Sat 22 Aug 2009

Old problems, old solutions

I'm sorting through piles and piles of old stuff in England, dating back ten years or more. One thing that I keep noticing is how many problems and solutions were simply momentary technical obstacles:

  • I found a Post-It of things to work on, including “WAP mail checker”. Doesn't that seem out of date? Now we just check our mail directly on our phones.
  • I have a pile of (both opened and unopened) MiniDiscs, as well as their labels. Same goes for floppy discs and CD-Rs. Now we can get 8GB USB keys and flash cards for a few dollars, and almost everything is networked anyway. Who needs MiniDiscs now?
  • I'm throwing away a big plastic USB and power cradle for my Sony-Ericsson P800. Half the phones sold today have a mini-USB jack, or sync over the air.
  • Certain to go is my ancient stereo… with its twin cassette deck (synchro start! high-speed editing! full auto stop!) and my 5-CD changer with programmability and “Disc Ex-change System”. A potted history of peoples use of cassettes and CDs. Nobody copies tapes anymore.
  • Here's a car cassette adaptor. I still use one today, but I hope to avoid it in my next car….

A recurring theme is the elimination of problems by turning everything into a little computer. We listen to music on computers (whether we know it or not); our phones are computers; our car stereos are computers, with USB connections and complex interfaces.

What technologies do we use today without thinking about their transience? Is all iterative technology development the job of spotting new tools and applying them to old problems?

Posted at 2009-08-22 14:30:00 by Richard NewmanLink to Old problems, old …