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Doug's Mailbag: Kids These Days...

We turn this issue's Mailbag to a reader who wants to get a few gripes he has with today's technology off his chest:

Every kid I know says, "Cool." I have kids and, as a result, know a lot of kids. And everything is, "Cool.". "Cool" has never gone out of vogue. "Out of vogue" has, but not "Cool." It remains a very groovy thing to say.  

I love technology. I look back on the '70s and think, "If I needed to contact someone, my only option was to find a telephone that was tethered to a wall somewhere." I mean, Ma Bell's final introduction of the RJ11 for general use was the greatest technological blessing of that decade -- more important to me than the moon landing of the previous one. Here some of this decade's technological breakthroughs that I just don't understand:

      1. The Kindle? $200.00 versus a book that costs $.50-$25.00? A book can be resold and reused. If a book is lost it's just an annoyance, not a noticeable financial hit. The print won't disappear because of copyright problems. Their ads and images show people using Kindles on the beach and on the bus. Rain, sand, theft, sudden stops? Kindle -- you're down $200.00.
      2. And the iPad? It's not as functional as a Laptop. It's too big to be a phone and doesn't make calls anyway (wouldn't it be cool if it did, though? I'd love to see someone holding an iPad up to their ear like a boom box in the '80s.). It's probably the most expensive conversation piece ever, unless you collect art.
      3. And the Netbook? I guess if you carry a purse. So why aren't they all pink? They don't seem to represent any great savings -- you end up having to purchase outboard hardware if you want a larger hard drive or a DVD burner. If you just absolutely can't get to a laptop, I guess it's better for working with documents and spreadsheets than on a smart phone, but when was the last Excel emergency you had?

Now, I'm sure there are a number of people out there for whom these niche products fit a unique need, situation or lifestyle. I don't doubt that at all. What I don't understand is the long lines and the demand far exceeding what even the manufacturers anticipated. Such as paying $500.00 for a new version of the same phone you already have and standing in a long line for the privilege of doing so (Malibu Stacy's got a new hat, people!) or buying an overpriced 'appliance' that even the manufacturer can't adequately explain why anyone would need it.

I can't imagine living in the technological dark ages again. No internet? Just shoot me! Have to actually talk to people or write them letters and mail them? Actually meet my "friends" (in person!!!???)? Plus, I'd have to get a real job! But there is a lot of this I just can't wrap my head around at all. I just know I need a much larger smartphone and a much smaller laptop and I need them now.

Thanks for letting me vent.

Share your thoughts with the editors of this newsletter! Write to dbarney@redmondmag.com. Letters printed in this newsletter may be edited for length and clarity, and will be credited by first name only (we do NOT print last names or e-mail addresses).

Posted by Doug Barney on August 06, 2010 at 11:53 AM

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Reader Comments

Fri, Aug 6, 2010 EnuffSaid

What's with the "need it now" syndrome? It's crazy to watch people glued to their phones waiting for some kind of response as they are driving down the freeway at 70 mph. I've been in IT for 23 years now and wish it would just all go away. IT has gone from Information Technology to Information Trash. Bah Humbug. Long live the 60's! :-P

Fri, Aug 6, 2010 George Grimes Dallas, TX

Comparing a Kindle to a book is where you fail in understanding it. A Kindle is equivalent to a library, not a single book.

Fri, Aug 6, 2010 JasonP Huntsville, AL

I, too, don't understand the constant phone surfing that people do each time a new smart phone is released. I had a Motorola V188 for two years until I absolutely needed access to email on the road. Then I had an old Blackberry 7320 for another 2 years until the wheel wore out. Now I've had a BB Curve for well over a year and see no need to upgrade to a Droid, but nearly everyone I work with has upgraded twice in that span. But, that's just me, who didn't buy a Dreamcast until they were being discontinued and put on clearance.

Fri, Aug 6, 2010 Joe Panama City

Cool is no longer cool. I asked my kids who are definitely random. Random is cool..er I mean random is random. I guess some 5th grader learned a new word and voila!

Fri, Aug 6, 2010 Steve

If you look at laptops, kindles, ipads and netbooks as equivalent, then it doesn't make sense. Lets think of it differently. When I go on a trip, I want to take a book or two, a movie or two to watch during the flight and some magazines. I could do that on my laptop but the battery won't last and reading on a reflective screen is not that good. A kindle is a great book reader and it's much smaller than a bunch of books. The Ipad is a great all around media device. I turn it on and watch a movie. I can read magazines in color (in fact on my last trip I was downloading current issues as they arrived). And, if I want to read books, I can do that too and not have the pain of booting a PC and waiting a minute or two. Or having the flight attendant ask me to shut down and having windows take some time to close everything. It all depends on what you want to use the device for. A laptop is a great all around device but if I don't need all of that, then why wouldn't I travel with something smaller, lighter and always on.

Fri, Aug 6, 2010

I had some of the same thoughts about these items before I tried them personally; especially the iPad. Now I can't imagine not having the iPad. If you haven't used the devices you complain about, then don't complain about them. :p

Fri, Aug 6, 2010 JC

Gotta agree with the bulk of this post with an exception for #1. The Kindle is not for everyone but the niche seems rather large. My Kindle currently has over 100 books on it and no matter what size the tome, I still get to read it on a comfortable physical format. A 1k page Neal Stephenson novel is no harder to carry/hold than a 100 page converted PDF doc. If I read in the rain I'd have a lot of soggy books 'cause it's wet a lot in Seattle. I'd no more drop my Kindle in the sand than I would a book 'cause I tend to take care of my possessions. I have the 2.0 model and won't buy another until it breaks, wears out, or the new ones have some feature that I think I can't live without. I won't stand in line for it though. I sometimes find myself annoyed when I can't get a Kindle edition of a book I want to read. I'm definitely not advocating the position that the Kindle is a killer device or world changer. But I've been waiting a LONG time for a decent electronic book reader and it definitely does the job well.

Fri, Aug 6, 2010 rick colorado

LOL - you vent about not understanding netbooks then ask for a smaller laptop, NOW :-)

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