Some things I've learned....

(1) An Engineer can do with 10 cent what a fool can do with a Euro.

(2) "Puff" - unimportant; insignificant; unworthy of study by engineering students; waste of time

(3) It's better to keep your mouth shut and let people think you're stupid than to open it and prove them right!

(4) Blockwork people and concrete people can never work on the same site... Apparently they don't like each other....

(5) It's official; I'm fantastic!

Friday 31 August 2007

What it Does and Doesn't Do

This debate has accelerated in prominence over the last three or four years and can only increase in the years to come. "What it Does and Doesn't Do". I'm talking about all the gadgets and gizmos, the nicks and nacks that we cherish in our modern society. Everything is affected, from TV's to cuddly toys, all the way to the humble home telephone.

Let's take a trip back to the age of the mobile phone. In the beginning, as Saved By the Bell fans will remember, mobile phones were as far from mobile as I am getting up for college at 6am. They were huge, brick-like demons, which ran on single cell battery power and had an antenna as long as a Pepperami. Then, the device was cut down, to just larger than todays modern phones, still keeping in touch with the basic funtionality of the phone, which was to make phone calls. This was fine. It was simply improving the functionality and robustness of a device to make it more convenient for the user. Great. Text messages were introduced. Still great. Why? As text messages were (and still are) a form of communication, and it seemed appropriate that such a communication add-on was related to the mobile phone.

The years past and the basic premise of phone calls and text messaging remained the same. So what changed? The thing that changed, and is still the forerunner in deciding on a mobile phone today is what my phone does that the other ones don't do. Whether its taking a 5 million pixel photo, or being able to hold 100 songs is now the prominent decision in phone shopping. How is it that those things, which aren't related to the premise of making a phone call, decide how one should buy a mobile phone? As I see it presently, Apple are the main criminals on this front, thanks to the introduction of the iPhone.

Let's move on to music. We all had either a Walkman or a Discman back in the day. Hell it was great, we could go for a walk and listen to music at the same that we didn't have to make up or try to remember in our heads!! Then came a revelation! The mp3, or at the time, the iPod. As many of you will know, I don't like Apple, but nevertheless, the iPod was a mastercraft in music playing technology. Now we could hold thousands of songs on this pocket-sized device, as opposed to a single cd's worth on a cd player as large as my hand. Things changed soon after. Apple decided: "Why don't we let people put photos on our iPod, so they can have something to look at?". Why oh why would someone incorporate photos to a music playing device. MY own mp3, a Creative Zen, plays only music, and that's all I ever wanted it to do, I've had it for 2 years now and not once have I considered to replace it.

Apple didn't stop there though. Then they decided to introduce videos to a music playing device. Nice isn't it. Instead of listening to your favourite band, you can now not only look at photos of last nights party, but you can also watch music videos of the band you used to just listen to. Move over music player, now I can watch, listen and reminisce. What's next, a vibrate function when the battery is low, or when its time to change songs?

For me, things like the Camera and Video Camera have managed to hold true to their purpose. They both still do what they're supposed to, and all the recent technological breakthroughs have only improved this functionality, changing tapes to flash cards or discs etc. TV's are a funny one, on one hand they've improved thanks to LCD, HD and all that, but why then do Philips advertise a TV with back lights, that change at the touch of a button? When did TV's become responsible for room lighting effects in such a way?

The gaming industry is also guilty of this 'What it Does and Doesn't Do' disaster, though it's more hidden and secret than the others. For me, this starts right after the release of the PS2. With the PS2, for the first time ever, people could watch DVD's on a gaming system. This wasn't so bad at the time, because DVD players were quite expensive, and in the PS2 there was a convenitent alternative to forking out big money for a DVD player which didn't also play games. Then the Xbox and its successor the Xbox 360 hit the shelves, and things changed. The premise behind the hype over the 360 was what it could do more than the PS2 could, namely a very impressive online gaming function and the ability for wireless controllers. Sony's response with the PS3 was equally as bad as the 360. With the PS3 you now had up to 7 wireless players at once as standard, the ability to browse the net, play DVDs and BRDVDs, not to mention the ability to hook up your camera and upload photos to the PS3 browser and set security settings. Even look at the Wii! Nintendo figured they'd go all out and throw a whole online community into their console, not to mention deciding they'd be totally different than everyone else and make controllers that you can juggle, throw over your head, swing like skipping ropes, all so you can play the damn thing!!

Currently, both the 360 and the PS3 share these features. What was once a gaming system is now a DVD player, a music player, a photo album, a video collection, an internet browser, a text messager and god knows what else I haven't found on it yet.

With all these extra functionalities being introduced, as well as more and more devices being subject to these time, how will we distinguish one thing from the other. At present, both the 360 and the PS3 can do almost everything a PC can do, at much faster speeds. The only thing that we recognise as a PC is the classic tower CPU and large monitor with keyboard and mouse. Consoles have replaced all these with the X button and an analog. Where will we draw the line between mobile phones and music devices? Will my TV eventually be able to make me a cup of tea or a bag of popcorn so I don't even have to leave the room? Will the toilet wipe us clean for us? Or how long will it be until my watch can make video phone calls like in Thunderbirds???

Your thoughts?

~The Damo

1 comment:

Catherine said...

My phone is ridiculously basic. It's some Sony Ericsson shit, but I only need it for exactly three functions:

1. To phone people
2. To text people
3. Clock/Alarm.

S'all I need. It does the job.