Since I write about culture and tech as well, I thought I'd start a little annual tradition. Here are my gripes about 05's gadgets in relation to how they hindered my enjoyment of culture, my job, my life. Call it the Digital Culture Gripe list, installment 1. Collect them all, add to them, and share with your friends.
1. Sirius s50 portable satellite radio product. This device, for all its jet-black beauty and sleek goodness, doesn't work at home unless you have an FM radio to run it off. And while plenty of true music lovers might rail me for this admission, I do not have a traditional stereo system or FM radio in my current domicile. So I can only download content onto this player while it's in my car (say hello to true Grand Theft Auto), and then play songs back to myself when I come home. Not what a portable satellite radio player should be. And I own Sirius stock.
2. Push to voicemail on cellphones. It took me a while to start loving cellphones. I say that because I don't love them yet. Verizon Wireless is supposed to have the best network, but it's terrible in my apartment, where I spend much of the day. SMS spam is a new problem, to boot. But my most important gripe about how cellphones have bothered this writer in 05 was by continuing to force me to make a phone call into my voicemail, and then inputting my passcode, simply to hear my messages. By god, cellphone companies: Simply put a button on these devices, let the phones download voicemail messages as audio files as they hit us, and let us play them back to ourselves on demand with one push of a button. Or else, do it walkie-talkie style. As it is, I waste three minutes every time I have to retrieve a cellphone message. That's three minutes I could have spent listening to a new song.
3. iPod speaker system companies. Build us some long-long-range remotes with big LCDs that actually allow us to search our iPod's menu. I am not satisfied sitting near your device and squinting into my iPod's dark screen so I can try to figure out which Shostakovich Prelude or Radiohead bootleg I'd like to hear. You are supposed to be a solution. Take yourself seriously.
4. Cellphone TV clips. EV-DO services are not broadband speed, my friends. And your clips suck. $15 a month to watch a few Jon Stewart monologues among all your dumb pop videos and weather forecasts with only passable buffering speed in big-ass airports is the most collossal waste of money I can think of. Plus, doesn't most of America spend its time in cars, and at work? When am I supposed to watch you? It's not like you work on subways.
5. Pricey GPS navigation devices with MP3 players. I cannot enjoy my music when I'm constantly trying to figure out how to correct the navigational mistakes you have made. I am aware of error quotients. I am human. But you are not. Get me where I need to go, or else don't advertise yourself as the expert. I can plug my iPod into my stereo and write my directions on a piece of paper. I shouldn't have to know the area I'm using you to navigate. Plus, it's actually kind of fun to find something on my own. Call me a Beat. I dare you.
6. Bluetooth headsets that switch from music to cellphone rings. You're great, except that you're going to give me brain cancer. I loathe you, and hence cast you all to hell.
7. Any device that claims to take digital notes for me with a stylus or QWERTY "thumbboard." I have tried you all in bookstores or movie theaters or cafes where I need to record my thoughts and story ideas. I still prefer paper.
8. Text message users that choose to use the form for anything more complex than telling me what time to meet them somewhere, and passively request lengthy responses from someone without a Sidekick and a trust fund. You are adding more distractions to my life, and I'm already quite distracted. So much so that the latest David Foster Wallace essay collection has sat on my desk, half-read for a week since I bought it. And that is a record for a DFW release in the home of Baer. Stop texting me about your personal life. Phone conversations work for these issues, but in-person meetings are better. Make time for them, and perhaps you won't have time to amass all the personal anxieties about anxieties you must text me about.
9. Web video. You're fantabulous. The only problem is that whenever someone wants to watch you, everyone wants to watch you, and you stream at such slow rates (even on T1 lines) that you aren't worth my time. Don't be cheap with bandwidth. Imagine what life would be like if you had the budget of a Midwest symphony orchestra.
10. iPod Nanos with sensitive voice recorder plug-ins and software that turns voice comments into text. Where are you? I need you for my interviews. Microcassettes cannot be trusted for all their nostalgic charm, and I believe you, not the children, are our future.