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Swiss Army Knives of the Information Age

Submitted by Commandrea on January 4, 2011 – 9:59 amNo Comment
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By Jack Daniel Betz

For Christmas this year, I received the much welcome gift of the (no brands in this article) e-reader.  When the gift-giver first hinted that they were going to give me an e-reader I was a little disappointed after having been enticed by advertisements to look into tablets. However, if you’re a big reader like me, you’ll quickly realize that reading text on a back-lit color screen is going to make you feel pretty awful if you do it for more than twenty minutes straight (as you would when reading an ink and paper volume). But that means that tablets and other secondary reading devices are going to suck as e-readers! What?! Multi-function devices are not always better?!? I can’t send email, watch Netflix, look at porn, play minesweeper, videochat, blog, and shop online at the same time on a single device without sacrificing quality?! Blasphemy!

The only devices that have the power to truly serve as omnibus companions are computers but companies continue to successfully trick the consumer into thinking that their underpowered little product can replace a computer or serve the same function on the go. We’ve gotten so intent on requiring our cell phones, for example, to have so many superfluous gadgets that we hardly know the meaning of a single-function consumer electronic.

E-readers display text in black and white, without a back-light, in order to function exclusively as a way to read books and emulate the effect of ink and paper. Even though I can’t surf the web in color or make calls on it, this E-reader is completely competent at doing at least one thing. It might seem crass to carry on about this problem but it says a lot about our culture that we’re so hungry for convenience that many us are willing to settle for products that do their job less well. For example, the Swiss Army Knife often includes a pair of scissors but we all know that those scissors are just a two-bit version made to fit into the hollows of the knife. It’s pretty obvious that those tiny scissors are shit compared to full-function scissors but aren’t they convenient?

It’s said that he who is jack of all trades is master of none and the idiom seems to apply equally well to the state of electronics and maybe our present mentality as a people. Maybe it’s better to have an actual GPS than having a lower quality app version or an actual camera instead of just your iPhone camera. Consumers have sacrificed quality for convenience with multi-function devices mostly because we are and have long been a lazy race. If we are all willing to accept mediocrity just because something can fit in our pockets, we’re really screwing ourselves as a civilization.

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