Are we making progress?
I’m feeling terrible today, aching all over and wading through brain fog. The number of mistakes I’m making typing this post is just crazy. Still the topic under discussion is ‘progress’ prompted by three events:
- the demise of my almost brand new, top of the range, ThinkPad Twist, which forced me to fall back to a 6 year old Thinkpad x200T
- a tweet from Vince, saying that he is still using a 2007 Macbook for work
- a youtube video promoting the habit of journaling and the importance of documenting your work life experience and in particular the ‘progress’ you are making, it’s worth watching (see the end of this post)
So am I making progress in my life? Well I will leave that topic for another day. Is the tech industry making progress, well that’s an interesting discussion. Here’s some examples of areas where progress is not so clear:
- We have moved from highly responsive desktop applications, to often less than responsive web apps. I frequently see web apps that are much slower than similar Visual Basic apps that I developed 15 years ago.
- I’m currently using a 6 year old X200T that has a better screen, keyboard, battery life, Wacom Tablet (that I use all the time) than the top of the range Thinkpad Twist. What’s better about the Twist? It’s slightly thinner and lighter and it supports Multi-touch (which I never use). It also has better performance in theory, but can’t notice the difference so far.
- It’s a similar story with my iPhone 4S, compared to the 5S. Thinner and lighter with improved performance that I hardly notice in typical use.
- On my Windows PC I experience an application crash or hang perhaps once a week. On my iPhone apps that are crashing (or being purged from memory), every day, but at least they restart automatically and sometimes preserve there state.
It almost seems that all the ‘progress’ in our laptops is to make them thinner and lighter, attributes that are irrelevant as soon as I pop by laptop in my backpack, at the expense of a great screen, keyboard and battery life that I value every minute of the day. With my iPhone it’s also thin and light and low memory, when I want long battery life and app reliability, I don’t care about thin and light, the iPhone has been thin and light enough since the day it was created.
I’m having a bad day, so I deserve a good moan. I want a ThinkPad X220 or X230 again, the laptop that I consider to be the best trade-off yet and I’m happy to keep using an iPhone 4S for as long as I can buy one, or until Apple obsoletes it or makes it too slow with IOS8/9.
To be fair there are many areas of real progress, so for balance here are five of my favourites:
- The Chrome browser with its great performance, stability, extensibility and seamless synchronisation of state and extensions across devices. The ability to replace desktop apps with Chrome applications.
- The ability to always have my camera in my pocket and share what I’m doing and where I’m doing it with my friends and family
- Never getting lost because I have GPS and maps, including the full Ordinance Survey maps always with me
- The joy of reading articles from the web in distraction free Instapaper, and it’s seamless synchronisation with the cloud and across devices
- RSS and Podcasts that keep me reading and listening and endlessly fascinated and entertained
A good video, I’ve read the book too which was boring and repetitive.