As I’ve grown older, one of the things I try to avoid is the “it was better back in the day” griping. It isn’t always easy, but if I’m honest with myself, I’ll admit that the reality of the past was not as good as what I “remember. ” But having been around a while sometimes gives me a perspective when it comes to the breathless announcements of something “new and exciting!” Yes, you’ll see a company announce something, and paint it as a completely new idea they just came up with which is going to change the world – or their bottom line. Except that I quite distinctly remember the same thing a decade or two earlier. I had this same experience when I saw Google announce that they have offline GMail and Google Docs.
Yes, they’re really excited that you can:
Gmail Offline is a Chrome Web Store app that’s intended for situations when you need to read, respond to, organize and archive email without an internet connection
Breathless excitement on their part! Oooh, look! Personally, I’m yawning. Why? Because I’ve been able to do that for a couple of decades now. The same thing for the calendar function they’re rolling out. That used to be the norm for e-mail. I could go on-line, download my e-mail, and then sit happily disconnected while I read it, composed a response, or archived it off to a folder or saved it to a text file. If I wanted to, I could even leave the e-mail there on the e-mail account for later access. I was doing that two decades ago, so I’m not terribly impressed that they’re doing it now for their web e-mail.
On another front regarding “advances” where I fail to be impressed, are GPS navigation systems in cars. Earlier this summer, I had a meeting scheduled with someone at my workplace. A half-hour before the meeting, I got a phone call. They were wondering how to get to the office from the point they were at. Which was about 70 miles away, heading in the wrong direction. They’d programmed in the address, and it had directed them to the wrong exit, put them on the wrong road, and now they were heading towards the Canadian border. Fortunately, I was able to juggle my schedule, and they had a nice tour of the towns of the Eastern Adirondacks. But it highlights two of the problems: the “navigation system” are only as good as the people making the maps used in them; and people tend to trust them and blindly follow the directions. I happen to think GPS techology is dandy, because I use it, just not in my car. I don’t “blindly” trust it, I make sure the unit “knows” where I’m going from a map, and I carry a map and compass along with me. That is, I’m looking at a map to see where I need to go, and telling the GPS that, not asking the GPS to find the route for me.
Examples like these, when they happen, are when I can start sounding like a grouchy old luddite. It’s not that I’m anti-technology, it’s that I’ve become harder to impress and I worry that people have forgotten some of the pitfalls of the technology. Sometimes, the “new, exciting!” stuff isn’t new, it’s just a “back to the future” moment. Sometimes the “new” technology shouldn’t be a replacement, but an addition. Either way, I’m not impressed.