By Harry McCracken | Friday, April 15, 2011 at 1:45 am
If you could somehow transport me as I was fifteen years ago to 2011, the old me would be flabbergasted by how much technology improved in so little time. In fact, I’m pretty sure that if you showed 1996 Harry an iPad, I’d insist that it was either a hoax or witchcraft.
But if 1996 Harry stuck around in 2011 for a while and used modern tech products, I’d also be surprised by some things that haven’t changed. Annoying things. Annoying things that I would have assumed would have been fixed long before the second decade of the new millennium rolled around.
Here are four technical innovations which I feel like I’ve been waiting for…well, forever. I think of them as holy grails, and whenever they do show up I’m going to be thrilled:
Painless Web Conferencing. I like the idea of participating in meetings via my browser, but the actual experience often leaves me gritting my teeth–especially the process of getting up and running. Some services demand versions of Java that I have; some don’t like my favorite browsers; some hate Macs. It can take several minutes for a session to launch, too. I do have a favorite service–the surprisingly pleasant Adobe Acrobat Connect–but when you’re sitting in on a conference rather than conducting it, you’re at the mercy of the organizer.
Goof-proof external display hookups. If I added up all time I’d spent either futzing with projectors and trying to get them to work properly or sitting while other people futzed with them, I’d probably discover that I’ve lost a good six months of my life to the process. Sometimes nothing shows up; sometimes the aspect ratio is wonky; sometimes the images runs off the right-hand side of the screen. And both Windows PCs and Macs are prone to problems. I think that the situation here has gradually gotten better, but I still hold my breath and cross my fingers every time I plug in the cable.
Point-and-shoot digital cameras that truly work great in low light. Camera manufacturers love to boast that new models have high ISOs, big sensors, anti-shake capabilities, image-processing technologies, and other features that help you snap good-looking photos in lousy lighting. All of this stuff helps–I really like my Canon PowerShot S95 a lot–but I still take plenty of photos that are murky, fuzzy, or otherwise disappointing. I’m waiting for some sort of breakthrough that lets pocket-sized cameras see just as clearly in less-than-optimal environments as we human beings do.
Syncing that never screws up. I’ve been using syncing services to shuttle data between devices since before there was such a thing as a PalmPilot. The state of the art has advanced considerably, but to this day, I still sometimes end up with duplicated entries or duplicated fields within entries. The services I use have also been known to overwrite new information with old stuff and blow away records unexpectedly. I get that this stuff is complicated, but I’m still surprised that even the best current services aren’t all that seamless.
Got any technological holy grails of your own you’re still waiting for? I’d love to hear about them.
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