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Your least favorite digital tech


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Things we used to love but are now a PITA because the new way is better.

 

I'll start with floppy disks/drives and their magnetic media followers like Zip and Jaz. They were portable, held data, but were so S(click)L(click)O(click)W(click) to load -- and if they got too close to a strong magnetic field, all bets are off.

 

And those huge double-sided disks that held tons of 1980s data, don't hold **** today.

 

Flash drives hold tons more data, it's instantly accessible, and not disturbed by magnetic fields.

 

Insights and incites by Notes ♫

Bob "Notes" Norton

Owner, Norton Music http://www.nortonmusic.com

Style and Fake disks for Band-in-a-Box

The Sophisticats http://www.s-cats.com >^. .^< >^. .^<

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Magnetic Tape for audio recording.

 

I'm a stubborn analog diehard and was determined to add a multitrack analog recorder to my studio, but my buddy talked me out of it.  In hindsight I'm glad he did - not long after I acquired my Alesis HD24 HDR, the bottom was dropping out for large format analog tape manufacturers.  Editing is MUCH easier in the digital domain and there's no bias calibration or mechanical malfunctions to worry about.

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Early keyboards with DCO's. "But they ARE analog!" reps would insist. They were locked so tight that they sounded thin and digital. Roland countered it with a really deep built in chorus. Other companies failed to do that and their sounds sucked.

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Vacuum synthesizer (Pro Tools 10.3 - I mention this because maybe it's gotten much better sounding). Never really warmed up to it. It seems challenging to get good sounds out of it. I have heard some really great synthesizers that sound analog, such as IK Media Syntronik. But I just don't like the way it sounds in general. I shouldn't have to work this hard to get a good sound out of it. 

 

Digi001 and Digi002. No explanation needed.

 

Windows 95. Same comment as directly above.

 

Seagate external drives. The enclosures were horrible. I purchased three of these simultaneously some years back, never moving them, and simply connecting them to the computer via USB. All three died. Now, their internal HDs....those seem fine. Never had an issue. 

 

Kodak Easyshare camera. This was the first digital camera I ever got, probably back around 2002 or 2003. It would take about maybe ten or twelve photos....and then the batteries would die. As a bonus, the photos looked hideous. Big difference in digital camera technology between this time and 2006 or so, when they actually became rather useful and decent.

 

 

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The first MBox. It's quite unfortunate they kept the name for the later version, which was really, really good.

 

SCSI. You always had to turn everything off before plugging or unplugging. And you never really knew if they were going to communicate properly, because having a happy SCSI network depended on the order in which you turned things on.

 

ARP Avatar. A reviewer once sent in a review to my Device newsletter where he said "the knobs fell off if you just looked at them." I thought that was stretching it, so I said "c'mon..." He said it was actually worse than that, you didn't even have to look at them, the glue that held them on to the shafts dissolved the knob. So it was a scathing review, and I published it. At NAMM, David Friend of ARP was livid, and said he was going to cancel all their advertising. I had to remind him that Device had no advertising, it was subscriber-supported :)

 

 

 

 

 

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Dial-up modems to get on the Internet: (Honey, please get off the Internet to use the phone) I remember my pink 14,400 singing bzzz bzzzz bzzz bzzzz bzzzzz. It was cool at the time.

 

KuruPrionz already said it, but I've got to restate it: DOS for a person with typos built into his fingers (me), this was torture.

 

RealPlayer: Need I say more?

 

They were great in their day, but I'm happy to say they are passé.

 

Notes ♫

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Bob "Notes" Norton

Owner, Norton Music http://www.nortonmusic.com

Style and Fake disks for Band-in-a-Box

The Sophisticats http://www.s-cats.com >^. .^< >^. .^<

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The creepy robot dogs from Boston Dynamics and DARPA, IIRC. Yeah, I really need one of those things chasing me down at 30 mph, after the Terminator drone has triangulated on my bag of chimchangas as a WMD because of a glitch. You can get funding for all sorts of wonders, if there's a military application. You can have your dream, as long as there's enough nightmare in it.

