Six Amazing Technologies Everyone Loves. Except Me.

By  |  Friday, March 27, 2009 at 10:27 am

[NOTE: Here’s a post that first appeared in our free T-Week newsletter, which you can subscribe to here.]

This probably won’t come as a complete shock to anyone reading this, but I’m enthusiastic about technology. I like to try new stuff really early–hey, it’s my profession, so it’s a tax writeoff–and I’m patient with products that are less than perfect. (My GPS system occasionally leads me on a wild goose chase miles from my destination; I adore it nonetheless.)

But none of this means I’m a devotee of every technological breakthrough that comes along. Actually, there are some which seem to have plenty of fans that leave me cold–even though I sometimes admire them on an intellectual level, or at least concede that they might be fine for other folks.

After the jump, six of them–and as far as I can recall, this is the first time I’ve announced in public that I’m not a fan. You read it here first.

Bluetooth. Or, more specifically, Bluetooth headsets. I know I should use one, if for no other reason that my home state has outlawed using cell phones while driving if you’re not using a hands-free system of some sort. But I’m always fearful that the headset will fail to connect with my phone; I forget that it needs to be charged; I can’t remember which button does what. After futzing with multiple Bluetooth models (including ones from Aliph and Plantronics which are clearly impressive) I’m going back to a wired headset…even though wired headsets are so obsolete that it’s getting hard to find ones that aren’t kind of junky.

RSS feeds. I’m glad that RSS exists. I enthusiastically offer a full-text feed of all Technologizer content. And I use Google Reader a bit, especially when putting together Technologizer’s 5Words. But I do most of my reading of Web content the old fashioned way, by visiting sites. For a long time I was embarrassed to admit that, since most of the sophisticated consumers of information I know are dedicated feedhounds. But I’m no longer ashamed to tell folks that I just like visiting Web sites, hanging out, and soaking up atmosphere that you just don’t get if you read the same comment as a feed. I agree with what Jeffrey Zeldman once said, as paraphrased by WordPress creator Matt Mullenweg: Offering a feed is like storing your groceries on the sidewalk so people can eat your food without sitting at a table with you.

Mice. Okay, so mice barely count as a technology anymore–I first laid hands on one twenty-two years ago. And I can’t really claim to dislike them–if I sit down at a computer that has one, I’ll use it. But I’m a lefty, so the majority of mice on the market–all those ones elegantly sculpted to fit the right hand–are by definition poorly suited for use by me. Which probably helps explain why I never, ever plug an external pointing device into a laptop: Touchpads are wonderdully ambidextrous. And hey, they don’t take up any additional space in my briefcase, either.

When I’m using a desktop computer rather than a laptop–an increasingly rare scenario lately–I tend to use a Logitech trackball. It too works equally well whether you’re a southpaw or a righthander, and eats up less space on my messy desk than a mouse.

Blu-Ray. Or anything else than involves high-resolution video. I’d rather watch stuff I like to watch than stuff that looks great, and only a tiny sliver of the planet’s entertainment is available in high-def yet. Lemme know when this, this, and this are in HD, and I’ll get excited. (For similar reasons, I was a relative latecomer to DVD–at least for someone who claims to be a gadget nerd–and still have plenty of VHS tapes hanging around to this day.)

To complicate matters, I fret about investing money in a Blu-Ray player and Blu-Ray discs when it’s so obvious that the format will eventually be replaced by digital downloads that involve no shiny discs at all. In this case, postponing going fully HD actually feels like the more forward-looking move–it may leave me in better shape to build a library of HD downloads than if I’d poured money into Blu-Ray.

Shuffle. As in the audio player feature of that name. Yes, I know I just gave a positive review to an MP3 player built around the idea that playback of music in random order is cool. But–and this is probably my age and vinyl roots showing–I still think of songs in terms of albums. If I get in a Beatles mood, I want to listen to Revolver. With the songs in the order that the Beatles intended them to be. Not always, But usually.

Direct-to-printer photo printing. This one probably isn’t too controversial–I’m guessing that the majority of people reading this story still upload photos to their PC before they print them, even if their printer can output snapshots without a computer being involved. For me, the whole point of digital photography is to do all the things a PC makes possible–improve photos, organize them, archive them, and upload them to the Web. Why would I want to avoid having the opportunity to do all that? And yet printer manufacturers lavish attention and expense on features for PC-less printing, like color LCD screens, memory slots, USB inputs, and embedded software. None of which I have any desire to use.

Modern CPUs. Ever since that nasty Pentium bug, I’ve sworn off any chip more recent than a trusty, time-tested 486. Kidding!

Note that I’m not saying that I’ll spurn any of the above technologies forever. They could get better, or I might just come to understand that they’re valuable in ways I don’t yet appreciate. Feel free to respond in comments and make the case for any of them–or, for that matter, to tell me about the amazing breakthrough technologies that you live happily without.


