Jan 15 2014

Five Pieces of Technology I Can’t Believe Still Exist

Published by at 12:00 pm under Editorials

netflixdvd

Even though we live in 2014, and I still can’t believe my phone can listen to eight seconds of a song and tell me what it is, there are certain aspects of technology in popular culture that still feel painfully behind the times. These five items are woefully outdated in their current forms, and it’s usually through corporate greed or red tape that they still exist, as our actual technological capabilities have far surpassed what we’re forced to endure.

See if you agree with anything I’m talking about here.

Bundled Cable Packages

package

As much as I’d love to be a trendy “cord-cutter,” my job revolves around watching far too much TV to rely on networks to reliably stream whatever shows they feel like online, or praying that something comes to Netflix Instant in the near future.

As such, I’m stuck with my ridiculous cable package which features hundreds of channels when I only want to watch a handful. My bill is increased by expensive channels I couldn’t give less than a shit about  (looking at you, ESPN) and the whole concept seems insane. It’s like going to a grocery store for eggs and milk and being forced to buy ten pounds of Cheetos, frozen peas, tomato soup and a hundred other things I don’t want or need. If I want Cheetos, I will buy Cheetos. Do not force me to buy Cheetos every month.

Unfortunately, there’s no way to pay by the channel or show unless you enjoy waiting and blind luck, and the main benefit of a cable package right now is moral absolution for TV piracy. Seriously, I paid for all this content through my cable bill. Just because I didn’t DVR this or that at the proper time, doesn’t mean I didn’t already pay my cable company to access that content. With fast-forwarding, I’m skipping commercials either way. The fact remains that piracy is a far easier way to get content than using the legal DVR and cable service I’m paying for. But the fact that I am paying means my conscience is clear.

Netflix’s DVD by Mail Service

dvd

I’m running into this problem a lot lately, “Sorry, this title isn’t available on Netflix Instant, but it is on Netflix DVD.”

Who is still watching DVDs? I mean, really? If you are, it’s only because something isn’t available for streaming.

Now that you can by a USB drive from Google that plugs into your TV and gives you Netflix for like $35, no one on earth should be watching DVDs ever again. And yet, there are still a huge number of titles that aren’t available on Netflix streaming and only available if you combine two of the most archaic things of this decade, DVDs and physical mail.

I realize this is some sort of wonky licensing issue with Netflix and the movie and TV studios that are still trying to kill them for some reason or another, though I fail to grasp why it’s better for a title to be available to see on DVD only as opposed to streaming. I suppose that cuts into DVD sales, assuming there is still such a thing as DVD sales. Every time I go to the grocery store I see movies like 30 Minutes or Less on sale for $22.95. Who is buying this crap?

Netflix, you have more money than god now and should be able to get everything ever streaming on your site. Get to work.

3D Movies

Kevin Mazur

This may seem like an odd choice here, but it’s a new piece of technology that has managed to feel more and more outdated as time has gone on. What’s the last 3D movie you saw on purpose? Gravity? Avatar? Something Pixar? Probably one of those, as there’s only one or two worth seeing in the format every other year it seems.

I say “saw on purpose” because that’s all 3D movies are now, a gimmick to force you to see a film in 3D you otherwise couldn’t care less about. The problem is that in theaters now, for bigger blockbuster-y movies, often times 60-70% of the showtimes are taken up by 3D or IMAX 3D features which add anywhere from $3-7 usually to your ticket. When a movie has four times available for 2D shows, and 16 for 3D shows, half the time you’ll be forced into a 3D showing just because of the timing alone. I’m sure that’s happened to many of you, and it happens to me all the time.

Someday 3D will be the norm and moviegoing will be a better experience because of it. But we are far, far away from that point as the technology is evolving at a painfully slow pace. The limited benefits given by the format are dramatically outweighed by a ticket that costs as much as 50% more than usual. For every Avatar and Gravity there are fifty movies that gain next to nothing from 3D. It’s not quite as bad as it used to be, as after Avatar every movie under the sun tried to go 3D, but it’s still obnoxious and the format needs to hibernate until it can emerge as something worthwhile.

Bandwidth Caps

band

I could write a whole essay on how the US’s shitty internet speeds are an embarrassment compared the rest of the developed world, but I’ll stick with the increasing idiocy of bandwidth caps.

It used to be the case that nothing on the internet cost bandwidth at all. You’d check email, look at pictures, chat in chatrooms (this is a long time ago). But then video came, and it started pushing up data usage. Then, when streaming arrived, the dam broke.

Unfortunately, it’s not the ISPs who changed with the times. Rather than fully adapt to the new market, they instituted bandwidth caps that limited how much data you can use a month, and if you go over, expect hefty fines. Their excuse was that if you were using their high limits, you must be a pirate downloading torrents of all 50 seasons of All My Children or something.

Now, that idea is ridiculous, and massive bandwidth usage is almost always entirely legal. Netflix and YouTube combined now account for literally half of the bandwidth used in the country in a given year, and that share is only going up. But these caps are still woefully behind the times, and the idea they’re punishing pirates is no longer remotely valid.