 

In musical terms, early MIDI splitters. Routing them beyond the simplest config was often a plug-&-see game from Hell. What they needed was mod matrix style software and computers that wouldn't exist for 30+ years. It was one of my earliest experiences with biting off more synth than I could chew.

"What's the password?"
"'I have bourbon.'"
     ~ Joe Hill, "Full Throttle Stories"

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Bogus Live Chats that Are Really Stupid Bots.

 

Hello, my name is Bobbie. How can I help you today?

I want to cancel my service.

Sure thing! Glad to help. Did you know that right now, we have a special on DirecTV where you pay only $20 a month for the first year?

I'm not interested in DirecTV, I just want to cancel my service.

Okay, you want to cancel your DirecTV service. One minute please...

...

...

...

...

Our records show you don't have DirecTV with us, so we can't cancel it. Do you have a different account?

No, I have only one account, and I want to cancel it. All of it - internet and cell phones. I'm switching to Comcast.

Sure thing! Glad to help. One minute please...

...

...

...

Did you know that our new Internet special can deliver 1 Gig fiber speeds? I'd be happy to show you the options.

I just want to cancel my service.

Okay, you want to cancel your internet service. One minute please...

...

...

...

...

...

Thanks for your patience. Your internet service has been cancelled.

What about the cell phone service?

Sure, I'd be happy to help you with your cell phone service. Did you know you can upgrade to the new iPhone 14 for only another $20 a month?

I don't want to upgrade my cell phone service. I want to cancel it.

Let me connect you to a customer service agent...

...

...

...

...

...

...

...

...

...

...

...

[connection drops]

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I HATE that stuff. Of all the completely terrible bot-farms, Century Link has been the worst in my experience. 

Last year I was the Maintenance Coordinator for the Association Division of Windermere Management in Bellingham. 

We had 3 instances of elevator failure at condominiums and the phone did not work at all three places. Century Link owned the lines so to be pro-active and thorough, I had to call them to get the lines checked and/or serviced. They did not own the phones, just the lines. 

 

As your conversation above except every once in a while a bot would tell me that I could talk to a "representative" by saying "representative". 

Of course, it would then respond "Oh, you would like to speak to a representative? All of our staff is currently busy with other customers, please hold while I transfer your call."

Then it would either hang up or start back in with the endless bullcrap. One time I said "Representative" over and over without stopping and it hooked me right up after a couple of minutes. 

 

On one occasion, when I finally did get a lineman out to check out the situation, Century Link called me to say the lines were working. 

I had the tech's number so I called him and asked for a written document veryfying that the lines tested correctly. He said "Oh, we don't do that anymore" and hung up. 

 

In my world, Century Link is a smoldering crater that glows in the dark and everything that it is now is powder that feels only pain. 

It took a chunk of my life to get here and I am still not sure where "here" is.
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3 hours ago, Anderton said:

Bogus Live Chats that Are Really Stupid Bots.

 

 

I absolutely hate DirecTV.  I briefly tried them back in 2007 and cancelled after 5 weeks, and their phone system was horrible.  Then I was getting DirecTV offers in the mail for years and tried to reach someone to have my name/address but you can't even reach ANYONE unless you had an account!  I had to file a complaint with the state and local BBB to finally get some action.

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46 minutes ago, Notes_Norton said:

Daisy Wheel and Dot Matrix printers.

Early digital cameras were shite too. 

 

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It took a chunk of my life to get here and I am still not sure where "here" is.
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Yeah, like that Kodak EasyShare camera I mention above. 10-12 photos and the batteries are kabloooey?

 

Dot matrix printers are an excellent choice. Wow, those were bad. Floppy disks of just about any sort were not very robust. I typically had to save them to several disks to try and make sure one of them would work later.

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1 hour ago, KenElevenShadows said:

Yeah, like that Kodak EasyShare camera I mention above. 10-12 photos and the batteries are kabloooey?

