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If it ain't broke
February 6, 2018 | 9:52 am

Our precarious relationship with hardware and software.

'If it ain't broke, don't fix it' goes the saying. Today when computer hardware and software have a precarious relationship, does this aphorism still apply?
Software updates can render our phones or computers dead or bricked at a click of a button. Most folk can relate tales of a printer that just stopped working.

Recently Microsoft managed to render millions of webcams unusable for weeks, this was due to a Windows 10 update. Another example is how hundreds of apps stopped working when Apple introduced iOS 11.

Items we depend on quickly become obsolete even though they are still in full working order. The advent of flat-screen technology consigned millions of Cathode Ray Tube TVs and monitors to landfill followed by scanners, printers and PCs that could not keep up with progress. Tech companies are intent on weaning us off wired connections, so those headphone sockets keep disappearing from new phones and TVs.

I have certainly been affected, A Roland app necessary for my music stopped working with the advent of iOS 11. It took months for Roland to get around to releasing an update. My inkjet printer has been replaced with a laser version. My FM radio - replaced with a DAB version. My TV - replaced by one with higher resolution. Also discarded is my DVD player which could not play BluRay disks. My iPhone 4 is now obsolete and can't be updated.... do I wait till the battery dies before I upgrade to a newer phone?

Bad news for me came in Nov 2017 when Gibson (the guitar firm) withdrew support for Cakewalk, (the company that produces Sonar). This is the software I have used for over 12 years. Unless Cakewalk is rescued, my software will be at the mercy of the next Windows update. Do I jump ship now or hang on and hope for the best?

There are still some areas where retro technology is making a comeback. Vintage hifi and vinyl records are back in vogue. All respected synthesiser manufacturers such as Moog now label their product fully analogue and guitarists all seem to want tube amps based on circuit designs that were developed before transistors were even invented. Analogue film technology is still revered and Kodak have announced that they will restart production of Ectachrome film. Filmmakers are also hoping that the Kodachrome film, praised in the Paul Simon song, will also be remanufactured.

For those puzzled by the terms. Analogue is all about tubes, transistors, resistors and capacitors, (discrete off the shelf components that can be replaced when repairs are necessary). On the other hand digital technology is all about integrated circuits or chips. These have a long working life but when things go wrong it is seldom worth replacing these complex entities - they are usually out of production anyway.
Digital photography replaces specks of chemicals with digital code that can be read by computers.


So how can we respond to 'If it ain't broke'?
A design guru might say - 'If it ain't broke, it could do with some more features'.
A parent might say - 'If it ain't broke, my child hasn't found it yet'.
An owner of a modern car might say - 'If it ain't broke it is probably due for an expensive check up and service anyway'. And the IT manager might say -'If it ain't broke, it will be soon if I don't replace it'.

We have little say in what manufactures really want to sell us, as Henry Ford said - 'If I had asked my customers what they wanted, they would've said "a faster horse"'.

Roger Foster
Feb 2018

#PlannedObsolescence #TechnoRage #LudditesUnite #FightForYourRightToRepair #SaveCakewalk

Comments

Artist

Aamp's artist icon
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The tech hoarders support group is ready and waiting!

I'm actually one those who don't really get rid of everything that I probably should have stopped using and even when it does break, I'll try to fix it... I mine e waste for capacitors and stuff to resuscitate CRT TVs - yeah, I went back to CRTs because I collect old game consoles that work best with them, yay! and sometimes bring home better stuff that was discarded than I own lol. But I guess I like to tinker as well which also gives me the excuse to have backups; yea in case the other old stuff breaks lol.

I'm currently creatively writing about it and I enjoyed reading this smiley
Latest Song: Valentine's
Artist Page Send Message February 6, 2018 | 7:38 pm
Moderator

eido's artist icon
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While I agree with the majority of your comments, particularly around the planned obsolescence of hardware - my girlfriend and I have essentially the same bicycle, but hers was made in about 1990 and mine was made about five years ago; hers is still going strong and mine is about to disintegrate - I do have some sympathy for the unwillingness of Microsoft et al to support older software indefinitely.

