Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Left Behind by Technology

Microsoft has just released its latest reincarnation of its flagship browser: Internet Explorer 9 (IE9). With my trusty old desktop, I go to the download site. The website is spanky. It looks tempting. It even has a new name (beautyoftheweb). The site itself reminds you of the best of the web, with Youtube-like pictures, scrolling photo album, simple layout, and of course that tempting DOWNLOAD NOW button. Eagerly I click on the orange button. I got this:

Shucks. My old trusty desktop is still on XP. Never mind having installed the latest patches and service packs. At the end of the day, it is still XP. The Microsoft browser upgrade is not exactly free. I need to fork out money to upgrade my operating system. I feel left behind. Microsoft wants me to upgrade if I want to get IE9. Microsoft wants my money. My old trusty desktop suddenly does not look as trusty as before.

Strange. Why does Microsoft alienate older computer systems in favour of newer ones? Is it a sign of the times? Am I that 'old' already? I hear the Apple angel flying on my right saying:
"Yeah. Go abandon Microsoft. Go for Apple."
Unfortunately, my old 'trusty' Apple Powerbook is not much better with newer technology. The latest browsers either refuse to install, or crash when opened. I need either the Tiger, the Leopard or the Snow Leopard. Old animals are good. New animals are better. The newest Apple Safari browser only takes the latest and greatest animals. Not my Powerbook. Not Panther. No latest Safari. Even my old Apple Powerbook does not look as trusty as before. I say to the Apple angel flying on my left:
"Forget it. It is the entire industry philosophy behind upgrading technology. It is not choosing Microsoft, Apple or whatever. It is about the old getting increasingly left behind by technology."
Indeed. Technology is increasingly not about meeting needs. It is about wants. It is not about just having something that works forever. It is about keeping up. In the past, users can easily say no to upgrades. That path looks like it is going to be threatened. Upgrades have become the new 'need.' The FREE download button looks inviting. It masquerades as an innocent looking forbidden tree in a cyberspace Eden. It entices us with the promised knowledge of technological good and evil. It plays a seductive chorus:
"If you want the new, you've got to keep up.If you want the best, you've got to keep up.If you want the latest, you've got to keep up."
The Technological Divide
Welcome to the new face to an old paradigm. Think generation gap.

In a market first dominated by Netscape and Microsoft in the early 90s, the browser market is now much more crowded, competitive, and sophisticated. As of today, the five most popular browsers are:

  • Internet Explorer (Microsoft)
  • Firefox (Mozilla)
  • Chrome (Google)
  • Safari (Apple)
  • Opera (Opera Software)
All of them are surprisingly quite capable of speed, functionality, add-ons, and greater stability. Unfortunately, in order to harness the best of the web, we need the best of the equipment available. Being upward compatible is more important than downward. Even though I possess legitimate software licences from Microsoft and Apple, I feel left behind. I am only valuable if I upgrade. 

The generation gap of old has come to technological town. The pace of upgrades is quickly dividing the slower and older generation from the faster and younger group of computer users. The new is speeding ahead. The old is left behind. The new norm now has two faces. 
  1. "You've got to keep up to stay relevant to technological changes."
  2. "Obsolescence is going to be faster, and faster and faster."

Sigh. I feel old. I feel slow. I feel left behind by technology. One more truth. Everybody eventually will be left behind. One more reason not to put our hopes in technology, but in the everlasting God.


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