 

Dot matrix printers are an excellent choice. Wow, those were bad. Floppy disks of just about any sort were not very robust. I typically had to save them to several disks to try and make sure one of them would work later.

I saw the Kodak and it slipped my mind. 

I was thinking about the Apple camera the college photography department bought for some unknown reason. The images just stunk, a 110 point and shoot took better photos. Sad.

It took a chunk of my life to get here and I am still not sure where "here" is.
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Apple G4 Cube. It seemed like a good idea at the time if you wanted something that looked really cool, and didn't mind paying about the same price as a better-performing Power Mac with more expandability and PCI slots. Then again, you can't talk about how elegant a plastic translucent shell is on a computer, and then have it crack. Jobs pulled the plug on the Cube less than a year after it was announced at MacWorld, and Tim Cook called it "a spectacular failure." To be fair, it probably planted the seed for the Mac Mini.

 

And since I'm an equal-opportunity platform-basher, let's not forget the PCjr. The keyboard was horrible, it had no expansion slots, was only partially compatible with PC software, and didn't have a clue about its market - it was priced too high to compete with home computers like the Commodore computers, and lacked what business needed. Consumers were really stoked about it...until the first units were shipped.

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19 hours ago, Anderton said:

To be fair, it probably planted the seed for the Mac Mini.

Actually, I think the Mac Studio is closer. I've wondered if Apple was tempted to make it in a clear enclosure. :) 

 

I bought a used Cube to use as a server back when that was still a pretty powerful machine. I still have it, and fire it up once in a while. It's part of my "Mac Museum" collection that my wife isn't to thrilled about. Her parents old iMac G4 died so it's part of it too (but they threw away the speakers years before that!!! :facepalm:) as well as a number of Mac notebooks.

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"I'm so crazy, I don't know this is impossible! Hoo hoo!" - Daffy Duck

 

"The good news is that once you start piano you never have to worry about getting laid again. More time to practice!" - MOI

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5 hours ago, analogika said:

But the Cube was so, so beautiful. For all its flaws and high price. 
 

A desktop computer that wasn’t an all-in-one and also wasn’t a huge honking mess of cables, boxes, and noise? 
 

I mean, wow. 

 

Yeah, but...it didn't look so beautiful when the plastic cracked. I think that's ultimately what killed it.

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On 5/6/2022 at 10:57 AM, Anderton said:

I think that's ultimately what killed it.

That didn't help, though they didn't all crack. Mine's not cracked.

 

I think it was the price, plus the lack of upgradability for what was supposedly a more professional Mac. I mean, the iMacs below it were not expected to be upgradable, but when you move up in price like that, people expect to be able to do more.

 

My theory has long been that Apple thought this design could replace the iMac, moving them away from the all-in-one design. Maybe if they were able to lower the price over time, it could have done that.

"I'm so crazy, I don't know this is impossible! Hoo hoo!" - Daffy Duck

 

"The good news is that once you start piano you never have to worry about getting laid again. More time to practice!" - MOI

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It definitely wasn’t designed as a replacement for the all-in-ones. 
 

It was designed for people who wanted the power of a real desktop, without the hassle and ugliness associated with it (hence the single-connector ADC port for displays etc.) and we’re willing to pay a premium for that. 
 

It just wasn’t a sustainable market at the time. 

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19 hours ago, analogika said:

It definitely wasn’t designed as a replacement for the all-in-ones. 
 

It was designed for people who wanted the power of a real desktop, without the hassle and ugliness associated with it (hence the single-connector ADC port for displays etc.) and we’re willing to pay a premium for that. 
 

It just wasn’t a sustainable market at the time. 

You could be right. You're definitely right that it's a shame that gorgeous design never got anywhere. Like I said, the mini and Studio seem to have some of the same genes, though. I wish I could justify a Studio right now.

