the basics every couple of years or so. I have far better things to do with my time.
Another thing that irritates me is the lack of standards. Example… I have five laptops (yeah, I know, I’m a sad git). Each with their own power adaptor. None of which are interchangeable. And even if they were, the plugs on the laptop side are all different! So if one of the power adaptors fails (as has occasionally happened) I can’t even press one of the others I have into temporary service cos it won’t bloody work with a different machine!
Same thing with mobile phones. Here’s another, and even more ridiculous, example… a few years back I had a Nokia mobile phone. Worked fine for a couple of years or so, then I started having battery problems with it. And other problems. So I replaced it… with a Samsung. And inevitably there’s a different power charger and a different sort of plug.
Then, not all that long ago, I acquired another Nokia phone. But guess what? Different charger to my original Nokia. And a completely different plug! From the same manufacturer!
Oh, I could go on and on… but I won’t. For what sparked this particular little topic was the sudden realisation that I actually have a favourite bit of digital kit. An absolute favourite… no qualification. And I never even knew it!
A bit of kit that I’m almost unaware of using… even when I’m using it! And I use it virtually every day. Not for long admittedly, but hardly a day passes without it being used at least once (and very often a lot more). It’s just there, ready to hand, and performs faultlessly. Every time. It’s become practically indispensible.
It’s never let me down. It’s never needed an “update”. Neither did I have to study a badly translated tome of a manual to find out how to use it. And it’s never even needed to be plugged in or have its battery recharged!
Er… well, that’s the thing y’see. The battery, or “power supply”. It’s one of them solar thingies. Gets its power from sunlight. Or any bright light for that matter.
Problem is, for the past few months I’ve been using it in a somewhat poorly lit environment. Which must have depleted its “reserve power” or whatever. My first hint that all’s not well with this little gadget is the LCD display. Not as crisp as it once was, and then sort of fades out after a few moments.
“Oh pooh!” thinks I, unquestioningly accepting that it had finally reached the end of its useful life. Cos I know these LCDs have a limited lifespan (which is yet another annoyance). And I’ve become far too accustomed to digital stuff just giving up the ghost.
But then, there I was, for once in a brightly lit environment and needing to use my little gadget, that just happened to be with me (hadn’t quite given up on it). And whaddya know? Soon as it sees the bright light the old LCD sparks into life, crisp as ever. And stays on until its job is done.
So it’s still my most favourite digital gadget. No qualification.
Want to know the best thing about it? It’s not new, or even newish. In fact, it’s quite old. Practically vintage. And I didn’t even have to buy it!
Bought for me it was. As a sort of spontaneous pressie or something equally strange. By a lady-friend of mine. Who, I much later discovered, had actually been a sort of secret admirer. And I never even knew! Not that it would have interested me much anyway cos at the time I was otherwise committed. But how absolutely typical of my luck. Finding things out too late to do anything about them, that is. Particularly where the fairer sex are concerned.
Anyway, this ’ere gift… bought for me back in the early 80s. 1983 or thereabouts I do believe. Which means that this indispensible digital gadget that’s still functioning (virtually) flawlessly is nearly 30 years old! That has to be some sort of whacking great WOW!
And if you hadn’t already guessed from the accompanying pics what this amazing piece of (digital) technological wizardry is… it’s a calculator! The Casio MC-801S Electronic Calculator to be precise. That possesses nifty little conversion functions for converting between various units of measurement (like Fahrenheit/Centigrade and vice versa, inches/centimetres and vice versa, and so on). You just don’t realise how incredibly useful a function like this is… until you need to do such a conversion.
Now battered around, crud-encrusted, scratched and fag-burned, but still in full working order. Best digital thingie I’ve ever owned.