Hey everyone, remember The Gimcrack Miscellany? It’s my blog. You’re on it now, and you’re reading an article. Remember those days? I can’t quit you, TGM! Good old blogging… it is always there to bring me a hot cup of tea when I’m feeling down, and talk to me while I fall asleep.
I have talked before about how it feels like we live in the future because of all the awesome things we have, no? Maybe that’s one of my 27 drafts that are waiting to be finished. In any case – cell phones, man. How in the heck can we talk to whoever we want with no delay? Also – flat panel TVs, dude. Do you realize we are seeing a crystal clear, insanely bright, fifty-five inch wide, high resolution image on an apparatus that is less than an inch thick? That’s a far cry from the overhead projectors we had in school. Oh and – the Internet. Think about that one. You can carry around a sleek little netbook and have access to EVERYTHING IN THE WORLD from almost ANY PUBLIC PLACE.
I have said that to say this: you’d think that in a world with iPhones, organic LED TVs, and Internet everywhere, everything else would follow suit and get better and faster. You’d be wrong. I’m about to point out something in the following sentences that you’ve never consciously noticed, but has been driving you crazy. Sort of like when someone finally turns off a device that has been making a bunch of background noise all along and you suddenly realize how annoying it was once they turn it off.
We can all agree that technology is great – that is, once it’s up and running. It’s the getting it up and running part that I take issue with.
Here is the problem as I see it: gadgets and gizmos are getting smarter, more sophisticated, more complicated, and able to do so much more than they ever did. Well that’s good. Good for you. But, there is one thing missing: THINGS TAKE FOR FREAKING EVER TO START UP. Let me explain. 20 years ago I bought an original Nintendo console with the help of my parents. Here’s what happened next: 1) I put a game in, 2) I pushed the power button, 3) I entered a state of gaming bliss. That was it.
Conversely, 2 years ago I bought a Nintendo Wii. Here’s what happened next: 1) I pushed the power button, 2) I waited for it to load, 3) I ate a pastrami sandwich, 4) I hit A to get past the first warning screen, 5) I got to the menu, 6) I put a game in, 7) I waited for it to load the game, 8 ) I ate a Totino’s pizza, 9) I clicked on the game, 10) I waited for the game menu to load, 11) I hit A to get past the second warning screen, 12) I clicked “play”, 13) I clicked “yes I’m sure”, 14) I waited for the game to load AGAIN, 15) ANOTHER warning screen, 16) I finally saw the actual game menu.
WARNING EVERYONE, BE CAREFUL WITH YOUR WII DEVICES. THINGS CAN HAPPEN. YOU NEVER KNOW WHAT’S GOING TO HAPPEN!!!
And after all of that, I still had to complete several more steps – which I won’t list – and go through several more screens of loading various components before I even got to do anything.
With all of the effort involved in playing a simple game, is it even worth it? Sometimes I have 5 extra minutes where I feel like taking a load off and beating one level of a game. NOT POSSIBLE with a Nintendo Wii (or any other modern gaming console). It takes 5 minutes just to get everything up and running. I don’t want to have to schedule a time to play a video game.
“Well, TGM, I’m not a gamer, so your new theory doesn’t apply to me.” Actually it does, or at least it will very very soon. Ready for this little nugget? I have a state-of-the-art 52″ flat panel Samsung TV. Whether you realize it or not, one day so will you. Here’s what you can look forward to.
When I press the power button on my remote, it takes 35 seconds before I see an image. THIRTY-FIVE. What in the hoot-nanny could possibly be taking so long? I have ordered a meal from McDonald’s, driven to the first window, paid, driven to the second window, waited for several people to assemble and prepare multiple food items, received my food, and taken a bite of a french fry IN LESS TIME THAN THAT. When I used to have an analog TV with an electron gun in it (so old!) it would take around 5 – 8 seconds for me to see an image. ONLY FIVE TO EIGHT.
Now, I realize it’s because the HDMI cables are carrying commands from my digital cable box to my TV via my 7.1 channel Onkyo receiver, which itself has to process the picture and sound through any number of its internal THX decoders and processors, and then it has to sync everything up, and there’s a million other things going on that I probably don’t understand. Yeah, that stuff’s pretty cool. But you’re missing the point, Samsung. You’re still not getting it, Onkyo. Why aren’t you paying attention, Motorola Comcast Cable Box? Go faster.
Isn’t this supposed to be the future? It sure sounds like it to me. Just say the year we’re in and it sounds like the future. “Twenty Ten”. That is definitely the future. If you asked anyone 15 years ago what they thought of when they heard the phrase “Twenty Ten”, they would say, “That’s totally in the future. Everything will be futuristic. Now if you’ll excuse me, I’m going to go watch Friends followed by Seinfeld on NBC Thursday night must-see TV. Whoops, hold on, someone’s paging me.”
Don’t even get me started on my BluRay player. ZOMG. I am absolutely not exaggerating in any way when I tell you this: it takes up to a minute and 30 seconds from a cold start to when it actually loads my disc. “But TGM, that sounds pretty normal to me.” Orly? Think back to your VCR. You put a VHS tape in and that son of a bitch would start playing immediately. BOOM. Watch your movie.
“I am neither a game player nor a movie watcher. So it still doesn’t apply to me.” Yes it does. Have you ever turned on a computer? This one really gets me. The other stuff – OK, take forever, that’s fine – it’s just fun and games. But a computer? You use computers for work. FOR WORKING. Yet, from a cold start, it can take several minutes for a computer’s processor to stop frantically churning so that you can actually open a program. Have you ever tried to click a program before the computer has fully loaded? And then nothing happens, so you click it again, and then two of them finally open? Arrrgh – frustration!!
Think about it. Processors are exponentially faster than they used to be with multiple cores and hyper threading and all that stuff. Memory is thousands of times bigger than what it used to be. Hard drives have higher RPMs and millions of times more storage space than they used to have. Yet it still takes the same amount of time, and even longer in some cases, to boot up your HP Pavilion Touch Screen Ultra PC as it did to boot up your Packard Bell 386 two decades ago.
More really good examples that you’ve probably experienced:
- My first cell phone 11 years ago turned on when I pressed the power button. My current cell phone takes up to 45 seconds to complete a cold start. Probably because it has more ring tones.
- My first 5-disc CD player could startup in 5 seconds and change discs in 10 seconds. My current Philips 5-disc shelf system literally takes a full minute to start up and takes 15 seconds to change discs. Probably because it has a USB port.
- My VCR could fast-forward the warnings at the beginning of movies. My BluRay player blocks me from pressing any buttons during warning screens, and also has twice as many of them to boot. Probably because it can stream Netflix.
- Paying at the pump used to consist of swiping a card and selecting an octane. I went to Kroger’s gas station yesterday and had to enter my Kroger Plus card number, then swipe my card, then answer yes/no questions on 3 separate screens, and then enter my billing zip code, and then finally choose the octane, only to discover my gas pump had the slowest flow in the world. Probably because it has a comfort grip handle.
See? See? Hasn’t this stuff been annoying you?! Scientists: hold off for a bit on the features and develop things that start faster, please. Once we’ve got everything humming along at lightning speed like you see on TV and in the movies, THEN we can go back to features. Deal?
Oh, and don’t think you’re getting away without a trademarked theory. I declare this phenomenon the Eating Scraps Effect ™ because manufacturers distract you with features until you don’t notice that you have to wait every time you want to use something, similarly to how William Wallace described the Scottish nobles as “so concerned with squabbling for the scraps from Longshank’s table that you’ve missed your God given right to something better.”