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12 Comments For This Post

  1. GoEverywhere Team Says:

    I have to agree with you on most of these Harry! The only one I do use often is the RSS feed. I actually use both Google Reader (on my webtop) and NetNewsWire (on my laptop) to pull in blog feeds for ease of searching. As for Bluetooth, Blu-Ray, and Shuffle… I have little use for them! Maybe one day though 🙂

  2. thomas144 Says:

    I really think most people “dislike” most of these things. I think it would be hard to find anyone who likes all six, or even most of them. Note: I am right-handed but the first mouse I ever used was to the left of a Lisa keyboard, and that’s how I used to use a mouse for many years. Looking around my office, all the mice I use are ambidextrous, but I’ll have to take your word that this could be a problem for a lefty.

  3. wbw_Jeff Says:

    This will sound crazy but…..Blackberrys. Sending an email used to mean that the recipient would see it within a few hours or whenever he/she was sitting down and could react properly. Having them tap out a cryptic response with their thumbs within a few seconds while working out doesn’t really seem like an improvement to me. Email should take time and get it right. If you need me right away and are someone that I want to hear from you can dial an advanced instant voice communication device that I carry called a cell phone.

  4. tced Says:

    I would suggest USB or more specifically all the various connectors. There are the standard connectors, mini-USB, micro-USB. And then there are the cameras that claim to be USB but have a connector at the camera that is none of those approved USB connectors. It makes keeping track of that special cable for camera more important. And then there are all the crazy power supply connectors….

  5. Josh Says:

    I have to have RSS. My feed reader is a great way for me to weed out what I’m not interested in. I subscribe to about 100 feeds, yet I only read about 10% of posts. If I had to visit every website every day just to find out if I’m interested in the latest posts, I’d never get anything done. Besides, I still often prefer to read content on the site rather than in the feed reader, so I’ll often visit the web site if the post seems interesting enough to warrant my full attention.

  6. mathiastck Says:

    I experimented with various bluetooth headsets, but found it annoying to try to synch to multiple different devices, and no bluetooth headset won out in the end.

    The bluetooth device that won was my bluetoothed car stereo, a Sony XPLOD MEX-BT2500.

    It just made it all so convenient. It was real annoying trying to dig my phone or a headset out and get it ready before a drive, and not a good idea to try while driving. But letting the stereo handle it is great. I can answer the phone by hitting the largest button on the stereo, and hang up the same way. I don’t have to resync, if my phone is in range of the stereo, and the stereo is on, the calls go there. The call quality seems great on my end, although admittedly I’ve had to repeat things more often for the listener.

  7. Jake Says:

    I’m a righty, but I buy ambidextrous mice because I switch mousing hands every once in a while just to avoid RSI.

  8. Steve Says:

    “Touchpads are wonderdully ambidextrous.” Dunno if that was a typo, but “wonderdully” is a great coinage for something that works perfectly in an unsurprising, plodding sort of way. Like, say, a touchpad.

  9. Chris Bucchere Says:

    Great article! Agree on all of ’em except feeds. From the perspective of a fellow web publisher and blogger, of course I want people coming to my sites and getting the full experience — the design, the content, the ads (!), etc. — but as a consumer of online content, I’d be totally unproductive without RSS/Atom and a good feed reader. Not to mention all the amazing mashups that can be built because so many data are available in a structured format. RSS is not without its problems, but the web w/o it just wouldn’t be as useful or interesting.

    One point that’s kind of related to your point about Blu-Ray, the now defunct HD-DVD and HD in general: the concept of packing more data onto optical media is great, but as we learned from the Betamax vs. VHS debacle (or did we?), two standards is about as good as no standard. Anyway, formats aside, picture quality has a lot to do with the technologies behind different display types (e.g. CRT, LCD, plasma). But I think some displays have gotten a little too “good” for their own good. There’s this technology some vendors are using called “interpolation” where an algorithm inserts composite frames in between real frames to add “smoothness” to video. (It goes by different names depending on the vendor, e.g. “Clear Motion Drive,” “FineMotion Advanced,” etc.) Whatever you call it, the results are totally disconcerting. I saw parts of the movie “21” and it looked like it was shot by amateurs with really expensive HD video cameras! The motion is so “smooth” that it goes beyond realistic to the point where it’s almost unnatural. It’s hard to describe, but easy to see — just go look at some high-end TVs and compare them. Anyway, if this were my collection of technologies everyone loves but I hate, HDTV with interpolation would definitely make the list.

  10. Chris Bucchere Says:

    @Steve OMG — hilarious! Your comment about “wonderdully” is spot-on! So good, but was it intentional or a Freudian slip?

  11. Alan Ralph Says:

    Biggest problem I have with RSS feeds are that some sites produce a LOT of news, and it can be a royal pain to sift thru… I’ve taken to using services like PostRank and FeedScrub, in conjunction with Google Reader, to try and tame the guilty parties. Also, I’ve started to make more use of Twitter and Friendfeed (and also Facebook, to a lesser extent) to find interesting and useful links.

    On the subject of mice, mine is a Wacom Intuos2 🙂 I use the supplied mouse on the tablet for browsing and general tasks, then switch to the pen for art-y stuff.

  12. Mike Says:

    I have to disagree with Bluetooth, i have a parrot car kit and absolutely LOVE IT!! i hate using the bluetooth headsets but the car kit is awesome, have never once had an issue with it not connecting to my iphone, and call quality for both parties is fantastic.

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