Monday, May 18, 2009

The old and the new

The other day, CBC radio aired an episode about things old and new. The theme concerned typewriter keyboards, and other older technology. The question in the background was why some of the old technologies have survived and been incorporated into the latest technologies, and why some people stick with the older technologies (I'm one of those).

For example, the sound equipment in our home is decades old. The radio show (Spark) mentioned and interviewed a number of people who have the same philosophy as I, namely: if it ain't broke, don't fix it (or throw it away). As far as I'm concerned, use this older equipment, take reasonable care of it, and it'll serve you for many years. This goes for our cars, television sets, computers, kitchen utensils and equipment, and generally for all those things which are subject to the exhortations of the people who want to sell you new stuff.

That's not to say that I'm against the new technologies. We own digital cameras, a flat-screen computer display, an MP3 player, etc. I also own a computer-driven telescope which has been updated from its original state - I bought the telescope itself about 32 years ago at which time computer control of amateur telescopes was extremely rare. In the 1980's I wrote a computer program for an Apple II, as well as constructed the necessary mechanical additions for the telescope to make this telescope obey computer navigational commands. I have now replaced all that with up-to-date hardware and software. This is to show that I like new technology too, I'm certainly no Luddite. I definitely wouldn't be running my business if new technology was my "enemy".

This weekend, my wife organized a family dinner (for my 70th birthday - we usually have around 20 people on occasions like this), and even though we asked for no presents, I received some very nice ones. Derek, being the technical "geek" in our family, presented me with a portable GPS car display (a Tomtom ONE), with which I have played around for the last couple of days. Today my wife and I went for a walk in the neighbourhood, and I took it along. It's amazing how well that unit showed our position in real time all along the way. Being into astronomy, electronics, and computers, I well know the amazing underlying technologies that make this possible. I'm very pleased with this unit and will likely use it for many years to come.

So. I'll adopt any new technology which I consider useful, but I'll certainly not buy anything that is intended to replace those things that work well and whose replacement would result in little improvement. I really don't care about what's fashionable - for me it's what's practical.