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"I'm so crazy, I don't know this is impossible! Hoo hoo!" - Daffy Duck

 

"The good news is that once you start piano you never have to worry about getting laid again. More time to practice!" - MOI

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I also think that psychologically, having the optical drive on the top triggered the thought "toaster" in people's brains. No doubt the design was super-cool, though. All my computers are tucked away under desks, they're certainly not works of art.

 

I think my favorite Mac of all time was the IIci. What a great machine. I think of the Studio as a worthy successor.

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19 hours ago, Anderton said:

I also think that psychologically, having the optical drive on the top triggered the thought "toaster" in people's brains. No doubt the design was super-cool, though. All my computers are tucked away under desks, they're certainly not works of art.

 

I think my favorite Mac of all time was the IIci. What a great machine. I think of the Studio as a worthy successor.

The IIci and the Portrait Monitor, running 6.0.7 was definitely a contender for the best Mac ever. 

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4 hours ago, analogika said:

The IIci and the Portrait Monitor, running 6.0.7 was definitely a contender for the best Mac ever. 

I wasn't a Mac user back in those days. I've heard many cite the IIci as the best or one of the best. What was so great about it? 

"I'm so crazy, I don't know this is impossible! Hoo hoo!" - Daffy Duck

 

"The good news is that once you start piano you never have to worry about getting laid again. More time to practice!" - MOI

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1 hour ago, Joe Muscara said:

I wasn't a Mac user back in those days. I've heard many cite the IIci as the best or one of the best. What was so great about it? 

 

Lots of reasons. It was easy to open up, which was important because it had 3 slots. Not only could you easily expand RAM, the graphics were onboard, which freed up a slot compared to previous Macs. Furthermore, you could put in faster RAM to speed up the video performance. There was a slot for an optional 32 kB Level 2 cache, but you could upgrade the CPU, too. Daystar made a 50 MHz chip upgrade (which I bought, it worked great), and there were upgrades to 68040 processors so you weren't stuck with the 68030, and even an upgrade to a 100 MHz PowerPC 601. 

 

Being able to open it up so easily also made cleaning easier. It had a ton of ports, was quiet, and looked cool - you could position it horizontally or vertically. The matching portrait display was grayscale only, but for a writer, it was a dream come true.

 

It spoiled me! When Macs started being made in "take it or leave it" configurations, and any upgrades had to be installed upon purchase using options available only from Apple, it drove me more toward Windows...even though at the time, the OS was clumsy (to be charitable) compared to the Mac. 

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1 hour ago, analogika said:

I was old enough to be aware of these machines, but nowhere near able to afford one. 

 

I sold my soul to the devil for one.

 

Fortunately, I got it back when the devil lost his bet with me that short-selling Apple stock was the way to go.

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Thanks, guys. That's interesting. My first Mac was a PowerMac 7500 (I still have it, actually. I fire it up every so often). I waited for the model because it was recommended to me that the future was PCI as opposed to NuBus. I liked it a lot, I upgraded the CPU to a PPC 604, I think, and I think I even added a USB card to it. I even ran Rhapsody on it though that was limited since there weren't any apps for it, but it was cool trying out that tech.

 

I get why Apple has switched to computers that are mostly not expandable. It's a bummer for those who want to be able to do that, but honestly, as much as I did that in the old days, I hardly ever do anything like that now and I've been fine. For instance, my primary computer right now is a 2017 iMac. While I'd love to get a Mac Studio, I can't justify it because this iMac works fine for nearly everything I do. The only thing I wish was different was more Thunderbolt ports. One "upgrade" I did make to this iMac was switching to an SSD as the startup drive, and I decided to not try to open it up to replace the Fusion Drive but to use the TB3 port instead. It's been a worthy upgrade. But, that hogs one of the two TB3 ports, and I have a UA interface that's TB3 as well as an external monitor. I can't use both at the same time without getting some type of dock I guess. But again, I don't do those things too often so I don't really need to get one, yet.

"I'm so crazy, I don't know this is impossible! Hoo hoo!" - Daffy Duck

 

"The good news is that once you start piano you never have to worry about getting laid again. More time to practice!" - MOI

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