We're Obsoletely Out of Control
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written by Josh:
One week ago, our fearless leader, editor in chief of these pages, Ron Cruger, wrote about his changing world. Post offices closing, checks disappearing, you know (read his column if you didnít last week).
There aren't too many things that make me sit back and think Ė I mean really sit back, zoom out and look at my life through a wide-angle lens, so to speak. At the time I read the article, I was sitting at my desk. Before me was a computer -- but it was closed. I didn't want to waste the time to power up my laptop when the iPad was right there, ready to go. I didnít want to wait for my computer to boot up and load, are you crazy? I tapped in my password, pulled up the web browser, and shot over to The Spectator. Boom. Twenty seconds at the most?
If you're reading these words, it means you have a computer. Take your eyes off of this article for a moment and look at your machine. It's got a CD/DVD drive on it. Push the button, the drawer comes out. You put the disc in, and push it shut. If you have a Mac it's a slot on the side of your machine. Regardless of whether it's a drawer or a slot, it's there.
You may remember when the original Macintosh 128K came out back in October of 1983. It was a revolution in desktop computing. It was this cute little beige box that sat on your desk. Back then, of course, that was state of the art. One of its notable features was a three and a half inch floppy disk drive.
Now fast-forward to 1998 and the release of the original iMac computer. If you were in education around that time, this will probably bring back some sweet memories. Remember that chubby, round, translucent Bondi-blue machine? It hummed as it worked and grunted as it thought. At the time it was cutting edge. Its design was a statement and it sat on desks like a piece of modern art. Personally, I thought it was horribly ugly. Then again, modern art isnít really meant to be understood.
But the biggest deal people had with the new iMac was that the three and a half inch floppy disk drive was gone. Instead, a CD drawer graced its front. That, of course, was a problem for anyone that was using a Mac or a PC because that meant that all the data you had stored on floppy disks (documents, spreadsheets, etc.) couldnít be brought over to this new cutting edge iMac. Apple later offered a standalone floppy disk drive for the new iMac to appease the masses of floppy disk holders.
That was 1998. Thirteen years later, here we are in 2011. Just this week, Apple introduced the latest iteration of its wildly successful Mac OS-X operating system (OS-X 10.7 Lion) and a few refreshed Mac computers. While Apple hasnít flat out said it, its actions speak volumes. And hereís what they say: the CD/DVD discs are soon to be a thing of the past.
In 2008, Apple introduced what was the worldís slimmest laptop Ė the MacBook Air. The MacBook Air was notable for a few reasons. One, it was the thinnest laptop on the market. Apple CEO Steve Jobs pulled it out of a standard US Letter-sized manila envelope. That was how thin it was. In designing the MacBook Air, Apple made it clear that it was fashion over function by removing the CD/DVD drive from the notebook. We should have seen it then that Apple was plating the seeds for a disc-less future.
On Wednesday, simultaneous with the release of OS-X Lion, Apple introduced a refreshed Mac Mini. The Mac Mini is the most affordable Mac computer in Appleís lineup, starting at only $599 (as opposed to the next cheapest which is the entry-level MacBook Air which retails for $999). Itís a strange little computer, one which many wonder why Apple still bothers producing. While it is a fully functional Mac, itís still the runt of the Mac lineup. Itís a tower (itís more like a little block) that leaves finding a monitor, keyboard, and mouse up to the buyer. Up until Wednesday, it included a CD drive. But from Wednesday morning on, the CD/DVD drive was no more.
Itís typical Apple to force the obsolescence of a feature that many have come to depend on. They did it successfully with the nixing of the floppy disk in the original iMac and it looks like theyíre going to do the same with the CD/DVD drives over the coming year. Of course, Apple being Apple, top of the line, viewed with envy by the competition, will lead the way. Other manufacturers will slowly fall into line and follow as Apple leads us into a download-only future.
Itís more complicated than that, though. When the floppy disc was cut, the only thing that Apple was really cutting out was a data storage medium. People listened to music on the radio, watched television shows on (wait for it) the television, and watched movies in the movie theaters. None of that was done on the computer. The computer was merely a way to quickly type up a document or edit a spreadsheet. The floppy disc was merely a storage medium for mundane files. But the CD and the DVD have reached millions of miles beyond that. Go into any Walmart or Best Buy and youíll see rows and rows of shelves stocked with CDís and DVDís. The newest music and the newest movies all right there on a little disc for you to take home. Video games for popular systems like the X-Box and Sonyís uber-popular Playstation line of gaming consoles utilize DVD discs for their games.
