After well over a decade working in and reporting on the subject, I think it’s fair to say that not only am I’m in a decent position to comment on the future of consumer technology, I should be considered a tech expert; if not some kind of tech god. And if there’s one thing that my godlike experience dossing around in this sector has proved time and again it’s that all things which come initially heralded as ‘dazzling’ and ‘cutting edge’ rapidly become outdated, outmoded and, ultimately, replaced by the next best thing. Which is the issue I address now – sadly, no matter how I look at it, consumer technology itself is clearly on its last legs, doomed to obscurity and soon to be replaced by something bigger, better and faster…
This may come as a shock to some, particularly those in Cupertino, but I think the signs of the imminent death of consumer technology have been obvious for some time. Unlike food that constantly surprises us by swinging from being ‘beneficial’ to ‘Cancer-packed’ in the space of a week, or suddenly links itself with a previously animal-only life-be-gone affliction, consumer technology has just got lazier and lazier. In essence, it stopped trying…
Despite being an industry that exists solely because of its inventive nature, the consumer electronics world has long been a little bit, you know, unimaginative. Take the names bestowed today upon some of the sexiest kit available: the PT-AT5000E, the ATH-W3000ANV, the 55ZL2 – mere model numbers used to label, in order, Panasonic’s latest and greatest 3D Full HD projector, Audio-Technica’s limited edition 50th anniversary headphones, and Toshiba’s brand-new glasses-free 55-inch 3D TV. It’s almost as if they’re just too shagged out from all that inventing to come up with a decent name.
It’s not just AV kit either where we encounter this dearth in moniker-imagination; take mobile tech such as smartphones and laptops, both the kit in general and their operating systems in particular. While Apple favours a numerical based system to distinguish between products, occasionally throwing a fruity ‘S’ into the mix, and Windows would like to follow suit but just ends up spluttering like a child with learning difficulties and some particularly unusual form of Tourette’s: “95… 98… 2000… ME! ME! ME! XP! 2003… VISTA! 2008! 7?!” At least Android puts a bit of effort in with its delicious range of OS options, including Gingerbread, Honeycomb and the all-new Ice Cream Sandwich. Personally I’m hanging on for the Eton Mess, Spotted Dick, or Cheese Platter with Port and Coffee that should inevitably follow.
Then we come to fruit. Consumer technology is as obsessed with fruit just like geriatrics are, worrying about their diets all too late. Apple, BlackBerry, Orange, Raspberry Pi etc? Fruit – that would be the stuff that occurs naturally, yes? Technology – not so. Okay, so while I admit that you do often get as many different genera of, say, oranges as you do variations of a smartphone model, how often do you see people comparing oranges down the pub? “Oh you’ve got the Seville? How are you getting on with that?” “Well it was an upgrade from my Mandarin and I’m still getting to grips with it. What have you got now?” “I’ve still got my Bergamot on contract for another few months. It’s okay though because I’m waiting for the new Tangerine to be released… Do you realise how fucking empty our lives are?” You don’t, because it’s stupid.
Next we have terms like ‘hands-free’ – it’s all a bit Ronseal isn’t it? Like ‘earpiece’ and ‘touchscreen’, as though without making us use these elementary terms for working the thing properly we’d all end up being wheeled into A&E with a bad case of tech-gerbilling and a redefinition of the term ‘ringpiece’. But then keeping things simple is, again, high up in the realm of the nearly deads – it’s comforting to coffin-dodgers to use terms that even Sun readers can understand, not frightening ones that require any discernible trace of a mind.
If it was down to me, in a manner not dissimilar to Apple taking something already in existence, renaming it to something beginning with ‘i’, then claiming to have invented it, I’d rebrand all techno-gubbins every year or so just to keep things fresh and interesting. It’s not got hands-free, it’s got Abu Hamza, it’s not connected to the internet it’s having Acid Air Dreams, it’s not equipped with a webcam it’s got iSight. No, wait, that last one is utter shite.
The ‘i’s Have it
Which brings me back to Apple not unlike a furious mountain gorilla going back for one last arm-battering go at a dead conservationist, why must they put a lowercase i before everything? I can remember way back in the mists of tech-time when it seemed cool. I probably had massive chops on the sides of my face and was stood on a grainy, windswept moor at the time, but it did seem cool; at first. Now, in keeping with the entropy of consumer technology, it’s just a sign of utter apathy on a new level of arsed inability and shit giving poverty. “Mr Cook, look we’ve just invented this: it’s a small lemur up the bottom of which you can store all your iThings for easy transportation! We’re calling it the iAye-Aye…” Or something.
Then there’s the newly launched Raspberry Pi, a pretend computer that the manufacturers are probably still sexually congratulating each other for coming up with such a clever name. If you’ve yet to encounter this, the Raspberry Pi is the plug puller when it comes to coma confined consumer tech. Marketed as an incredibly affordable computer to encourage the teaching of computer science in school, what it actually is though is a computer which they couldn’t be bothered to finish building. Look at that. It doesn’t even have a case.
What it does have though is the processing power of your average Iceland advert ‘actress’ and a price tag that’s guaranteed to ensure national disappointment levels rocket as kids everywhere open the new computer they’d been promised for their birthday… followed of course by an astronomical upturn in parenticide. Still it’s nice they’re doing something as a family.
Tech or Leave It
But there it is: the long fade and inevitable on-coming demise of that shiny purveyor of the desirable we used to call consumer technology. As fat, flabby and lethargic as the morbidly obese people it set out to serve, milked dry like the last cow on Earth, doomed now to merely repeat itself until, ultimately, it chokes to death on its own fruit-flavoured sick.
Still, cheer up because we’ll soon have something spankingly new to replace it! Want to know what exactly? How the hell should I know? Give me a damn break, the source of my expert/godlike status and financial security just died, you heartless arse-clown. But I’m sure all will be revealed soon over, perhaps over the remnants of the Acid Air Dream…