Prior to 2000, computer security was essentially not a relevant concept for most people. Desktop computers were still relatively new and exciting and every new release was an opportunity to do something genuinely amazing that hadn't been done before. Unfortunately, in the rush to give us flexible platforms which could do amazing things, nobody really thought about how those platforms could be abused.

Today we're still paying the price for those naive early years. Microsoft started to take security seriously early in the 2000s and have made tremendous strides since then, but in many cases they found serious architectural problems in subsystems which were essentially unfixable - either because they were too deeply embedded, too integral to how the subsystem worked, or simply because anyone who ever knew how the code worked had long since left or retired.

Microsoft held out for a long time in terms of continuing to provide backwards compatibility. Heck, you can still run 16-bit software on 32-bit Windows, although you have to enable the subsystem now. (It's horrific and full of fundamental security flaws, but experience suggests that the everyday user would rather cling to functionality and then complain when they get hacked.) Apple tend to be much more strident in cutting away the dead weight, which has advantages (less legacy cruft to carry around) but also disadvantages (you're seriously telling me I can't even use USB with my new MacBook Pro without an adapter?).

A lot of change really is change for its own sake - I'm sure it can't be necessary that every time I start running again after a couple of months off, my running app has updated and moved all the buttons around so I can't find anything any more - but some of it is not. Sometimes the past really is better left buried.
Artist Page Send Message February 7, 2018 | 3:49 am
Artist

thebenteights's artist icon
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I read some interviews with some sound engineers who worked on albums form the 60"s and 70's and they actually said they loved all the new modern and digital technologies and wished they had had access to it all back then. A couple talked a lot about tape saturation and they seemed amused that producers and musicians of today want to add something "vintage" into the mix that they struggled so hard to either eliminate or reduce back in their time. They had no choice but to have tape saturation seep into the tapes as they were transferred from generation to generation, or reel to reel. Some bands, like the Moody Blues, learned to exploit it effectively but even it there was a sort of hit and miss aspect to it that one can avoid with the new digital saturation tools. As I understand tape saturation has been controllable and even optional since the 80's. Some engineers say it is a sort of myth that it in fact adds some classic or vintage quality to the sound. So I guess it is open for debate if things were not, in fact, lacking in advancement of technology. It is not to say it was broken, but that it had yet to get to a place where it is now, or will be later.

You can of course argue about form and substance. Maybe records are produced better now but, in my opinion anyway, all of that cannot mask the sort of vapid nature of popular music in general any more. A great album I recently gave a fresh listen to was Paul McCartney's Ram. Simple in many ways but it is a wonderful LP. (or CD, or DVD, or MP# or FLAC file, or whatever. I used to own albums and so I say records and albums.)

Ultimately one can romanticize about how awesome typewriters were and try to project an eclectic personality by using one now, but there are reasons people use word processors and computers more and more and typewriters less and less. I do not think they even manufacture typewrite parts any longer. And they simply had NO CHOICE back in the 1950's. And it seems now one has less choice as well and is forced to take the digital route. I think more and more movies will be shot digitally and then transferred onto film for public showing, until the time digital projectors can do that job as well.

I think there is a tendency to romanticize and even glorify all things from the past. I do. If some digital software tacks on the term "vintage" on some preset I am all over it. And there are cool things. '65 Mustangs and Fender Telecasters and Arp 2600 modular synthesizers. But those things are either gone ands now expensive collectibles or they are still made, but not in everybody's reach budget wise.

In closing I will just say how much funner recording has become for me since i taught myself to use an DAW and interface, as opposed to the days I used a four track recorder. At first I hated it but little by little I am into it. Especially in terms of editing and arranging. I have not uploaded too much here yet and most is stuff from me learning still. But I have some things that I like here that I just need to wrap up. I wold have never been able to do any of this on a four track tape recorder. Who knows, maybe I would have done something better. I did not Bruce Springsteen much until I herd the Nebraska album, without the E- Street Band and those dense arrangements.

I do use a lot of digital stuff that replicates vintage sounds. I admit that.

Artist Page Send Message February 15, 2018 | 6:22 am

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