There are days when I’m unimpressed by tech “advances.”

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.

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6 Comments

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6 responses to “There are days when I’m unimpressed by tech “advances.”

  1. Seems like it’s gotten altogether too easy to forget that these technological “wonders” are merely tools. They’re not our brains, dammit! And the more we depend on new (or old) technology to solve our questions, problems and wonderings, the less our brilliant brains have opportunities to do what they have so excellently evolved to do.

    • I think people are getting more and more mentally lazy as time goes on. I’ve had the experience a number of times of telling people to meet me at a given trail head, only to have them ask me what the street address is. 🙄 For some reason, they can’t grasp a) it doesn’t have one; b) directions consisting of “it’s 5 miles past Tupper Lake on Route 3, on the right hand side” is as good as they’re going to get. Hey, I’m sorry that you can’t read a map or follow written/verbal directions, but that’s the way things are.

  2. As an early user of the MapQuest services, I let them get me hopelessly lost one time. I say “let them” because I was too lazy to look up the directions on a hard copy map to make sure that they matched reality. Since then, I always cross check the directions and the map via another means.

    I am sure that they are more reliable now (10 years later) but I have a long memory for FAIL.

    I cannot imagine trusting a GPS device to tell me where I need to turn.

    • From friends who have them, they’re apparently very good at giving you directions inside a city or between cities. If I had to go to NYC, the odds are high that a vehicle GPS would get me to the right address. Where they fail is when you start getting out into rural areas. Although the GPS manufacturers are adding things all the time, the reality is that those areas are not a high priority for them. Now, in the woods, the handheld units work pretty well as a “super compass.” They tell you where your present coordinates are, and are pretty nice when you’re beating through the woods to get to another point. I can still do it the “old-fashioned way,” (map & compass), but I really like being able to just glance at a display and go. That doesn’t mean that I don’t double-check everything first, and I still have the map and compass. 😉

  3. /sarcasm on
    but……..but……but, it makes it easier…………..
    /sarcasm off

    Guess I’m too old fashioned. If it ain’t broke (in this case a paper road map), don’t fix it. 🙂

    • Or at least check with the paper map! I knew they were in trouble when they called me on their cell – there are almost no places within half-an-hour of me where you can get cell service. Even then, I had to pull up a map to figure out where they were. 😆 The minute he said “I just went through Ticonderoga” I knew he was in trouble. While you can get here from there, it’s a long trip. Turned out that the GPS sent him 3 exits beyond where he should have gotten off, and while that was bad, it would have been correctable if it had told him to turn left off the exit instead of right. 🙄