April 18th, 2015

Daily Activities Include: scooter around the block!

T. went for a long bike ride with R., and I went around the block with him later (he scootered, I walked). A. and I hung out and played cards (actual deck of cards -- a new one I had to open, even) and on the iPad we did Pass & Play Uno and The Game of Life. She really enjoyed _Monsters vs. Aliens_ (thank you, J., for the suggestions! It was perfect!) and was completely bored with _Puss in Boots_. Inevitably, there was more My Little Pony as well. She's currently playing Profitville (I love that game).

I've been working on a long piece about which aspects of gadgets at any given point in time are the result of technology limitations and which are an artifact of design failures. The specific design failure I am interested in occurs when an object is designed in a particular context (PDAs, say, assumed to be tethered to one computer), but find an audience that would like to use them in another context (independent of any computer -- so this would be the big win of putting the expansion slot on the Handspring Treo, because it let you transfer from PDA to PDA without resorting to a computer in the middle). A related design failure occurs when you really "hard wire" for the context in a way that offloads costs onto the consumer and then you don't even bother to profit off those costs (here, I have in mind proprietary to proprietary data or power connectors, and then you don't make it easy or sometimes possible at all to buy replacements for lost cords. I would mind _less_ if the company treated the cords as a profit center, but back in the 1990s, they didn't seem to. Either way, it was incredibly annoying that you had to keep track of all those cords and none were interchangeable. Hard to believe in the post-USB world, I know!).

Anyway. I've had to (re)learn a whole lot that I really avoided learning in the first place about serial and parallel ports and interconnection standards (or lack thereof), and I would like to avoid blaming companies for technological limitations if at all possible, so I've been trying to nail down timelines and dependencies wherever I can. The article is currently morphing into a different direction that is more business model focused (the gadgets I have in mind are pseudo-peripherals that are at least somewhat portable, and the interaction between the durability of solid state stuff and the early obsolescence of same turns out to have destroyed a lot of companies along the way, and Apple's v2 run is stunningly long-lasting as these things go -- and it turns out there are some really good reasons _why_ Apple has done so well off of generations of the same kind of gadgetry that killed so many well-capitalized and well-run predecessors).

I'm not sure if it will ever be done, or what it will look like when it is, but that's what I've been up to the last two or three days.