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'My Computer Is Slow Today'

When technology regresses.

July 14, 2015
 
How many times have you heard someone on the other end of the phone line, or across the counter, say: “Sorry, my computer is running really slowly today.”
 
In the past few weeks I’ve heard this statement from a rental car agent, folks from the phone and cable company, the people who change your address at the electric company, and from a person at the bank that I use.
 
What is going on? Have US companies decided en masse to never upgrade past Windows NT? Are our nation’s customer service representatives spending their days fighting against computer applications and operating systems slowed down by viruses and adware? Did Moore’s law completely bypass the people who must look up our customer records?
 
I want to find the futurist who predicted in 2000 that customer service technology would slowly regress in the years to come. Everyone always assumes that technological progress is inevitable. That the grand sweep of technology history is one of better, faster, and cheaper. 
 
The reality is that technology, and especially software, can get complicated faster than it gets better. Complication overwhelms the user experience.
 
What are other examples where technology is no better, and maybe worse, than in the past?
 
Earlier this year I rented a car. Neither my wife or I could figure out how to turn the car radio off. There was no easily identifiable power or volume button or knob. Everything was a menu under submenu or a sub-submenu.
 
I love my iPhone, but it is a lousy device for actually making a phone call.  Human voices sounded much better with my old flip phone.
 
Have we gone backwards with some of the technology that we use in education?
 
How many of us live in fear that we won’t be able to work the A/V systems in the lecture halls and conference rooms that we teach and present? 
 
How many professors and students spend big doses of their daily cognitive energy trying to navigate the campus learning management system (LMS)? 
 
Have all the options in Word, PowerPoint, and Excel actually made it any easier to write papers, create presentations, or construct a spreadsheet?
 
Have you actually ever tried to use SharePoint on a Mac?
 
Where have you seen technology act badly, run more slowly, and generally go backwards?
 

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