Remember when your TV and cell phone and calculator and garage door opener and credit card were all going to merge into a single, easy-to-use device? Have you noticed that the reality has been to move further and further away from that prediction? Your “Guitar Hero” controller is incompatible with “Rock Band” as the result of a programming decision by the publisher. Google will deliver interactive, ubiquitous video from recorded and streaming sources — but you’re going to have to cable it in with your TV, home audio system and television provider. And your internet connection is actually a monolithic “stack” of protocols, software layers and patches between them. Leave aside considerations of media codecs or hardware specific drivers and differences in operating system, your poor desktop is slinging around the electronic equivalent of phone books every milisecond just to bring you those lolcats. Better still? Even the best, most “cutting edge” cellular services providers jump through the same hoops in such a completely mickey-mouse fashion that it’s remarkable that it ever works at all. At a minimum, there is no hope that it will ever be as reliable or robust as your desktop connection.

And what’s behind this misbegotten stack of incompatibility? The same factor that ruins any promising technology; attempting to reduce the learning curve by burying or locking out features and functionality. Every time someone complains that something is too difficult to learn without attempting to navigate the curve the digital world becomes a little more crap.

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