I’ve been playing with some new lighting techniques (learned at Z2 Photo) and figure I’d give it a try while creating an inventory of some of the tools in the “2XL Makerspace” (also known as “my basement workshop.”)
These tools belonged to my dad, and they still work quite well. I find it interesting that many of the tools we use today (computers, phones, and even software) will not be used by our children when they are our age. By that I mean, the actual tools we use. If you’ve got a PowerBook now, you’ll probably replace it in a few years, and then replace that, and replace that, and on and on… in comparison, the jig saw and the drill press were the exact same ones my dad used over 25 years ago to make things.
Maybe the cycle is just sped up… I just gave my kids the old 20″ iMac because I replaced it with a MacPro. Of course in a few years that iMac will seem slow and outdated, or it will break, or die, or somehow become useless. The lifecycle of our tools for digital work seems so short… My youngest daughter asked if she can have my DSLR when I get a new one. Is it normal for her to think I will get a newer (better, faster) camera at some point? I’m sure I will… but I’m also sure that in 10 years she’ll be able to buy a newer (better, faster) camera for half of what I paid for mine.
Is this the price of progress, or is it just the difference between tools that create things in the physical world vs. tools that create things in the digital world?
2 replies on “Tools”
I think a big part of it is anything with a computer inside (which is anything with any need for even modestly complex control or timing) *that needs to talk to other computers out in the world* gets obsolete much faster than if it is self-contained. I have a bread making machine that is quite old. The computer inside it is just as old. But I have no desire to hook the bread maker up to the internet, or connect it via USB to some PC to download bread-related data to analyze with the latest version of some sort of software. So it doesn’t matter. In the laboratory, we have a bunch of instruments that still work fine, connected to normal PCs of the then-current variety, with weird interface boards and special software, so you can’t easily or cheaply upgrade the PC like you can an office machine. So they still *work* fine, but you have Windows 3.1 and no ethernet and no TCP/IP and no USB, and getting data out of a machine via 5.25inch floppy disk is becoming a real problem. Now, in some cases the latest version of the instrument is much more sensitive or accurate or otherwise desirable, but in others it doesn’t really matter so much, except here you are stuck with floppy disks.
Fully mechanical things that are built to some standard that didn’t catch on will suffer from the can’t-get-parts-or-supplies problem. 35mm film is easy to get, how about 110? But the really short cycle is more likely software. The current version of Windows won’t be current anymore real soon now.
Good point about things with computers inside. It reminded me of this hack: http://ladyada.net/learn/electroknit/ where the knitting machine wants to talk to a Tandy floppy drive. A bit of emulation via Python, some modified cables, and BAM, an old device is updated to the modern day. (Well, sort of…)
I’m hoping that with the push for open standards (open formats, open source software & hardware) in recent years that this will be less of a problem in the future. I mean, the HTML pages I wrote in 1995 are still completely readable by today’s modern web browsers.