The Problem With Kids These Days

Posted: September 25, 2016 in Technology
Tags: , , ,

Four months:

It has been four months since I posted.  In that four months, my daughter moved on to second grade, my son started kindergarten, and work is….work.  I also got really sick and lost some weight, and now I have periodic panic attacks about eating, traveling and sickness (at least that’s what I think).  Good, now you’re caught up.

The last four months also brought on the release of Apple’s latest iPhone, which not surprisingly is the inspiration behind this post.  Yes, I have one.  I got it yesterday (although not the one I thought I ordered, which is another story).  As someone who fully switched to Apple’s ecosystem in February this year, I have been anxiously watching and waiting for Apple’s next phone.  There was so much promise, so many good opportunities for Apple to take bold steps forward in design and features.  And then, well, we all know what happened.

But this is not about me being disappointed in the latest phone’s release.  In fact, I think it’s tremendous, which the Android fans out there will interpret as me being brainwashed by the Cupertino Conglomerate that is trying to slowly take over the world.  Chill your shit, people.

There’s no doubt or argument by most reasonable people who the iPhone has been (and continues to be) a rock-solid offering.  Sure, it’s a bit pricey, but at least as far as I can tell, the batteries don’t explode (sorry Samsung, I couldn’t resist).  It always has been a bit pricey.  And it’s specs always seem lackluster on paper, but it is also an optimized platform on optimized hardware that Apple fully controls.  It doesn’t need a lot of extra juice to make up for hardware differences—check out the “Foundations of Programming: Fundamentals” video on lynda.com and this will make more sense to those of you who are a bit lost on this point.

There’s also no doubt that with every release, the iPhone improves.  Marginal improvement is still improvement; for instance, if the Cleveland Browns win 4 games this year (over last year’s 3 wins), I will be very happy.  The new iPhone has faster and better performing internals (quite possibly the most important, and most understated advance on the phone), improved water resistance for those accidental dips in the hot tub, and a better camera.  And that’s just the physical stuff.  iOS 10 is stellar.  The software improvements across the whole platform are, in my opinion, the best we’ve seen from Apple in recent years.  The iPhone 7 continues Apple’s legacy of improved product releases just as previous phones have.

But this post isn’t really about the latest iPhone.

I remember a discussion I had some time ago with my brother, specifically on the topic of cell phone features.  We were, at the time, talking about expandable memory in phones, and how (to him) it was a foregone conclusion that it would always be better to have expandable memory in a phone.  And while I don’t necessarily disagree on “the end,” “the means”—the logic behind the claim—was in my opinion fundamentally flawed.

On the surface, I would agree—more memory, and expandable memory, are always preferred over their absence.  But the question is why: why is it so important to have those things?

This sums up the expectation that drives the presumed success and failure of every new phone that is released.  And every new computer.  And pretty much everything else.  The assumption being made is that more features are always better…and this is where the logic of it all starts to break down.

From a programming perspective, extra features require more code.  And if the features are fundamentally tied to a piece of hardware not released by the company writing the code, the code needs to be written in a way that keeps it hardware agnostic.  Hardware agnosticism does not allow optimization in the manner that meets Apple’s (or our own) standards.  So, when people crave the addition of a memory card slot on the iPhone, but still expect the same performance—it’s just not possible, unless Apple also gets into the business of manufacturing memory cards, and people are completely OK with buying Apple’s branded cards for some ridiculous markup as opposed to the industry standard cards from manufacturers like Sandisk, PNY, Kingston, etc., for less out-of-pocket investment.

And herein lies the problem.  The youngest generation of people alive today have had a very interesting impact on those older than them.  My brother and I grew up in a time where all of the cool gadgets were being created, and we slowly learned how to integrate these into every day life (does anyone remember the Palm Treo?).  But those younger than us always had these things in their lives, another foregone conclusion that something should be a certain way without any importance placed on why.

And as much as the Gen-Xers, Baby Boomers, etc., probably don’t want to admit, this expectation is starting to rub off: Let’s talk about the headphone jack.

As I’m sure you’ve heard, Apple decided to axe the headphone jack on it’s latest offering.  Why?  “Courage,” or at least that’s what they called it.  They didn’t offer free wireless headphones with the phone, but Lightning-connected EarPods instead.  “But what about my really awesome 3.5mm studio headphones that I like to plug into my phone,” you might say…Apple gives you an adapter for that.  It’s not more to carry, something else to lose, or whatever else you want to call it.  It’s a small dongle that actually adds a small feature to your existing headphones: a longer cord.  Most people don’t complain about more functionality, but for whatever reason, today we are.  Not to mention, Apple decided to remove a technology from our phones that was OVER 100 YEARS OLD.  It’s about friggin’ time.

People are upset by this because the notion that features for the sake of features is good regardless of the logic, but that simply isn’t true.  Serial ports are no longer available on laptops (unless specifically configured that way) because it is outdated.  Houses are built with electrical wiring that is NOT knob-and-tube style, because it is outdated.  Phone systems don’t have to rely on POTS lines, because it is outdated.  Cars are moving slowly toward all-electric because combustion engines are outdated.

The headphone jack, the cassette tape, USB 2.0…these things are impeding us from the next big thing.  And Apple has moved on, allowing more room inside their phone for better internals and future innovation.  In this release, the taptic engine has grown quite a bit which has removed the need for a physical home button, which I believe is virtually indistinguishable from an actual button.

And so it seems, as much as the youngest generation probably don’t want to admit, the Gen-Xers, Baby Boomers, etc., are starting to rub off on them as well.

This is what all the big marketing firms said would happen some day: a true blurring of the lines between generations.  And on that note, it’s about friggin’ time, because frankly, I’m tired of reading about it.

So the next big thing?  I’d say the trend over the next couple years will be toward true Generational Agnosticism, now that technology has reached a place where we’re all starting to get caught up.  The Baby Boomers love their smart phones that take amazing photos.  The Xers love messaging, Facebook, Instagram.  My generation still loves to tinker.  And the youngest among us get to bring it all into the future, with more innovation and an attitude that doesn’t care how old you are.

 

Sorry for my absence these last four months.  Life gets in the way of life all the time, and I’m not special in that sense.  I hope to bring you more soon.  Thanks as always for your continued support.  Be well, and stay tuned.

Comments
  1. […] You may be wondering where the “Part One” of this entry is—for more details on that, click here. […]

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