Saturday, February 20, 2010

Technologically Stuck

I'm on my way to 62. I have most of the toys I want to own and more computers than I need. It's pretty easy for me to imagine that my current stock of computerized toys will suffice for the rest of my life; however long that may be. I'm not being depressive, although I have that talent. I, honestly, have all the tools I need to do the jobs I want to do.

So, why would I buy new technology?

Two reasons: 1) The technology allows me to do something I suddenly need to do that I didn't need to do before or 2) the technology develops manners.

The first reason is insanely unlikely. I have software and hardware that has produced music and video/movie material that is so far above the level at which I work that it is impossible to imagine that I will be able to reap the maximum benefits of the software/hardware I own. If that's true, adding new capacity to my already underutilized capacity is foolish.

Honestly, I think the second reason is even more unlikely. I approach hate for the software I commonly use. The overriding impulse for programmers is to complete the task the programmer decided is most important, rather than apply a little hardware to observing what the user wants to be doing. Every time a piece of software takes off on some unimportant task, in total disregard for the signals I'm giving the software through the keyboard and mouse, I want to find that geek and push his head through a monitor.

Manners are a vanishing commodity in today's technological society. People interrupt live conversations to check their phones for email, texts, or just to look at their Facebook page. Commercials blast over the top of program audio in an attempt to catch the viewers' attention, but mostly succeeding in pissing off potential customers. We drive in rage, interrupt each other without thought, and occasionally freakout and gun down our friends, family, and coworkers. Why would the concept of good manners find its way into software? No reason. It probably won't.

Without either, or both, of those advantages, I have no reason in the world to buy a new computer or to spend significant money on new software. Apple, of course, banished guys like me to history with the move from PPC processors to Intel. I like my G5. It works and it's more than fast enough. Apple is done with the PPC generation, none of their current software will work on my machine. So, I'm done with Apple, at least as long as my G5 is working. Most likely, when it dies I'll just find another used G5 and carry on. Microsoft wasted a lot of good will and energy with Vista, but that left me with WinXP for an extra three years and a total of 9 years on one operating system. After all that familiarity, why would I want to move just because Win7 has "Snap?" Win7 is bigger, slower, and requires new hardware. My hardware works fine. XP works fine. It's rude, but so is OS X.

I used to think there was an advantage in "staying up with the times," but now I'm uncertain. I know a couple of guys who are still using their OS 9 Macs and are doing perfectly well on that historic equipment. A couple of years back, I met a few folks who make a living recording live shows and they are all solidly WinXP & Nuendo v2.0 users. Steinberg has a list of reasons why those guys ought to "upgrade" to Win7 and Nuendo 4.2, but there is one overriding reason for the recordists to ignore Steinberg: reliability. The system they use works and has worked since 2003 and "new" means new bugs and troubleshooting.

I'm wondering if Moore's Law (data density doubles approximately every 18 months) will have less effect on consumer spending in the future? When the software doesn't provide any actual functional advantage, what's the point in buying it? For me, I think the answer is "it's pointless."

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Wirebender Audio Rants

Over the dozen years I taught audio engineering at Musictech College and McNally Smith College of Music, I accumulated a lot of material that might be useful to all sorts of budding audio techs and musicians. This site will include comments and questions about professional audio standards, practices, and equipment. I will add occasional product reviews with as many objective and irrational opinions as possible.