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RUSSELL WANGERSKY: Changing technology is fine — but only if the changes make sense

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Dear technology whiz kids: thank you all so very much for fixing that thing that wasn’t broken.

I know that this thank you doesn’t seem very sincere. That’s because it wasn’t.

I’m the first to admit that, in terms of technology, I’m not a rapid adopter.

I still had a flip phone long after smart phones were everywhere. Every time my newspaper changes to a new system to write, edit and share news stories, a part of my crusty core mutters “What was so wrong with hot lead printing?” (Well, lots of things, really, but that’s not the point.)

I suspect I am not alone in this. I call myself a Luddite, but in fact, I quite like what technology has done with the journalism business — my reach for research materials, right from my desk, has never been so great. My ability to file columns from absolutely anywhere, photos included, is unmatched.

What I don’t like is technological change for stupid reasons, or for change’s sake.

I imagine that out there in the tech world, there are scores of jobs that depend on a constant rollover of every scrap of technology or software that currently exists: “Let’s make it smaller — bigger — wider— narrower — foldable!” the hardware techs cry. “Let’s add new features and a pop-up ‘New Features’ pane that won’t load properly, can’t be closed and eventually has to be shut down using force quit!” the software makers whisper.

I wonder how much productivity is lost every time systems turn over with new codes, new “functionalities” and, oh yes, orange where there has always been blue before.

All I want is the option from platform makers to stay with what I use regularly and am comfortable with. (Social media seems adept at introducing new things you don’t want while simultaneously removing useful things you’ve depended on.)

I want to open a file and write, and I don’t need to choose from 120 possible layout forms to do it.

Just a blank page.

And it’s not just software, either.

I suspect I am not alone in this. I call myself a Luddite, but in fact, I quite like what technology has done with the journalism business — my reach for research materials, right from my desk, has never been so great. My ability to file columns from absolutely anywhere, photos included, is unmatched. What I don’t like is technological change for stupid reasons, or for change’s sake.

I used to have a printer that, well, printed. That’s all it did. Dependably, constantly, repeatedly. Its cartridges weren’t ruinously expensive, either. That little sucker pounded out thousands upon thousands of pages of books and articles as if its little Pixma heart depended on it.

Then it up and died.

Now, I have a printer/scanner/photocopier that has expensive ink cartridges, and requires a seven-step realignment process with every cartridge replacement that involves printing a test sheet, and then scanning it back into itself like a printer version of Ouroboros. Something always goes wrong, and I have countless alignment sheets scattered about as the hapless machine wastes ink and paper doing its best to perform a function I can’t stop and that I don’t give a damn about. The printer’s hardwired to my computer, yet regularly I get the onscreen message “No printer detected.” I yell, “Well, you’re not looking very hard then,” but it doesn’t seem to make much of a difference.

When I have an idea, I want to get it down, whether that means a note book, a note on my phone, or even a quick email to myself.

I don’t really want a lot of choices — and here’s a crucial point: nor do I want to spend a heck of a lot of time trying to learn about how to delete functions I didn’t want in the first place and didn’t ask for.

First world problems, right?

I can embrace change, if I like it and it makes sense.

Now, I’m steamed up. Maybe I’ll watch a bit of TV: oh wait, “Smart Hub is updating.” For no particular reason.

Grrrr.

Russell Wangersky’s column appears in 36 SaltWire newspapers and websites in Atlantic Canada. He can be reached at russell.wangersky@thetelegram.com — Twitter: @wangersky.


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