What happened to our technology?

Privileged Rant Warning

It just happened as I went to type this – my finger brushed against my new work laptop's touchbar, which triggered the URL bar on my browser to focus, which messed up my typing.

How did it get this bad? There's so many inconveniences we just deal with now, and there's not much of a way out. “High end” devices like iPhones or Pixel phones have stripped away stuff like headphone jacks, and now we're supposed to rely on wireless headphones for everything. Great, how can I plug my phone into speakers? Oh, I can't? I need wifi/bluetooth enabled speakers? Great, let me just throw my house out. I don't want to buy your dongles. I shouldn't have to if I paid you $1,000 for this media device.

Everything is in the cloud now and we can control it all from our phones! Amazing! Yet, when I do pretty much anything on my phone, in 2019, when we've had years to optimize all of this, I find myself waiting for things to load or ping servers or hear back from said servers or cache or stream or fetch. Nothing is fast anymore. We've upgraded our processors to incredible speeds, slapped massive solid state storage devices in our mobile supercomputers, but I don't have a cell signal so I guess I'm not listening to my music or watching my movies.

My media which I don't even own, by the way. I thought I did. I used Google Play Music, which I was able to upload my music to in addition to using their library. When they announced they'd be deprecating it and rolling users over into YouTube Music, I wanted to get out. When I went to get my music out, I quickly found that they've all but let the music download app atrophy, so I had to navigate most of it by blindly tabbing through buttons until I got the option to download everything. Then, I couldn't see my download progress. I hope it worked, but I can't be certain. Also, just no notion of downloading movies or TV shows I've bought. Purchased, paid for, but it's only really to stream through their servers. I know that's what I signed up for, but it still hurts to think that I paid for things I can't ever actually “have.” As far as I can tell, there's no reasonable way to go about purchasing and downloading movies or TV shows at all anymore, aside from buying the physical media and ripping it, which is even still legally iffy.

My desktop apps are now all Electron apps, so I'm running a sandboxed Chrome instance per app. I love it when my idling computer decides to blare its fans because Slack is running. Oh, some service I use now has a desktop app! Oh, it's just their website wrapped in Electron. No thank you. If I'm running the same webapp, but on my desktop wrapped in Electron, I have no control around blocking the 14 different tracking and analytics scripts you have running that track my every move, which one could say would create data used to improve the user experience but uh, what if instead, you reduced the overhead, network traffic and memory usage and made the application run well?

I got a USB-C docking station, or wait – no – it's a Thunderbolt 3 docking station. It works great on my new work laptop, and my personal gaming laptop has a Thunderbolt branded port, so I'll plug that in and – oh, it mostly works? Kinda? I guess I'll email their support —– okay they got back to me, and apparently the issue is my computer's manufacturer's Thunderbolt port isn't to spec. So we have this amazing universal new standard, USB-C, but it's also thunderbolt, and also the dock says to specifically use the cable it comes with because not all cables are created equal.

Look, this is all an incredibly first world problem. But in an age where we've got these incredible advances in hardware and technology, we've left consumers with a fractured, sometimes user-hostile experience just because we can get away with it. Most of the examples listed here are micro-annoyances, but if you think about where we could be in terms of connecting people and furthering our technology if we followed a human-first model of designing and building technology rather than a financial-first, or analytics-first model, it gets a little upsetting.

For further takes, give this a read: “Users want control” is a shoulder shrug. It takes this concept from a bit of a different direction.