Remember the old days, when you would struggle with Windows 95 or Windows 2000 to get it to properly load, say, a printer driver? It’s probably not overly difficult to recall the love/hate relationship you had with Redmond’s Richest (Microsoft)….
This schizophrenic emotional state was elicited by the relative convenience afforded by use of the Windows graphical user interface—paired with the frustration of abundant software bugs and things like plug-n-play that certainly plugged, but often didn’t play.
Use of Microsoft’s products and services, specifically its operating system and the applications found in MS Office, were a double-edged sword. On one side was convenience, speed, and user-friendly operation. On the other was buggy software, cumbersome tech support, and almost daily frustration—typically resulting in language befitting a drunken sailor (at least from me).
Welcome to 2017. We’re now officially 17 percent of the way into the 21st century. No longer do we marvel over smartphones and digital cameras. No longer do we say “Wow, that 42-inch flat panel sure is amazing.” No longer do we dream of a future of electric cars, smartwatches, thin touchscreen tablets, and free global video conferencing.
We’re home, Toto. All that cool stuff is here. And much of it is either free or very cheap.
Who Could Have Imagined?
After all, who could have imagined free video conferencing (using services like FaceTime and Skype)? When I was a kid, I recall my CPA-wannabe Granma Rabinski always cutting short long-distance phone calls because of the expense and metered billing rate. We now conduct high-definition video conferences—of any length and with folks around the world—at no cost and on a regular basis.
But our technical schizophrenia remains. Spurred by relentless online ads and spotty wi-fi, our frustration seemingly won’t abate. We love the Google search engine and the magic of Twitter. But is my smartphone too hot? Why doesn’t my internet router work? It did yesterday. And why can’t I remember the password for my secret email account?
When thinking recently about our fickle use of technology, I realized something: Google has replaced Microsoft as our evil bipolar technological stepmother.
The Silicon Valley giant, whose name has become synonymous with looking up stuff on the internet, is something that we think we can’t live without—but that we also curse on a regular basis. I’d hate for someone to steal or damage my Chromecast media streaming dongles. Yet, I want to throw them across the room when they drop the Pandora stream for the fifth time in two hours.
Jack of All Trades
Alyce Lomax at The Motley Fool, way back in 2006, described Google as a “Jack of all trades, master of none.” One blogger wrote Apple vs. Google: Where Focus Meets Buckshot in September 2014, pointing out how Google loves to experiment with a variety of products and services.
From “smart” contact lenses to self-driving cars to huge balloons intended to bring internet access to undeveloped nations (and, with it, ads from the company’s search engine and other services), Google has its hand in a very wide range of products.It’s almost as if the iconic company doesn’t trust its ability to succeed in any one area. Maybe it’s so keenly aware of the fierce competition and incredible challenges of the technology that the titan gets involved in dozens of product areas, with the hope that a few will actually pan out.
But everything is relative. Our love/hate relationship with Microsoft from yesteryear was based on the pervasive nature of the company’s operating system and software. Windows was everywhere. Very few people used Macs back then (hell, there wasn’t even a version of Microsoft Office for the Mac, so you can barely blame them). It was all MS Word and Excel and Windows XP. All of which sported some pretty serious bugs. We felt trapped.
Today is Different
Today it’s a bit different. I was recently frustrated when using Google’s URL shortening service for links within tweets. I found that, somehow, I had violated Google’s terms of service and it invalidated one of my URLs, giving my tweet, going out to hundreds of thousands of users, a dead link.
Fine, I thought, and switched back to Bitly. Frustrated by the amount of paid links at the top of the results page for Google’s search engine, I switched to Duck Duck Go. Not happy with my sluggish, stuttering Nexus 7 tablet running Google’s Android mobile OS, I switched back to an iPad from Apple.
The difference today is that there’s options. Back in the day, those frustrated by Microsoft Word or PowerPoint had few alternatives, none of which were ubiquitous enough to make the switch feel practical or intelligent. But if you’re fed up with your Nexus tablet or your Android-powered smartphone gets wonky, there’s ready alternatives from companies like Apple, Microsoft, and Blackberry.
Unlike Microsoft’s stranglehold on us back in the 1990s, Google can no longer hold us captive.
So welcome to 2017 and the age of tech options. Don’t like the ad-laced Google search engine? Switch to Bing or Duck Duck Go. Don’t like the Goo.gl URL shortener? Use Bitly or TinyURL. Getting frustrated by your Android smartphone or tablet? Give Apple or Nokia a try. Don’t like Google Maps? Try AOL’s MapQuest or Apple Maps. Don’t like Gmail? Try Outlook or Yahoo (or the messaging built into Facebook or LinkedIn). Not digging Google+? Try Facebook (ok, every human already did that…sorry).
All text and photos, unless otherwise noted, Copyright © 2003-2017 Gooey Rabinski. All Rights Reserved.
Gooey Rabinski is a writer, instructional designer, and cannabis satirist who has contributed feature articles to magazines and media outlets such as High Times, The Kind, SKUNK, Cannabis Culture, Whaxy, Heads, Weed World, Green Flower Media, Cannabis Health Journal, Green Thumb, and Treating Yourself.
He is the author of Understanding Medical Marijuana, available on Amazon Kindle.