The Curse of the New: Progress that is not

Thursday, March 21, 2013

Progress that Aint, Or how the new is not all that.

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Can the “new” be inferior?  Is it possible that progress can be little more than “wheel spinning?”  In a consumer culture where obsolescence is cured by consumption, the drive for the new may obscure a reality that simply moving forward is not progress.
Without running the fear of being a luddite, there could be some merit to skepticism when something new arises.
Given as a birthday present, my Gateway laptop model MX3228 served me well over the course of several years.  The device ran without fail. As new operating systems arose, and faster processors arrived, the laptop was confined to home duty.  It was  replaced by a full featured netbook slash laptop.
The motivation for resuscitating interest in my Gateway came about when I ran into issues with my new mobile replacement.  For some inexplicable reason, my standard issue notebook, which was used daily, failed to boot up properly. .
Taking a computer in for repair is always a last resort.  With ailing computer in hand, I walked into a office supply store that offered computer repair.
The cost was $ 165.00 for the repairs, and more, if a new hard drive was needed.  I had a strong feeling that repairs amounted to little more than taking out an old hard drive and putting a new one in its place and charging for a diagnostic test that would be superfluous. .
Being that my finances were slim, and my paycheck a week off, I decided to simply move on without leaving my precious data behind.
What complicated matters was that my new laptop slash netbook was without an optical drive.  Whatever boot disks I had were rendered useless. I attempted to make one by transferring data to a usb drive.  As I learned, that would not work.
In order to make a bootable usb, I would need to format it.
After spending the better part of an afternoon of doing what I could do, my homemade usb drive booted my computer up without issue.
Once I had my laptop slash netbook restored, I started to look at my older laptop with some interest. What if my current laptop died and could not be brought back to life?
To be without your own pc is not a solution.  Necessity became the mother of invention.  However, this made me ponder. As I looked at my old pc, I decided to see if it would be a solid backup.
The operating system on my pc was Windows XP.  Running the latest software was not an answer.  Having had some old programs on hand, I loaded them on to my system.   Running nearly ancient versions of Word, version 94, and an old version of Act, before Sage bought them out, my old sofware ran well.
Much to my surprise, my latest versions of one program did not install correctly. It was not usable. Ironically, the much older version installed without issue. It also ran much faster.
This whole episode made we wonder just what are we getting with new software. Are we getting newer but not better?
Sure, we are getting prettier interfaces, and a slew of features. On the downside, bloated programs are slower computing. solution.
The relevance of this to a larger picture becomes clear when you realize we live in a society driven by obsolescence.  As soon as piece of software, hardware or device is displayed, the feverishly conceived replacement is in the works.  This idea of innovation being a constant has been played out with CPU’s offering little to make upgrades necessary. It appears for now the idea of process strenght doubling or tripling year after year is over.
The old maxim that processor speed will incrementally improve over a period of time is being proven to be inaccurate.
Removing the need to have the latest and greatest, coupled with an economic down swing that slows down the acquisition of the new, sales are stagnant for new desk top computer.
It is no wonder why.
Insted of responding with powerful lower priced portable units, makers are doing the opposite.  Without naming names, the price points for higher end topping $ 800.00 to $ 1,000.00 and up, it is little wonder that sales are sluggish.  Even the popular mobile phones are seeing a slight drop that sees the powerful the expensive moving at a slower pace.
From pricing to operating systems what the public wants they are not getting.  Rather than listening to the consumer decisions are made in corporate headquarters far removed from economic reality.  I am certain most C.E.O’s of large international companies do not have to make hard core decisons like do I eat this week or do I make a car payment.  Do I rob Peter to pay Paul does not figure into the world of corporate jets and presidential suites.
The lack of response to the needs of the public versus what companies are pushing flies in the face of capitalism where supply fuels demand.  Here, it is the other way around.  Companies create demand and force consumers to either put up or shut up, pure and simple.
Models where companies asked consumers what they wanted seems ito be over.  How it escapes corporate America that our currently stalled economy merged with high priced portable systems and the lack of powerful desktops is not the answer.
For the first time in my life I am perfectly content with last years processor.  The new core i 7 I had from last year is still valid.  My windows 7 will remain untouched.  As for portable systems, my nearly one year old Lenovo is still working.  My venerable Gateway is going strong and still looks good.
So much for progress that “aint.”

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