People don’t want technology

Broken TV

A fundamental problem with the technology industry is that so much of it assumes that people are interested in the technology. Technology firms are full of technologists who love technology for technology’s sake.

People just want to get stuff done or have their problem solved. Tech firms often just give people technology. The result, according to the Verge’s Nilay Patel, is:

…[A]n ever-increasing number of assumptions: that you know what a computer is, that saying “enter your Wi-Fi password” means something to you, that you understand what an app is, that you have the desire to manage your Bluetooth device list, that you’ll figure out what USB-C dongles you need, and on and on.

(Confession: I’m reasonably savvy and excited about tech, but I barely knew what Bluetooth was until I had to switch it on to use my smartwatch, which now gathers dust on a shelf.)

The article’s author Nilay Patel lists a large number of examples of people from his own life being confused about technology. On the one hand, the examples are astonishing. On the other, they are totally unsurprising. And yes, there are one or two in there that would confuse me as well.

Recently a friend of mine bought a new TV. She is a few years younger than me, very clever, interested in technology, and is herself a designer. But she couldn’t get her new TV to work. She had tried everything, and asked me to look at it. It turned out that she hadn’t tuned it.

At first it’s funny, because if you’re a few years older like me, you know that TVs need to be tuned before you use them. (When I was growing up we even had a black and white TV with a physical knob used to change frequency, like on an AM/FM radio.) But thinking about it, in this day and age, why should anyone have to know that you need to tune your TV? Shouldn’t it just happen anyway?

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