Surrounded by Excess Technology

December 17, 2006 at 8:55 am Leave a comment

Atari 

David (MindShare Bangkok) writes:

Wired has just published a list of “The 10 Gadgets That Changed The World” Sadly I am old enough to have owned three of them. My Walkman and Atari 2600 are in an attic on the other side of the world waiting for my kids to discover them in twenty years’ time. The Atari is still the only way to play Space Invaders. 

What I want to know is: will they love these antiques or laugh at them? And of today’s new technology, which items will be loved sufficiently to make it into my kids’ attics? Will any of them still function in 2026? 

Perhaps none of today’s gadgets will evoke such affection, because of what Donald A. Norman (1998: The Invisible Computer) referred to as Excess Technology. Our gadgets can do stuff that we do not understand or do not want. The most obvious case is the huge number of Asian consumers who own bluetooth and G3-capable ‘phones but who never get past using them for telephony and SMS.  

Now we have a second tier of Excess Technology: gadgets that under-deliver because they outclass their supporting networks.  I get a digital TV signal but no interactivity. The wireless option on my laptop is permanently deactivated for security reasons. My broadband internet service does a passable imitation of a 56k modem when it squeezes data through the smallest of pipes to reach overseas servers. And what use is MMS if you can’t get a dial tone?  My guess is that of today’s gadgets, only the i-Pod will be in the attic when my grandchildren venture up there. But I bet the Atari 2600 will be in better condition and more fun to use.  What’s your guess?

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Entry filed under: media general.

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