Reader Perspective: Gear Improvements Over Time
Jonathan T writes a long but interesting note on the evolution of truly useful gear:
I have just been thinking, that perhaps we have reached a turning point, or perhaps it is a plateau in the development of the digital content creation world.
When I think back a dozen or more years, I remember my first "professional" computer. It was an apple 8600, quickly replaced by a 9600 which was a real workhorse. If I recall correctly, I updated that thing about every month. New processors, ram, scsi drives, god only knows what. Finally it just wouldn't run for more than five minutes. When Photoshop 3 crashed, you had to start the whole damn computer, which was no mean task. Internet was dial up.
I just couldn't get upgrades fast enough, on hardware or software, and each new version of photoshop was a cause for celebration, and not a little heartache, but it was all worthwhile or so it seemed.
Then came digital cameras, I must have owned a dozen of them, and I still buy a new one every year, can't even remember all the Olympics, Canons, and Sony's I've owned.
And tell me about smartphones. I am not going to pretend I remember how many of those I have bought, but I will admit to recently having thrown a box full of not so smart one in the trash. I have had every iPhone except version 1. Was always the first guy in line to get the latest one, and all my friends have them, because that is the only phone "I support":-). (In other words, help them install their email account - sound familiar?)
Any way, in spite of my age, I have not lost any interest in the digital world, as is evidenced by the recent purchase and set up of my 2012 six core Mac Pro, which I only bought because apple refused to support mountain lion on my 1.1 with its 32 bit kernel.
The only thing that has changed is that the software and hardware that I currently own is so advanced that my enthusiasm for upgrading has slowly turned from enthusiasm to, well, disgust. Perhaps that is too strong a word, but you know what I mean.
Obviously, I am not going to wait in line for the new Mac Pro, and I really don't feel that PS CS6 lacks much except a bug fix. I still don't know how to use, or need, all the features that it currently has.
As far as cameras are concerned, I don't feel the need to replace my six year old Canon Ids Mk 3, even though I eagerly bought the Mark 1 and Mark 11.
The Sony Nex7 might be replaced only because it is seriously flawed from the firmware, and fast focus point of view, and it's not the most expensive thing in the world. Actually I just published a book of sculpture that was shot half with the Canon and half with the NEX7, and the difference between the two are imperceptible at book size, (10x12").
As far as the iPhone is concerned, it looks as they have taken a perfectly good operating system,(although it is much too complicated for 90% of their customers), and just made it more complicated and less familiar to their existing customers, without actually making it any better, except for possibly better battery life. (I'll believe that when I see it). I must admit that as a graphic designer, I am glad to see the skeumorphics, what I always called "cartoons", go, but I wouldn't have changed the whole OS over it.
No one in the software business seems to understand that even small changes are bad unless they bring big improvements. Adobe is perhaps the worst offender when it comes to "fixing things that weren't broke, but I needn't tell you that.
Changes designed simply to relieve the customer of his hard earned cash is getting old, and really worthwhile improvements are far and few between, or so it seems to me.
MPG: A lot of truth in this personal view of gear and software.
My choice of bicycles over time seems to follow the same idea.
Reader Peter C concurs:
I couldn't have said it any better. Every iOS app needs to be redesigned and submitted all over again. For what? So Apple can say that they've had a 100 billion downloads. Change for changes sake is old, but when you have to fill those stores everyday with a million people you have to do something.
MPG: “This is perfect!”, then a year later: “This is WAY better”. So it goes. Sometimes it really is better (bug fixes fall into this category), sometimes it is just disruptive (egoistic and NIH design falls into this category).