Digital Minefield

Why The Machines Are Winning

Newer is better?


Last month I purchased three new devices, two replacements and one backup. My oldest external USB hard drive was showing its age and needed replacing. The new one was cheaper, smaller, faster, and had four times the storage. In addition, it has USB3 for greater speed on my next machine.

I was not so lucky on the other two devices. All I wanted was comparable technology. Didn’t get it. One was a replacement for an inexpensive portable phone, the other a backup for my year-old Sony Walkman and my seven year-old MP3 player.

The charge on the old phone battery was iffy. Why not a newer one for a similar price? Here’s why not: its display is crap, not only very dim, but smaller characters. On the box, its features appeared to be the same as what it was replacing, but many don’t function as well.

The new Walkman also turned out to be something less than the old one. Sony has always had too many models (for my taste) to choose from. This one was the closest I could find—after lots of research. Close, but no cigar. Here’s why.

The old WalKman has built-in speakers. I need this because I listen to audiobooks to get to sleep. Its small size fits under the pillow. (And the speakers are stereo!) The website said the new model also had speakers. Didn’t. Instead, it had excellent ear-buds. Did that save money?

Their choice, I guess, but no built-in speakers also makes the voice recorder option pointless. I’ve carried voice recorders for over thirty years and would never buy one requiring extra speakers.

They also changed the Walkman’s menu. E.g., both the alarm and the sleep timer are only available from the top menu (Settings) and NOT while listening to a track. Makes me wonder if the designers ever used previous Walkmans.

The hard drive is great, the new Walkman is not as good, and the phone is rubbish. Assigning values, I give the drive a 10, the Walkman a 5, and the phone a 0. Are the chances of newer being better really fifty-fifty? No. Clearly, if it’s just hardware, the odds are good—but if it’s not, then they’re worse.

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