I hear a lot of talk these days about “convergence”. In case you’ve never heard of “convergence” it’s supposed to be what happens when advances in one area lead to advances in others. These advances then lead to other “side effect” improvements. After a while, one company merges with another so that they can combine their collective talents. It’s all supposed to be a good thing…more products and/or services for less money and/or more convenience to the consumer.
Most of what I hear about “convergence” is how it will help make my life better but I’m yet to be convinced. As far as I’m concerned, it’s all a bunch of hooey. Let’s take a look at how “convergence” has improved the world in the past 30 years or so…
Communications: As a child, I used to call my friends on the telephone. It had a rotary dial. It didn’t have a memory which meant that I knew everyone’s phone number by heart and could call them from anywhere I happened to be. Most of the time I got through right away but sometimes I got no answer or a busy signal and knew to wait an hour or so before I called back. Today, we have digital answering machines and call waiting (with caller ID). Now I never know if the person I was calling was just ignoring my call, was on the phone at the time or just didn’t get the message so I have to keep calling back every five minutes. Advantage: rotary phones.
Utilities: When I was young we had separate companies that provided electricity, water, gas, and telephone. The TV signal came in through the air. Nowadays, when one little thunderstorm knocks out the electricity I lose not only the power but my cable, Internet, telephone service and hot water in one shot. Advantage: Old way was better.
Science. When I was 9-years-old, I watched people blast off in spaceships that we threw away after one use, walk on the moon and then return to Earth. One of these spaceships even blew up shortly after it took off but a bunch of guys with slide rules and a room full of monkeys were able to bring it back to Earth safely AFTER FLYING IT AROUND THE MOON! I watched these events on a 19” black and white TV. What do we have today? Spaceships so fragile that they explode when they get hit by foam and music videos on a cell phone display the size of a postage stamp. Advantage: Multi-stage rockets that you throw away after each use.
Information: I don’t think I need to say anything more than “Fox News” or “Channel 7.” Advantage: Walter Cronkite.
TV and Movies: I remember spending countless hours as a child laughing to the antics of The Flintstones and being exhilarated by each exciting episode of Star Trek. Today, kids go to the movies to watch a bunch of no-talent nitwits interact with computer-generated characters in bad rip-offs of the cartoons I watched as a kid. I think it’s pretty obvious that the advantage goes to: The old way.
Messaging: My wife got one of those “Blackberry” things recently for her work. Now, I’m as into “high-tech” as the next guy but these things just strike me as being a solution in search of a problem. Case in point: I hear her Blackberry buzzing itself off the kitchen table almost EVERY weekday around 6-o-clock in the morning. It doesn’t stop. One day, I took a hammer out of the garage, fully intending to stop its incessant spasms once and for all. Before I put it out of its misery, I thought I’d take a look at the “urgent” messages it contained. The subjects of the emails went something like this
Now, what’s really sad is that ALL of these emails were regarding something that had been scheduled for THE PREVIOUS WEEK! (I swear I am not making this up.)
I think we can all agree that the advantage here goes to PostIt notes or, for the REALLY old-timers, those little pink thingies that said “While you were out”.
Mail: I’m a little ambivalent on this one. On one hand, I really enjoy the ability to send letters, pictures, videos, etc. to friends and family at the push of a button for free. On the other hand, I’m sure I’m not the only one that has friends and family that like to send emails about how the ACLU wants to ban crosses on federal war memorials or how you need to watch out for hypodermic needles in movie theater seats. Advantage: postage stamps.
Music: I’ll keep this short and sweet. When I was young the Rolling Stones were hip, young kids with a throbbing beat and Michael Jackson was a cool black guy that made ground-breaking music and videos. Today the Rolling Stones are a bunch of old men with throbbing varicose veins and Michael Jackson is a weird white guy that engages in all sorts of questionable activities with young boys. Advantage: Old way.
I could go on and on, but I believe I’ve made my point: Convergence, schmergence.
That’s it for this month. If you have any explanation as to why NBC insists on calling Turin, Italy “Torino”, please send me an email at . Better yet, send me a letter via the US Mail. Don’t forget the 39-cent stamp.