postheadericon TECH TALK: Is High Tech on Crack or What?

Have you ever asked yourself if high tech has gone too high, too far, to the point of just frustrating the heck out of you and making you want to reach for some kind of drug to ease the pain?

This often happens to me, and as a technologist I find that disturbing. For example, this week I am carrying around a new Galaxy tablet that is advertised as both a phone and a netbook replacement (which were advertised as a laptop replacement, which by the way, was advertised as a desktop replacement) and I could not make a call to anyone that had a “real” phone on them.

I am in Bangkok at the moment, and it’s really hot outside even thought it’s supposed to be winter...but the surface temperature of the Galaxy tablet is twice as hot at the barometer reading of 36c. So I am lugging around this hot potato in hopes my colleague can call me, even though I can’t call him, and this Samsung hot potato is really weighing me down – it’s like walking around with a baked Nepali brick.

So I have to ask the manufacturer: why are you selling us albatrosses instead of something we can happily use?

But my wife has another problem with tech that I can also relate to. She can’t keep track of it. The other week she had left her phone at home and her flash drive in the office, and since her laptop battery was dead she could not reach her data that’s now stored in a “cloud” somewhere.

When I had to get some of my stuff outta the cloud today (a few  of my videos uploaded to YouTube) I learned an interesting thing about cloud computing: what you put there may not always be retrievable when you want it, may be hard to figure out how to get even when found, and ultimately does not look as good as it did before sending “up” there.

In short, I had sent perfectly nice videos to YouTube, only to get back films that seemed to be chewed on by chipmunks. My photographer buddy also had a similar experience with Flickr, a popular cloud application that stores your photos for safekeeping and sharing. Well, what he shared with me could not be printed very well after leaving the “cloud” - perhaps there was a thunderstorm or a hurricane, as the photo looked like it had just survived Katrina once it was put on paper.

Now I may sound like I am kvetching again, but do I really need a GPS display in a new set of Ray-Bans? Is it absolutely necessary to have a 1400x900 LCD display on my refrigerator door? Do I really need an alarm clock in my bedroom that is also an iPhone docking station? Yes on that one, since my iPhone will only work office hours before needing a recharge.

It’s this high-tech blend of annoyances that is currently weighing heavily on my mind, even more so then this e-book reader (with e-ink) is weighing in my hands these days.

Are the high-tech wizards in Cupertino and elsewhere aware that what they are conjuring up in development labs and rushing to China for manufacturing may not be ready for prime time? Or have I just become some old tech fogy with drool on the corner of his mouth every time a new version of “i-whatever” comes out?

I hope the answer is the former, and that I am not going to wind up in a Segway automatic walker whose gyroscope goes belly up 10 minutes after the warranty period expires and then drives me right over a cliff, as did one Segway PT to that company’s CEO.

Although, death by technology has never hindered mankind from manufacturing a lot more of it. I wonder how many villages have burned down since humans discovered how to make cooking fires, and we all know about the carnage that the invention of the wheel has brought about, despite today’s denials from Toyota that electronics where not to blame for that “out-of-control” acceleration recall.

However, there is only one bit of old tech that I am advocating a return for today. A traditional Thai coffee drink. I asked for one this morning at a BKK high-tech coffee café, but the twenty-something barista did not have a clue. I would have Googled that for her, but the Internet was down...argg!

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Jiggy Gaton
lives in Kathmandu and is an aging technologist - has been since the days of Woodstock - so in the words of Roland The Gunslinger "he is from a world now gone by." However, Jigs is extremely up-to-date on all things tech and is also available for hire.
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