Wednesday, February 25, 2009

5 Things I'm Glad Technology Is Moving Past

There are many things in life we take for granted: instant communication, international travel, and boob jobs come to mind. They're the kind of things that, 200 years ago, you know some guy with an impressive mustache said to another guy in a bar would exist some day. Back then, the prospect of fast travel in any direction you pleased withOUT a horse would seem like the sort of thing that would solve all your problems! These days, we've both been there, and done that, and we're ready to move on. C'mon people, it's the 21st century! Where are the flying cars that run on pollution? The androids to do all our chores? The fact is, while hovercars and sexbots SOUND cool, they'll eventually be just another thing we'll be desperate to upgrade. Like the following things are to us, now:

#5: The Shock-and-Awe of the Internet

When it came out:
Ok, maybe this isn't something that TECHNOLOGY is moving past per se, but it IS something that's wearing off. Think about it: when the internet was in its infancy(I consider it to be a toddler now), there were three great things about it - search engines, e-mails, and that same damn video of a monkey picking its butt and smelling its finger that everyone just HAD to see.

Above: Vital information.

These things won our trust, and convinced us that the internet would only get bigger and better, and EVERYTHING that came from it would be good, and true, and reliable.
Then we came crashing back down.

Suddenly, our inboxes were full of notices about rich family members we didn't know about dying and leaving US all their money! And all we have to do is send our social security number, our bank account number, and a copy of our finger prints to the return address and we could collect our money. Every pop-up ad alerting us that "Your system may be infected!" was cause for alarm, every banner ad telling us that we were were the lucky 1 millionth customer was cause for joy, and every forward claiming that, if we sent it to 12 friends, we'd get to see Bill Cosby dancing, was worth trying just in case!

Your reward.

Nowadays, things are starting to calm down, at least a bit. Sure, we all still get the occasional e-mail from our grandfathers asking us to help some dying child in Minnesota by clicking a link and forwarding an e-mail, but at least now we can pretty much tell scam e-mails by their titles, and casually delete them.

#4: Blockbuster Video
When it came out:
Blockbuster used to be a fun and exciting place to go. We'd go with our parents, excited to pick out the latest Land Before Time VHS(XIV: And then the meteors fell), maybe convince our parents to buy some popcorn, go home, and watch it as a family!

Happiness brought to you by Blockbuster!

Screw Blockbuster.

Who wants to go all the way to their local store and pay $6 to get a movie for a WEEK when they only want to watch it ONCE?! EVERY other option is better, particularly
A: Buying the movie for an extra $4,
B: Queuing it up on Netflix, or
C: Pirating it online.
Why bother wasting gas, time, and energy going to the store when you could have it delivered to your doorstep with no late fees? Especially when you see that the movie is due back on Tuesday, but once you get there, you realize it was due by NOON on Tuesday, and so you essentially pay enough to have bought the film, but you still have to part with it.

Then there's the personal aspect of it. Face it: Sometimes, you want to get a movie that you'd rather not admit to the clerk you want to watch. And no, I'm not talking about porn. I'm talking about if I'm desperate to see the latest Pixar movie, I may not be willing to admit it to the cute girl behind the counter!

Pictured: Manliness.

Say none of that bothers you, though. You're rich, you live next door to Blockbuster, and you're getting a Bruce Willis movie. You buy beer on the way home from work, stop by the store, get your movie, settle in to the couch with you're freshly-popped popcorn, put in the movie... Then shout at the TV in frustration as the movie skips about more than a prepubescent girl. You open up the DVD player and discover that, apparently, the last person to rent this movie was an easily-offended rabid raccoon with a diamond-tipped pen, and he just had his way with the DVD. You complain to the person behind the counter at Blockbuster, but there's nothing they can do because that was their last copy. So instead, you go on a shooting rampage, trying to re-create the awesomeness of whichever Die Hard movie you were unable to watch, and die in a shootout with the police.

Thanks, Blockbuster.

#3: Mapquest

When it came out:
Mapquest was a brilliant resource, when it first came out. People were awed at being able to print out detailed directions to the family barbeque with nothing more than an address! There's even a handy little map that prints out with it, so you can follow along with the trip! What a wonderful time we live in, where we instantly know how to get anywhere in mere seconds!

It's dark, you've been driving for hours, you really want to get to this party, and you think that street you just passed was the one you wanted, but you can't be sure because the street sign's missing. Even if it had been there, you probably would have missed it because it was partially obscured by a tree, and you don't have time to double-check the directions because if you take your eyes of this windy road for two seconds, you'll probably drive into the ditch and have to ask for help from the guys from Deliverance.

"So... Is that a 'no' on the spare tire?"

Of course, you COULD just pull over and look at the handy map. Why don't you? Because you crumpled up the map and threw it away!! Who needs a map when you have detailed directions?!

So you finally see the road sign that you want(it had been knocked over), and you turn onto the gravel road... Which because a dirt road... Which becomes a forest. That's right: this road doesn't exist anymore. The state stopped paying for its upkeep a while back, but nobody told Mapquest! You want an alternate route? Dream on; you're boned.

Fortunately, you remember the GPS that came with your car. It talks out loud, and tells you where to turn and when! And if you miss a turn or discover that one of the streets you wanted is gone forever, it'll simply re-route you.
Also, Mapquest doesn't have programmable voices so you can pretend like you're Michael Knight from Knight Rider.

"You should probably turn left here, Michael."

