22 December 2016

My ‘Obsolete’ Tech

TypewriterThe other day I read an article by Megan McArdle at Bloomberg View, entitled Tech Upgrades Just Aren’t That Great Anymore.  In the article, she explains how she came to replace her four-year-old Macbook Pro with a nearly identical Macbook that is – shock, horrornot quite the newest model available!  How could a self-confessed hardcore power user (and gamer) possibly have reached this point?

However, the article made me feel much better about my own tech choices.  As I read, it dawned on me that I had unconsciously arrived at the same conclusion as McArdle about two years ago.  The fact is that even users who demand a lot from their tech just no longer need the latest hardware.  For a number of years now it has been possible to buy a laptop, a smartphone or a tablet with all the processing speed and memory required to do everything you need from them for years to come. 

As McArdle rightly points out, the upgrade cycle is no longer delivering improvements in processor speed and memory.  Instead, what we get is improvement in physical, rather than technical, specifications.  The new generation of devices is thinner and lighter than ever before, but processors are, at most, only marginally faster.  Indeed, in some respects tech specs are going backwards.  McArdle notes the loss of USB and SD ports, memory expansion options, and keyboard quality, all sacrificed in the race to deliver the thinnest devices ever seen.

The problem with trying to improve technical specs is power.  And the problem with power in portable devices is twofold – battery capacity and heat.  I cannot help wondering whether the inevitable consequence of trying to push all of the boundaries – performance, size/weight and battery capacity – in a single device is the debacle that was the Samsung Galaxy Note 7.

I am pleased to say, however, that I do not own any device that is likely to catch fire.  Given that everything I own and use daily is at least two years old, if any of it was going to spontaneously combust then it would probably have done so by now!  So in a world of ever-more-incremental upgrades, just how obsolescent is my tech?