Sunday, February 14, 2010

Computer Crash Brings Home the Drawbacks of Depending on Technology

For the last few weeks, Boswellian Amie's mantra has been, "You need a new laptop. You need a new laptop."

My response was, "Why? Because there are all these strange lines running across my screen? Because pieces of it seem to be popping out of the case? Because it takes about ten minutes to do anything? Because it's more than a year old*?"

Well, it crashed, and at the perfect time, shortly before our local Milwaukee PC closed, at 4 PM on Saturday. Oh, and did you hear? It's President's Day weekend (we don't keep track of these kinds of holidays, but thanks again for all your help, George and Abe) and I'm likely not able to get things going on a new laptop till well into next week. So off we went to a chain retailer and picked out a model. And yes, I bought the accidental damage protection, and if you know me, you know why.

Since I had just attended Winter Institute, where we spent a lot of time discussing new technologies, e books, print-on-demand, and so forth, I've already in the mood to think about the planned obsolescence of technology.

Isn't it great the financial and industrial powers that be want to take one of the few things you do in life that doesn't depend on technology** (reading) and adapt it to a reader that will likely break, slow down, get a virus, and be your crappy old reader in three years that you absolutely, positively have to chuck for a new model? If all goes well, maybe you won't even be able to read your old books on your new reader. And if you don't believe that, there are some Sony E-books, 1990's style, that are rotting away in the basement of the Iron Block building in downtown Milwaukee that have your name on them.

In addition to the slower adoption of this technology than predicted, it's my thought after this whirlwind weekend of rewiring, that even folks who stock up on Kindles and Nooks and Sony's will be more likely to jump back and forth between the virtual and the actual than folks who jumped from vinyl to tape to CD to IPod. If nothing else, you might want to keep a few around for when your reader dies on a holiday weekend.

*It's much older than that, but its actual model year is unknown because it was a hand-me-down that I received in 2007. I suspect it was four years old.

**Yes, I know it takes technology to make a book.

Postscript--you're probably wondering how much I lost. Well, I actually put a lot of files on a travel stick about a week before I left. Now if I could only find the stick! I know that most ebook technologies today use the cloud--so you really don't have any files to lose. They are all with your technological partner. But that brings its own questions, doesn't it?


E Benoit said...

This is a very real complaint, and from my perspective it will keep me working. For a while I've been highlighting the need to think of format obsolescence when digitizing collections for libraries, archives and museums. When dealing with moving image formats, for example, I recently came across a rare home recording (like a VCR) format made by Polaroid in the 1970s that is nearly unusable now.

Rebecca said...


Daniel Goldin said...

Addendum: I found the stick.