I've been a passionate technology nerd most of my life, ever since as a child I was excited about tape-based dictation machines that I used to record “radio shows” at home, Casio Watches with integrated calculators and the first in my family Archimedes Acorn home computer, until my 12 years as a CNET technology writer. But in recent years things have changed and technology has gone from being a point of genuine excitement in my life to a cause of real frustration that has left me less excited when new innovations emerge. So I'm wondering: has technology changed or have I changed?
It's not that I don't like technology anymore. I'm sure yes. It turns out that many of these devices designed to make our lives easier and more fun actually don't work like they should. Take gaming consoles, for example. My Xbox Series X It's a lot of fun when it works. But more often than not, when I feel like pushing a button and turning it on, I'm met with a long wait while massive updates are downloaded for the console and whatever game I want to play.
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When I make a coffee and stare out the window while the updates are installed, I usually lose the desire to play and end up doing something else. Ditto for the PS5. Then there are the numerous games that launch essentially broken, with huge patches required on day one to make them barely tolerable. I'm looking at you, Cyberpunk 2077. You know what doesn't require massive updates and patches? My Scrabble set.
Then there are the various Bluetooth headphones I use – the AirPods Pro 2, Anker Soundcore Liberty Air 2 Pro, OnePlus Buds Pro – that work well majority of time and then every now and then, for no apparent reason, a headphone decides not to connect and I have to stop what I'm doing and pair the whole set. Even worse are the times when someone gets slightly out of sync, meaning the audio in my left ear can be a fraction of a second ahead of the audio in my right. Headache inducing.
Audio has been a big deal for me lately. Most of the time I love my Apple HomePod. The sound quality is great and AirPlay works well when it wants to. But often he doesn't want to and decides to disconnect in the middle of a song. And when I try to reconnect through Spotify, I can no longer see my HomePod as an option.
I've also had numerous similar experiences with Bluetooth speakers from other brands. And don't get me started on the fragility of in-car Bluetooth connections, which often seem to completely forget their existence every time you turn off the car.
Last Christmas, my brother gave me a vinyl record player. I immediately bought a number of records by some of my favorite bands, including Periphery, Incubus and Royal Blood. I honestly found the whole experience something of a revelation.
I’m not going to opine on the “warmth” or “character” of vinyl audio quality because, honestly, I’m not that bothered as long as it’s “good enough.” What's refreshing is putting on a record and actually hearing it play, without having to establish wireless connections or having the connection inexplicably cut out. I drop the record on the turntable, move the needle and it just plays.
I've also discovered that I love listening to entire albums again, rather than simply adding a few songs to a playlist or shuffling all my “liked” songs on Spotify. Going to record stores to find specific artists I want is a much more satisfying process than simply sifting through the infinite abyss of Spotify's catalog. Maybe I'd also like to get back to DVDs instead of endlessly scrolling through Netflix and not being able to decide what to watch. Probably not.
It is worth mentioning that in January 2024 I will be 36 years old. And there's a certain cliché about people who reach 30 and suddenly start getting into vinyl. I'm a professional photographer and, yes, I also started to become interested in cinematography, taking advantage of the more relaxed approach that my Canon R5 lacks.
To be fair, I always felt a little older than I actually was. I prefer bubble baths to nightclubs, I've been making homemade scented candles since I was in my 20s, and I've always been able to identify the most comfortable chair in any room.
So is it me? Have I just reached that age? Or is technology really just more annoying? Connections that drop; constant updates and patches that need to be downloaded; software bugs in phones that cause reboots; applications that crash; Games half released with the promise of updates to come. What happened to technology just working? Provide easier, more efficient ways of doing things rather than complicating things? Just do what it's supposed to and provide the smooth experience we paid for?
Am I wrong to feel frustrated when things don't work? I love technology and everything it brings to our lives. I love playing. I love Zoom calls with my family. I don’t want to go back to a “simpler time” when “instant messaging” was done by mail or when the latest AAA game was ball in the cup. I just want things to work properly and not leave me feeling like I'm fighting the technology that's supposed to be helping.
Now, if you'll excuse me, I'm going back to my comfy chair with my hot chocolate and blanket.