|Column: The end is near|
Thursday, 15 December 2011 12:00
Of the year, that is. At this time of year, thoughts inevitably drift away from work and – if you’re lucky – towards a well-earned break.
It is also the time of year that many of us will either be giving (maybe even to ourselves too) or receiving gifts. Hopefully some of these gifts will be technology related and will bring you or the other recipients all the joy and ease of life that its marketing hype claims it will.
I love new technology. Why else would I do what I do? Which – in case you do not know – is play with new tech to see how it works.
Having been around for just a little while, I have however learned that new technology is often just that, new. In my opinion, it isn't necessarily always better.
Not sure what I mean? Here's an example or two.
While I’m busy writing this column, I'm listening to a new amplifier I’ve received to review.
Despite being out-of-the-box-new and recently manufactured, the amplifier employs technology that is so old, it probably pre-dates most readers on this site. In fact, it is probably older than their parents too!
The amplifier uses valves (or tubes, as the Americans say) to amplify the signals.
If you compare this ancient amplifier technology to the latest competitors that deliver similar power, you would probably wonder why anyone would spend money on such archaic equipment.
Modern counterparts are smaller, use far less energy, probably cost less, are more than likely more reliable and easier to use. My review amplifier doesn't even have a remote control, so even changing the volume requires some work.
This indicates that a new tech amplifier is better, right? And it probably is, when measured in all those areas that make little difference to real enjoyment.
When I listen to music, I don’t, for example, sit and marvel at how small or energy efficient an amplifier is. I just enjoy hearing the music, and it's in the listening where this old technology amplifier scores its points. It just sounds better than pretty much all the teeny, tiny, ultra-efficient, class D switching amplifiers I've listened to thus far. Another plus is that it is just plain cool to look at the warm glow of the valves.
What's more, the valve amp sounds at its best when it is hooked up to a technology source component. There is a musical synergy between the amp and my turntable.
Good quality records and the music on them have the ability to sound, as a colleague would say, beguiling.
When compared technically to MP3's, vinyl playback is just plain silly. It's clunky, prone to clicks and pops, storage capacity is useless, and it is a fragile system to boot. Also, there is no way that you could go jogging with a record player strapped to your wrist!
But once again, when it comes to music, I would rather have ten good albums that I love, than a hundred bad sounding albums that I don't. (Go ahead: call me an audiophool if you want to!)
I could go on and cite a few more examples where older technologies work better at performing their core duty than some newer ones. But I won’t, because I'm running out of column space.
Besides, I have long since stopped differentiating between old and new technology. Besides, a lot of “new” technologies are just old ones that have been repackaged anyway. So instead of saying tech is old or new, I rate it as good or bad.
If new tech does what it says it will, and does it better than a previous generation, then it is good. If it does lots of other things well, but fails in its core duty - such as my new phone, which has a great camera, music player, an awesome browser, and can control my entire house, but I can’t for the life of me use it to make phone calls – then it is just bad.
So while you are out buying tech toy gifts for yourself or your loved ones this holiday season, I would suggest choosing it based on how well it actually performs its core duty. Don’t get caught up in the newness of the technology.
Have a wonderful and tech-filled break!
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