Tuesday, February 5, 2008

A Tepid Taste for Technology

I have always been a little behind the times when it comes to accepting new forms of technology. After all, I’d barely mastered the computer before the Internet suddenly became a staple of our lives. And without any sense of vision on my part, I never thought the World Wide Web “fad” would actually catch on. How wrong I was.

I was much the same way when it came to purchasing a cell phone. For years, I was convinced I didn’t need one, and would never fall victim to this new fangled contraption. But of course, my job soon made the purchase a necessity, because without a cell phone you really don’t exist in the business world. Or anywhere, for that matter. (My ten-year-old niece even has a cell phone, though I can’t even imagine who she might need to call on a regular basis. The Hannah Montana hotline?)

My point is, when did technology become so accelerated that tomorrow’s discovery is already yesterday’s news? How fast do you have to be to actually stay ahead of the curve? Or is that even possible any more?

The reason I bring this up is because I recently needed some accessories for my Sony HD camera, but was having difficulty finding my model number listed on the Sony website. So I called their Customer Service Hotline for assistance, only to discover my camera was already considered an “older model” and therefore no longer listed on the main site.

“It’s not an older model,” I said. “I just bought it last year.”

“Here at Sony, the technology changes so fast,” the Customer Service Rep said with a giggle. “Even if your camera is a year old, it’s already been updated and enhanced so many times by newer versions, that it now falls under the older model classification.”

“Stop calling it old,” I practically yelled. “I bought it last year when it was supposedly the hottest camera on the market. And now you’re telling me that within the space of a year it’s already become obsolete?”

“No. But a year is like a decade at Sony,” the female rep offered. “We’re always on the cutting edge of innovation, so what’s new today is already old by tomorrow.”

I was shocked. Did that mean that every piece of technology I owned is already considered an antique? Could the iPod I bought six months ago already be eligible for Social Security? Maybe I should try and get on a show like “Cash in the Attic” or “Antique Roadshow” to discover just how much these popular relics might fetch in the modern marketplace. (I’m thinking not much.)

Technology has gotten so advanced that the evolution of a product from First Release to Tenth might happen within the space of a month rather than several years. The need to somehow “top” the last version with a whole new set of “bells and whistles” is enough to drive the average consumer crazy. (Or at least me.) How can we possibly hope to keep up? And why do we need to? Is it really necessary for me to see a movie in such crystal clear digitalization that I can spot a nose hair growing out of Jack Nicholson’s nostril? I think not.

(And don’t even get me started on the whole BlueRay BS. I have no desire to purchase one of those, because I know in two years it will be replaced by something even better. And I am not about to start my DVD collection all over again in another format. I already made the expensive transition from VHS to DVD, and I won’t be suckered into that again.)

Manufacturers are supposed to be reliable when it comes to replacing parts for all their models, especially if those products are released within the last five or ten years. But now products are developing so quickly and advancing so rapidly, manufacturers no longer see products as long-term purchases. So the support we once counted on might also become a thing of the past.

As for getting the parts I need for my camera, perhaps I’ll check the local “Big Lots Close-Out Warehouse” to see if any of the accessories have reached the bargain bin yet. Or maybe I should search eBay under “limited editions” or “rare collectibles.” Yet no matter what I do, I know it's not a long-term solution, as my camera’s life expectancy seems to be shortening by the day. By next month, I'll probably have to start searching for its cemetery plot.

But that’s just me. What’s your take on technology?

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