#2: Dial-Up Internet
When it came out:
At the creation of the internet, we had to tell our computers to dial the magical "internet's phone number", and hope we hadn't been given the wrong number. We didn't realize it at the time, but trying to get online back in the '90s was worse than trying to get a date. You had to establish first contact(i.e. register with some Internet Service Provider), get to know eachother(give up all your personal information), spend a wad of money(spend a wad of money), and finally, get the phone number. Once you've gone through all that, you plug your computer into the phone line, get it to dial out the number, and, if you've put in the correct number, sweet lady Internet would answer the call.
Then you'd make sweet, information-superhighway love.

For a while, that was great. Then we started to tire of the routine. It became impossible to use the phone EVER, because there was always someone on the internet, spending 4 hours trying to download some 5 MB video clip somebody sent them.

Still a must-see.

Not to mention, when you call someone on the phone, you get a pleasant "ring, ring" sound. What was that unholy satan-worship service that came out of your computer when you tried to log onto the internet?! You have to assume that anything making that noise is unhealthy or breaking in some way. But wait... It turns out, it wasn't a NECESSARY noise, like the sound your car engine makes when it turns on. No, this was a sound the internet company CHOSE TO CREATE because apparently it was the most descriptive sound they could think of for what was occurring inside your computer. So, instead of a voice saying "Dialing out... Connection established. Waiting for response...", WE had to follow along with "Ba-dum, ba-DOW, BANIP PsssshhhhhhHHHHHHHH...!"

"See? The fingernails-on-a-chalkboard sound means we're almost connected!"


Cable internet.
We are connected 24/7. If our computer's on, we've got the world at our fingertips, and I don't see mankind EVER looking back. Apparently, there are still people in the US who are PAYING for dial-up internet. Oh, but it's "high-speed dial-up", so it's ok.

#1: Check-Engine Light
To be fair, we aren't ACTUALLY getting rid of the Check-Engine Light. We're just improving what it means.

When it came out:
Simple concept: There's the oil light for when you're low on oil, the gas light for when you're low on gas, and for everything else, there's the check engine light. Like a handy little fairy you keep in your hat, this little light would turn on if something was amiss inside your engine! It's good to know you'll be warned before something REALLY bad happens to your car!

The check engine light brings no real information. It's as if the NY Post ran a front-page story saying "Something, somewhere, happened!" All the check engine light tells you is that sometime soon, you're going to be paying a bunch of money to a mechanic. Why? Because the mechanic doesn't know why the light came on either, but he knows it'll take some time to figure out, and that means big bucks from you. The worst part is, the news could be anything from "You've driven 1500 miles since your last oil change" to "You HAVE no engine." The check engine light coming on is like a bill arriving in the mail.

Check engine.

Most people, when that light comes on, choose to ignore it and hope it goes away. Maybe, just maybe, there's a wire loose, and the problem isn't REALLY with the engine, but with the check engine light itself! Either that, or you drive an old klunker, and the check engine light is just part of the aesthetic of the car. The check engine light is just another thing to add to the rustic appeal of your rust-bucket, like that mysterious knocking noise coming from your engine, or the blue smoke pouring out from under your hood. If none of that stuff sent you to the mechanic, you really think a nagging little light will?

Pictured: The solution.

So what's the REAL purpose of the check engine light? Is it to warn us of things to come and hopefully prevent accidents in the middle of the freeway, or is it just to make us shit ourselves halfway through a road trip?
To put it in context, what if PEOPLE had check-engine lights? Would you not take your son to the doctor until his light came on, no matter HOW much bone you could see sticking through his arm? No. You'd use your good sense. With cars, we don't take it to the shop until that light comes on, and once it DOES come on, we just pray it's something minor, and keep driving. Lose-lose. With people, we use good sense and judgment. If someone is acting differently, making weird noises, or emitting foul odors, chances are they need to see the doctor. Such as it is with cars.

Check engine.

Apparently, mechanics can now just plug a computer into new cars whose check-engine lights have come on, and the car will tell them the problem. Simple as that. Now, don't get me wrong: despite the fact that it takes no effort on the part of the mechanic, no time, and no production costs, the mechanic will still charge you an arm and a leg just to plug his little computer in. But I'm assuming, eventually, this technology will be in every household, and suddenly "check engine" will actually MEAN something. Hooray!


OpenID punkrebel84 said...

Did you rip this off from Cracked?

6:39 PM  
Blogger Scarcely Human said...

Nope! All outta my brain. :)

7:24 PM  
OpenID punkrebel84 said...

That's truly should submit it to Cracked. *gasp* Maybe they'll offer you a job!!

4:57 AM  
Blogger Mrs. O'Neill said...

Hich, I miss you! This post made me laugh, not out loud because my husband is sleeping (it being 2:40 am and all.) I'm working on my thesis right now. (And I do mean right now. Wasting time on the internet is the 3rd stage of thesis writing.) And I like Blockbuster. The one by Martin's lets you rent movies for 99 cents and they give us free movies once a month. Plus, I like getting out of the apartment, even if it's just to Blockbuster. However, I don't like returning the movies. So maybe if there was a movie returning fairy that would be good.
And my car is squeaking, but the check engine light isn't on, so I'm good right?

11:42 PM  
Anonymous PianolaGirl said...

Joe, really? You're going into IT??? Why? Find a stand-up comic and write for him! Better yet, add the material to your DJ gig!

1:46 PM  

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