Island in the Net

A personal blog by Khürt Williams, full of inchoate writing on photography, coffee, and geekery.

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Giles Slade is an idiot

Warning. This post is a rant. An angry rant. An angry response to what in my opinion is a misleading and uninformed article by Giles Slade, a writer for Mother Jones.

…perhaps you’re still smarting from being burned again and again by audio obsolescence: Albums went to eight-tracks, and then to cassettes, before CDs were introduced. With each change, audiophiles repurchased the classics.

I also remember mangled or melted tapes (trapped in a car in the summer) destroying my tape player or waiting and waiting while the tape fast forwarded to the song I wanted to hear. With each new format the consumer got better sound quality and ease of use. I certainly don’t want to give up digital encoding and random access.

These days, the champion of audio obsolescence is Apple, which successfully combined its iPod with a unique digital format (aac). By embracing a non-MP3 format, Apple locked you into its world.

Advanced Audio Coding(AAC) is a standardized, lossy compression and encoding scheme for digital audio. It was not invented and is not owned by Apple. Many popular consumer products support the AAC fornat. Granted, AAC may not be as popular as MP3 but it is definitely not unique to Apple or iPods.  It provides better audio quality than MP3. Get the facts.

Now, when your iPod breaks, you have a library of music that you can’t use on other players. You have to buy another iPod. Enjoy your music for as long as your iPods lasts.

What a stupid argument! Music that has been ripped from the my own CD library is still available either from the hard drive or from the original CD. Music that the I purchased from the iTunes store is still on my hard drive. And yes, I have it backed up to DVD just in case the hard drive fails. A backup of hard drive data is a practice all computer users should follow. Just because my CD player died it does not mean I can no longer enjoy music from my CD collection.

But battery decline is only one way that Apple encourages speedy obsolescence. Another is by introducing spiffy new models shortly after you’ve acquired the latest thing.

Honda announced a very exciting and more powerful Accord shortly after I purchased my 2006 Accord. Does this mean Honda designed the Accord for “speedy obsolescence”? You argument is flawed and downright stupid. If you don’t want the latest then don’t buy. No one is holding a gun to your head and forcing you to part with your money. Perhaps electronic companies should just slow the pace of innovation and only release new products and features every three years. That way early adopters can feel safe with a purchase. Of course, later adopters will still feel cheated when they purchase right before an upgrade cycle.

By 2009, 300 million analog TVs in the United States will also become obsolete when America’s broadcast signal format changes to digital.

It took over 20 years to come up with a replacement for the 65 year old NTSC standard definition format. Clearly you are happy watching your collection of beta-max tapes on your 30 year old 19inch TV. Stick with it.