Is the technology bad or am I just at that age?
I’ve been a tech savvy my whole life, ever since I got excited about Casio Watches with built-in calculators from when I was a kid until I was almost 12 years old as a technical writer for CNET. But this past year things have started to change for me and I wonder: has the technology changed or me?
It’s not that I don’t like technology anymore. It’s that so many of those gadgets designed to make our lives easier and more fun don’t work the way they should. Take game consoles, for example. My Xbox series X is great fun when it works. But more often than not when I find myself in the mood to hit some buttons and throw it, I’m faced with a long wait while massive updates are downloaded for both the console and the game I wanted to play.
By the time I’ve made a coffee and watched out the window as the updates install, I’ve usually lost that urge to play and end up doing something else. Same for the PS5. Do you know what does not require 80 GB updates? My Scrabble game.
Then there are the various new Bluetooth headphones that I use – the Airpods Pro 2, Anker Soundcore Liberty Air 2 Pro, OnePlus Buds Pro – which work fine most of the time, then every once in a while, for no apparent reason, a listener decides not to connect and I have to stop what I’m doing and re-pair the whole thing.
Audio has been a big deal for me this year. Most of the time, I love my Apple HomePod. The sound quality is excellent and AirPlay works well when it wants. But often he doesn’t want to and decides to disconnect in the middle of a song. And when I try to reconnect via Spotify, I don’t even see my HomePod as an option anymore.
I’ve had many similar experiences with other brands’ Bluetooth speakers as well. And don’t get me started on the fragility of in-car Bluetooth connections that usually seem to completely forget you exist every time you turn off your car.
Last Christmas, my brother gave me a vinyl record player. I then immediately bought myself a whole slew of records from some of my favorite bands, including Periphery, Incubus and Royal Blood. Honestly, I found the whole experience to be kind of an eye opener.
I’m not going to comment on the “warmth” or “character” of vinyl audio because I honestly don’t mind as long as it’s “good enough”. It’s refreshing to just put a disc in and play it, without needing to establish wireless connections or inexplicably drop the connection. I drop the record on the turntable, move the needle and it plays.
I’ve also found that I enjoy re-listening to entire albums, rather than just adding a few songs to a playlist or randomly playing all my “liked” songs on Spotify. Going out to record stores to find specific artists I want is a much more satisfying process than simply browsing through the endless abyss of Spotify’s catalog. Maybe I’d also like to get back into DVDs instead of endlessly scrolling through Netflix and not deciding what to watch. Probably not though.
It should be noted that in January I will be 35 years old. And there’s a certain cliché about people reaching their mid-thirties and suddenly starting to get into vinyl. I’m a professional photographer and yes, I even started getting into film photography this year, taking advantage of the more stripped down approach that my Canon R5 lacks.
To be fair, I always felt a bit older than my age. I prefer bubble baths to nightclubs, I’ve been making homemade scented candles since my mid-twenties, and I’ve always been able to identify the most comfortable chair in any given room.
So it’s me? Have I reached this age? Or is technology just more boring? Dropped connections, constant updates and patches to download, software bugs on phones causing reboots, apps crashing, games like cyberpunk released half finished with the promise of fixes to come later. What happened to the technology that was just working? Just do what it’s supposed to do and deliver the smooth experience we paid for?
Am I wrong to feel frustrated when things don’t work out? I love technology and all it brings to our lives. I love games. I love having Zoom calls with my family. I don’t want to go back to a “simpler time” when “instant messaging” was through the mail or when the last AAA game was a shot in a cup. I just want things to work properly and not feel like I’m fighting the technology that’s supposed to help me.
Now, if you’ll excuse me, I’m going back to my comfortable chair with my hot chocolate and my blanket.