Printers

printer

Rather than write an explanation, here’s the conversation that happens every time I need to print something:

Paul: “Shit, this says I need to print it out and mail it to them.”

Wife: “What, why? Do they exist in 1998?”

P: “Where’s the printer?”

W: “In the closet”

P: “Why?”

W: “I don’t want a giant plastic box on my desk doing nothing 98% of the year.”

P: “I can’t connect to it.”

W: “Why not?

P: “It says I need drivers.”

W: “What about the wireless”

P: “It can’t find it. (ten minutes of fiddling) Oh, there it goes.”

W: “Hooray!”

P: “It’s out of ink.”

W: “Go get some.”

P: “I don’t want to pay $30 to print three sheets of paper.”

W: “Go to FedEx.”

P: “That’s twenty minutes away. I’ll just print it in blue.”

(paper jam)

P: “F**** MOTHERF****”

This has not changed for literally as long as printers have existed. How can one piece of technology simply refuse to get any more reliable in over two decades?





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14 responses so far

  • Lucas Tetrault

    One of your best posts yet!

    • paultassi

      Thanks Lucas!

      • Lucas Tetrault

        I particularly loved the bit on the Printers – my wife and I just recently had this discussion and instead of buying more ink for the printer we never use – I got on amazon and bought a brand new one for only 30 bucks more than an ink cartridge would’ve cost me for my old printer. (go figure)

  • Aggie

    Well, one of the benefits of Blu-Ray/DVDs is the inclusion of extra features. Commentaries, making ofs, etc., which, at least to my understanding, are not available for streaming (maybe some day but not now).

  • http://nickverboon.wordpress.com/ Nick Verboon

    Yeah, sorry. I’m that guy keeping DVD’s alive. In addition to bonus features and trailers for other movies on the disc that I might not have found otherwise, having a physical DVD queue let’s me see movie I otherwise wouldn’t have. When I look for something to stream, the choice is overwhelming. Having them send me DVD’s means I get what I get and what I get I watch. Sometimes films I put in my queue a couple years ago and forgot existed show up in my mailbox and I don’t even know how it ended up in my queue, but I’m glad it did because I’d probably never have gotten to it if I had to pick it out of a list of hundreds of instant titles.

    • domin8r

      Also, nothing beats browsing through the DVD shelfs looking for something to watch.

      I really like Netflix but the feeling is nowhere near to that.

  • cypher20

    No Paul, you cannot also go to write for Cracked. You are not King of the Internet, dammit! :-P

    Seriously, great article, and don’t get me wrong, better then most of the stuff on Cracked. I definitely agree with you on Netflix, “why no streaming”? Our printer at least, is not in the closet. It is hiding upstairs by the laundry hamper while the computer is downstairs so if you print something without trudging upstairs to first fold out the little catch, the pages go straight into the dirty laundry. So . . . yeah. Enjoy that IRS!

    • paultassi

      Hah, I guess it is rather Cracked, but yeah, probably not heading there any time soon.

  • thatsmrsnyder

    I don’t buy DVD’s anymore, buy I am an avid collector of Blu-Rays. The picture quality is still miles above the uber compressed “HD” Streams on Netflix, but that’s not even the most important reason. No, I buy physical discs for the same reason I avoid getting a Kindle: they look good on my shelf.

    And I’m going to disagree with you on the printers, as well… It is apparent that you do not work in an office environment. Printers are essential. Now, for home use? I’ll go with you there.

    Not your home, obviously- more metaphorically.

  • goseebananafish

    I still get DVDs and BDs from Netflix because my Bandwidth Cap is 10GB/month. I still print out photos on my home printer and from what I’ve read if we didn’t subsidize many of the smaller channels through cable packages, they would go out of business.

  • http://www.facebook.com/#!/profile.php?id=1186107134 MarkyD

    I initially planned on only signing up for Netflix streaming, but after I realized how many movies AREN’T available that way, I added the dvd/Blu service. I figure some old jagholes in a boardroom somewhere are preventing them from streaming everything. Bummer.

  • goseebananafish

    These came to me this morning as I was lying in bed:
    paper checks,
    pennies,
    physical text books.

    and cars that can’t drive themselves

  • Justin Kelley

    This is the third article I’ve seen this week that talks about how DVDs are going the way of the 8 track. All 3 articles were followed by lots of disagreement. If DVDs are going away then its only because they’re being replaced by blu-rays. Just as with gaming consoles, there are still plenty of us who prefer to own physical media and not a digital license that can be taken away any time.

    Additionally, it’s in the studio’s best interests to keep the format’s going. For example, why would Disney want to sell a license to netflix so that any kid out there can stream one of their movies for a couple pennies vs shelling out $30 every time they can release a new format or remaster the old one?

    Plus there’s the most important factor. They look purty on ma shelf

  • PimpDaddyWiteBoy

    also AOL dial up has 14 million subscribers………

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