Technology is getting too complicated and user-hostile. Even the high tech people are complaining.

A roundup of news, views and ideas from the mainstream press and the blogosphere. Click on the headline link to see the full article.


Why Nothing Works Anymore

Ian Bogost, Atlantic
Technology has its own purposes.

–“No… it’s a magic potty,” my daughter used to lament, age 3 or so, before refusing to use a public restroom stall with an automatic-flush toilet. As a small person, she was accustomed to the infrared sensor detecting erratic motion at the top of her head and violently flushing beneath her. Better, in her mind, just to delay relief than to subject herself to the magic potty’s dark dealings.

It’s hardly just a problem for small people. What adult hasn’t suffered the pneumatic public toilet’s whirlwind underneath them? Or again when attempting to exit the stall? So many ordinary objects and experiences have become technologized—made dependent on computers, sensors, and other apparatuses meant to improve them—that they have also ceased to work in their usual manner. It’s common to think of such defects as matters of bad design. That’s true, in part. But technology is also more precarious than it once was. Unstable, and unpredictable. At least from the perspective of human users. From the vantage point of technology, if it can be said to have a vantage point, it’s evolving separately from human use.
(Feb 23, 2017)
An oldie but goodie. Recommended by a retired math whiz and high-tech engineer. -BA


3 ways tech has gone astray at Berlin electronics show

Rob Pegoraro, USA TODAY
BERLIN — The product the gadget industry tries to sell at giant tech shows like IFA here is progress – better, faster, cheaper, forever. But the details that emerge in press events and corporate exhibits often undercut that shiny vision of the future.

Consider the following ways that electronics vendors at this European equivalent of CES invited customers to question the focus of their efforts.

—Phones without headphone jacks. This time around, the list of phones that leave out the simple, cheap and reliable 3.5 mm headphone jack includes Samsung’s Galaxy A90 5G and newly-tweaked Galaxy Fold, Sony’s Xperia 5 and Huawei’s P30 Pro. (The last was the sole Android phone of this bunch running Google’s just-shipped Android 10.) Buyers can, instead, try not to lose a dongle adapter, shop from a scrawny selection of USB-C headphones, or pay extra for Bluetooth audio gear
(Sept. 9, 2019)


Buy a real Analog Oscilloscope PLEASE!

Dave Jones, EEVblog, YouTube
Drive time rant. Dave is sick of getting emails asking if the cheap toy DSO nano and FPGA/PIC/AVR oscilloscope kits are worth buying.

Some comments:
Keystone Science
I bought an old broken analog oscilloscope for 20$ and fixed it up and it works great 😀

snarfusmaximus
My life changed when I bought a second hand Tektronix and I never looked back.

The Antipope
Amen, brother. I’m still very happy with my ancient dual-trace, 100MHz Tek 2235 ‘scope that I’ve had for about 15 years. Other than having to replace the crappy carbon resistors in the focus circuitry some years ago, I’ve never had a moments trouble with it

SigEpBlue
What’s funny is that the lab equipment at my old community college was mostly vacuum-tube powered surplus equipment, but it still worked better than the USB scopes offered on the web for ~$100 today. The function gens, oscilloscopes, etc. were made in the USA, freakin’ HUGE, and weighed a lot, but man, they always WORKED! I’m willing to bet they’re STILL working today (I’ve been out of CC for about 8 or 9 years).

sneakerset
Mine is an oldie(Tek 465B)but a goodie. Calibration services are readily available. Along with a wonderful feel,the scope’s just got that “style”….I’ll give it to the kids when they pry it from my cold,dead hands.

(May 10, 2010)
A classic rant delivered with a juicy Australian accent. The content is a little technical, but even non-technical people can get the gist. Based on Dave’’s recommendation, I bought four old analog oscilloscopes. Too good a price to resist! -BA

Top image: Rube Goldberg’s Self-Operating Napkin/ (1931). Via Wikimedia Commons https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Rube_Goldberg%27s_%22Self-Operating_Napkin%22_(cropped).gif