a conservative heretic commenting on hypocrisy and stupidity in a world with too much of both
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Updataing to Upgrade

I still remember the first real computer I bought. It was an IBM clone with two 5 1/4 paper disks; one to power the thing and the other on which to save data. I thought I had died and gone to heaven even though I couldn’t do much with it. It had less than 1MB of total memory and all of that memory was on paper floppy disks (for those of you born not so long ago, the original floppy disks were actually flimsy things encased in paper which is why they were called floppy disks) I learned to use it for simple word processing and spread sheets but other than that, it was pretty much a big desk ornament.

Then along came MacIntosh. Suddenly the world was all a twitter about this thing called a mouse and a completely different way of using computers. Microsoft soon followed suit with Windows 3.1 followed by the Internet explosion and finally Web 2.0 which changed my life forever but not necessarily for the better.

Ever since, I have been “updated” more often than I can remember. Every piece of software I have or had (including some I wasn’t aware were even installed on my computer) seem to be constantly demanding to be updated. Windows is out there searching for more updates on my behalf constantly although I wish it would just focus on working more efficiently on my computer. It doesn’t matter what it is, as soon as I install the latest version of something, the first thing it demands from me is to log into the mother site to be updated.

I can almost understand creating a new version of an existing software and improving it with some new functionality but do we really need to be updating the stuff we already have every other month? Do the people who make this stuff not have other things to do besides tinker with what they have already produced or are we updating because they forgot to put stuff in originally? It’s like buying a vacum cleaner only to have the folks from Hoover banging on your door constantly demanding to install a new widget or gasket into the thing.

But my computer is an entirely different circumstance. Adobe Reader is constantly demanding that I click on the update button for the latest whatever but I’ll be damned if I can see anything different in it once I have updated and use the software. I have downloaded Service Packs for every version of Windows that I’ve owned since Windows 98 although I’m damned if I know why or how it made my software better. I am regularly receiving notifications that updates are ready to be installed on my computer but have no clue what those updates are, not that I would understand the need for them even if I could identify them. (I’ve also noticed that when Microsoft runs out of additional service packs for an existing version of Windows, it usually means that there is a new version of Windows coming and the one you have been updating will soon be obsolete and no longer supported.) It’s the same with just about everything on my computer, a constant series of demands to update from different pieces of software  like children screaming for candy.

I think it has less to do with the need to update software than it does with educating us to do what we’re told. Maybe that’s too paranoid, I was never much for conspiracy theories but it is odd that we are constantly being told to move from version 1.0 to 1.1 then 1.1a. The changes in these updates are often so insignificant you have to wonder why someone was paid to make them in the first place.

I can understand the need to constantly update your anti-virus software; there’s a whole lot of people out there working overtime to try and infect your computer and we need to download the latest virus definitions to protect ourselves. But really, do we need to be updating everything else on a monthly basis? I don’t think so. In fact, I don’t think we need to keep “enhancing” computers at all. My computer already functions faster than I can think. How much faster does it have to be? I’m sure it must be getting tired of waiting for me to catch up all the time.

It gets better, of course, because not only are you being constantly reminded to update, increasingly you are being invited to upgrade. Upgrades are different from updates. Upgrades are a new version of your updated software and usually add functionality to your existing softare or take your existing software or hardware to the next level. Updates can’t do that (which begs the question, why do I need all these bloody updates?) You can putter along successfully ignoring most of the updates but at some point, if you don’t upgrade, your system becomes obsolete and you get culled from the herd and left behind.

After a period of time, the manufacturer stops supporting earlier versions of whatever they manufactured. Older software, including your browser, becomes no longer compatible with the newer versions of whatever it is. Your hardware slows down as it becomes overwhelmed by the demands made on it by the newer, bigger, more robust software until finally you are left with no choice but to cough up more money to buy what you essentially already have just so you can keep doing what you are already doing.

Again, I can understand the need for some people to upgrade. They want to play bigger, more memory-intensive games or power other software that increased functionality but why do the rest of us have to get dragged along just to keep writing and doing spread sheets. I now have a laptop computer that combined with the software on it, is more powerful than the mainframe computers used for the Apollo moon missions in the 60’s. I don’t need that much power. In fact, I don’t need anything even close to that much power. I’m not running a space program (although I’m sure I’d be good at it) and I have no intention of assisting with the manned exploration of Mars (unless I’m asked, of course). I need enough power to write and to do spreadsheets, send the odd email and sometimes play a non graphic-intensive game.

It’s called planned obsolesence and the simple truth is that the death of the computer I am using right now and all its software is already pre-ordained. Eventuallly the software I’ve updated will need to be upgraded to begin a new series of updates and the hardware will have to be replaced to be able to power the new software. They’re are programming gangs all over the world already working on it.

 It will never end. God! I miss my typewriter.

(Unbelievable! I just ran spellcheck and it didn’t find one spelling error. Perhaps I should have updated it before I ran it.)



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