Iíll admit that I donít have a lot of DVDís; Iím not much of a movie buff. But I do have some, and they have content that I cannot download online or watch on YouTube. How am I supposed to watch my old I Love Lucy DVD set if my computer does not have a DVD player? Or the 1975 remake of The Count of Monte Cristo?
It used to be that when you bought a computer you were thrilled that you were getting the latest and greatest technology on the market. Youíd be happy with it and youíd love it every time you logged on. Now, people are hesitant to buy because thereís always something newer and faster coming out. The refresh cycles for products are getting shorter and shorter. Technology is getting outdated faster and faster.
Take my own computer, for example. I bought my MacBook Pro in February of this year, right when the new models came out. My machine has a quad-core Intel Core i7 processor, 4GB of RAM, and a 750GB hard drive. My beautiful shining knight, clad in its aluminum armor, isnít even six months old yet and already what was top of the line is now midrange in the spec department. Thatís pretty bad. Another six months and itíll be on the low end.
Computers are supposed to last for five years or so. Five years is generally the cutoff point at which most consumers start thinking about replacing the old tired model with a fresh, young face. And thatís reasonable. I think five years is a nice long life for a computer. Five years of loyal service. Unfortunately, I fear that at present, the longest most people are going to get away with holding onto their computers is two, three years tops.
Technology is moving so fast that weíre unable to get every minute (and therefore every dollar) out of our machines and gadgets. Apple and computers aside, technology manufacturers are running a race to the top of the spec sheet Ė problem is, there is no top of that spec sheet. Itís not just computers either. Five years ago, the standard megapixel count on a camera was about five. Five megapixels was considered adequate. It was the midrange. If you had a fancy model you might be treated to eight. Today, the top of the line Canon sports twenty-one megapixels. The top of the line Nikon sports twenty-four megapixels.
Letís not forget about cars. My mother owns a 2008 Honda Civic. She gets about twenty-six miles to the gallon, city and highway averaged. The redesigned 2011 Honda Civic gets an EPA estimated forty-one miles to the gallon. Thatís almost double what the three-year-old model can do. Not to mention inside the cabin is a slew of new technology (eco-mode, Bluetooth wireless, digital gauge readout, etc.). And cars usually have an even longer life than computers and cameras.
Hereís the thing. With all of these new innovations in computers, cameras, cell phones, and cars come great new advantages. Itís really great for the consumer to be able to have all of this modern technology available to them. But in order to really take advantage of any of it you need to constantly buy into an upgrade cycle (replace your iPhone every year to get the new model, trade in your old car for the new model, etc.)
Itís actually very scary. I did a lot of thinking before I pulled out my iPad and started typing this out. Iím only seventeen and yet when I look back at the kind of technology that was around back in 1993 when I was born, I feel outdated and obsolete. Windows 95 hadnít even been launched yet. Ten inches was big for a computer screen. Flat screens were still at least ten years away. 1080p HD? Whatís that? 3DTV? Seriously? If you had mentioned any of that to someone back in í93 they probably would have thought you came out of Back To The Future or Fahrenheit 451. That was only seventeen years ago and yet weíve already come so far. Kids nowadays are growing up reading childrenís books on daddyís iPad and watching videos on mommyís iPhone. Most people didnít have a cell phone when I was little. The BlackBerry hadnít been invented when I was born. That makes me feel really dated. And again, Iím only seventeen years old!
I canít wait to see what the world is going to be like in ten years when Iím 27 Ė then twenty years when Iím 37 Ė thirty years when Iím 47. I wonít even be fifty and I can bet you weíll be flying around in our little hover cars or teleporting to work and back. My kids will be playing with their gadgets, which will probably have holographic displays and be controlled by their brain waves.
Meanwhile, whatís going to happen to all the stuff that Iím doing now? This article? Photos Iíve taken? Will they survive with me as I advance through the years in some way or other? I sure hope they do. I want to keep everything Iíve worked hard for with me through my life.
Someday I want to be able to give my kids a glimpse back in time.
ďOh my gosh, dad, that was your cell phone? That thing is huge! That was modern in your day?Ē
Heíll look at me in disbelief.
ďYep!Ē Iíll reply, ďTake it in, my child. That cell phone was revolutionary in our time. Everyone wanted one. It was the technological advancement of the century.Ē
Iíll look down at him and smile.
ďItís ancient history now, but when it was first launched Ė they called it the iPhone.Ē
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