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I Love Technology, and I Hate Technology


I have a love/hate relationship with technology. I love it when it works. I hate it when it doesn't work. I also hate the fact that the people who create products throw away perfectly good technologies that have been refined over decades of incremental improvements and replace them with technologies that don't work as well. Then, after the new technology has been refined over decades, they throw it away and start over. Why? Just because they can.

A 4-Head VCR One example is the VCR. It just works. So, of course companies stopped making VCR's and substituted DVR's. DVR's don't even have timers that let the user record a certain TV station at a certain time on a certain day. Instead, DVR's use the Electronic Programming Guide to record shows in advance. The problem is that many over-the-air EPG's only cover as little as the next four hours. If you want an EPG that covers the next week or two, you have to pay a fee--a high fee, in my opinion, for what you get. So, companies dumped their VCR production lines to make DVR's that cost us more money and often don't work without an internet connection. What do people do who don't want to pay for an internet connection just to record OTA TV? I'll tell you, they go to a thrift store and buy a used VCR!

Another example is the older computer operating systems that did what we wanted, when we wanted. When I told DOS to do something, it did it. When I tell Windows to do something, I often get a message telling me that it has to update itself first--for the next hour or more! I hate the attitude of the designers of new operating systems who think the user's priority should be lower than the operating system's priority. I know whether I want to update my operating system. I don't want it to just start updating without asking me. And, I certainly don't want it to prevent me from using my computer until its done. I hate having an operating system that thinks it owns the computer that I paid for!

Another example is that we used to be able to buy, cancel, and reschedule airline flight reservations over the phone. Today, after ten minutes on hold, I was talking to a representative of a major airline, because they had rescheduled my flight without asking me. I'll call them "Noname Airlines", because I don't feel like possibly being sued. I told the person to cancel my flight and refund my money. She told me she couldn't do that by phone. I had to do that through the internet, and they had a procedure I would have to follow. Seriously? How much more of my time can you waste, lady?

I know this stupidity has everything to do with the mentalities of corporate executives and little to do with the needs of the users of technology. As evidence, I point to Steve Jobs, one of the only technical managers on the planet who actually cared whether the customer had a good experience with the company's products and had enough power to make sure that happened. When the board of directors fired him, Apple started going down the drain. I was paying attention, because I owned Apple stock during those years. Then, after Apple nearly went bankrupt in 1997, the board of directors hired Steve Jobs back, and he took the company to a value of around one trillion dollars. Then, he died. A few years later everyone started complaining about how many problems they were having with their Apple computers. Apparently, Apple couldn't even make a keyboard that worked any more!

Part of the problem is that we don't insist that companies provide us with what we're paying for. When I pay for an airline reservation, Noname Airlines doesn't see that as a reservation, they see it as something they can reschedule whenever they want without asking my permission. They don't apologize, most likely because they don't feel they have done anything wrong. Had I allowed Noname Airlines to do that to me--for the second time in a row, by the way--and had every other customer done the same, Noname would have continued to think they were doing nothing wrong. They would have continued treating their customers that way. I know that one person won't change the way Noname Airlines does business. It will take a lot of people canceling their rescheduled flights.

So, people, stop putting up with poor service and shoddy products. Drive these lousy companies out of business, so we can get back to buying from companies that give their customers what they're paying for.



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