Joe Ganley
Writing code since 1979
I have been a professional software engineer for over 10 years. I have written many kinds of software, but my particular strengths are interactive graphics applications, compilers and interpreters, and algorithms.

I also enjoy writing, woodworking, and home improvement. Also this.


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Friday, August 09, 2002

Increasingly I find myself disliking America's attitude toward high technology. I'm not opposed to technology itself in any
fundamental way, but rather, I question the motivations of the technology industry, who seem (predictably) interested primarily in using technology to lower their own costs, and in finding new ways to separate consumers from their money. Case in point #1: The entire dashboard (speedometer, tach, odometer, gas and temperature guages) in my van recently quit working. They had to replace a failed printed-circuit board that controls the dash, at a cost of $571, most of which was for the part itself. In older cars, the various pieces of the dash were independent mechanical systems, and when one failed, it was typically inexpensive to replace. So, I ask you, in changing from these older mechanical systems to the newer electronic ones, we've obviously paid a price in cost and reliability, and what have we gained? (Before you say it enables functionality like trip computers, my trip computer continued working just fine after that PC board died.) Case in point #2: The FCC has announced that they will require televisions to contain digital tuners by 2007, at which time they will phase out analog broadcasting altogether. Television has maintained wonderful backward compatibility for 60+ years; you can still watch today's TV signals on one of the very first television sets with no problem. This requirement will force an upgrade upon millions of people who don't need it, don't want it, and are not interested in the wonderful new features that HDTV offers. Furthermore, many of these are those who can least afford it; remember, we're talking about people watching broadcast TV signals on older TVs. (Plus, don't even get me started on why mandating a change in television technology is even the government's business in the first place.) Technology and engineering are wonderful things, but I'd rather see the industry focus on making their products more reliable, more environmentally friendly, and more accessible to a larger portion of the population. Coincidentally, these goals would also be a boon to less-developed parts of the world (see also two of my favorite organizations: ApproTec, who make ultra-low-maintenance human-powered water pumps for third-world agriculture, and the Light Up The World project, who provide zero-maintenance, solar-powered home lighting systems to third-world countries). [Update 10/7/02002: Interesting Slate article about the digital TV farce.]

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