Technology does a million wonderful things for us every day. But there are some real failures of technology that turn what should be a simple task into a major annoyance. Today, lets talk about how technology lets us down.
Lets start with the dozens of wall warts you likely own. Those are the little devices that charge phones or provide power to gadgets ranging from high-speed modems to printers. I need every one of them because no two seem to have the same connector or can produce the right amount of voltage for a given gadget.
As an added bonus, most of these wall warts are designed to be so fat that when one is plugged into an AC outlet, it covers both outlets. Thats especially aggravating when Im trying to connect computers and accessories to an uninterruptable power supply that has a limited number of outlets.
Then there is the cellphone. What a wonderful idea. In theory, it provides a small and portable way for me to get calls. Before the cellphone, people had to make calls in private. But now they can lie to their spouses about why they are late or explain every detail of a recent golf game in public.
This portability also makes for some frightening moments. Many times, especially when Im walking in public, it adds to the drama. Is that fellow walking toward me a madman raving out loud to himself, or is he using a Bluetooth adapter so he can rave over the phone to some other actual human?
Lets say that the virtues of having a cellphone outweigh my petty annoyances. After all, its convenient to be able to make a call from some deserted stretch of road when your car breaks down. Even if we award extra points for that sort of safety net, there are still things about cellphones that make me want to cry.
For example, the engineers behind the modern cellphone must have tiny heads with mouths and ears just 2 inches or so apart. Otherwise they would know that my cellphone doesnt fit my head. I know it would mean a larger phone, but thats not such a bad thing in itself.
My own phone is so tiny my age-dimmed eyes have to strain to find the right on-screen buttons to push. I get to talk to a lot of nice strangers when I misdial.
And the cellphone does so many things. Unfortunately, I dont want to do any of them. I simply want to make a call. But the myriad of buttons and features often mean that I inadvertently use the phone to take a photo of my feet when all I really want to do is order a pizza.
Now lets consider computers and software. After decades with computers, I still get a queasy feeling when a program is upgraded. Microsoft Word is an excellent example. The designers of software in general and those at Microsoft specifically seem to think it would be a fine thing to change how the menu looks and works with each upgrade.
For me, that means spending long minutes searching through the menu before I can figure out how to perform some simple task. Its my theory that software designers never actually use the programs that they develop and change.
OK. I feel better now. Next week, we can go back to praising technology.
firstname.lastname@example.org Bill Husted writes for The Atlanta Journal-Constitution.