January 3, 2010

Counterproductive Technology

Not very long ago, I was at Kanjur Marg station in the queue to buy a local train ticket. I was not in a hurry but, I was feeling a little impatient standing in the same line with lot of people who are in a great hurry. And some 15 minutes later, it was my turn and as most people must have experienced, there is a 50 year old clerk (who is never in a hurry!), reacting as if he has seen the keyboard for the first time in his life and he has been reacting the same way since 1992!

It is the closest you can get to study how cavemen would have reacted had they found a yellow (formerly white) keyboard in a deserted cave. He types carefully searching for each alphabet on the keyboard and then presses the print command and then the loud dot matrix printer takes over. Sometime between the clerk pressing the print button and the printer printing my ticket, I decided to make a compilation of instances where installing/upgrading technology has made the process slower and inefficient. So here is the list.

1. Railway tickets: According to my rough estimate, manually giving out tickets in a local station clears the queue about two and a half times faster than the "computerized" ticket vending. In fact, many local stations open their manual ticket counter during rush hours. But I am sure that the computerized ticket vending helps in accounting and other back office processes.

2. The automatic semi-touch free dustbin I have seen in France: This is absolute oxymoron. First of all, how can anything be semi-touch? You either touch it or you don’t! Second of all who wants to semi-touch a dustbin? It has an automatic lid that opens automatically when you keep your hand over it. Good enough, but the moron part of it is that the lid does not close automatically! We have to stoop to press the “close” button on the dustbin once we are done. I wanted to see if there was some sort of a timeout mechanism after which the lid automatically closes, I waited for 2 minutes but it did not close.

3. Ultra slim TVs: What difference does it make whether the TV is one inch thick or one fourth of an inch thick when the TV hangs on a wall and we sit least five or six feet away from it?

4. Wireless keyboard and mouse for a desktop: The writing is pretty much on the wall that it is a waste. Not only do they run out of battery once in two weeks to piss the user off, there is a good chance that they will be misplaced or lost. I think the cluttering wires are easier to manage.

5. Texting with a touch phone: Texting just got crappier with the advent of iphones and other alleged “iPhone killers”

Things that need special mention
1. Widows Vista: old favorite
2. Any iPhone apps that give GPS directions: not a big thing in India yet
3. Google wave: email reinvented so that you cannot check it in a cyber café near you.
4. Laptop steering wheel desk: You can now tweet your way to hell.

This list is in no way comprehensive, please add stuff if you can think of something.


  1. Touch phones have surely made it impossible for text/call without looking at ur phone as U could do with old phones.
    Nevertheless, Apple is working on this topic to introduce sensation of touch

  2. I like texting with my touch phone in qwerty mode. I think its a lot quicker than the conventional phone I used to have.

  3. Blogs : Spreading information? Losing information!

  4. Well, even I am not convinced about the presence of touch phones in the list because they are capable of doing a lot of other cool things but I still put it in the list so that people disagree and hence comment :p


don't be lazy