We can’t live without technology...that continually fails us.
by Loren A. Roberts (guru of multi-hyphenate media)
It’s interesting, in a sort of perverted way, to see what happens to people when our technology fails. Sometimes, it’s the technology that fails, and sometimes it’s us. I had a “tech fail” week of sorts. Here’s looking at some big and small “tech fail” moments...
Lots of people camped out on Thursday to check out the space shuttle Endeavour flying piggyback into Los Angeles (check out the L.A. Times’ photo gallery for some of the best, iconic photos). But what many people don’t remember is that Endeavour was built to replace Challenger, which disintegrated during launch in 1986. In an epic tech fail that shook the U.S. space program, NASA didn’t realize that the rubber "O-ring” seals on the rockets couldn’t withstand cold temperatures (as described here to Congress by one of the most famous Caltech professors, Richard Feynman):
The Challenger disaster set the U.S. space program back by at least 20 years, and I don’t think that the U.S. is ever going to return to the commitment to space that we had in the decades after the Apollo program (Apollo started in 1963).
For several hours last week, gobs of websites went offline, all hosted by GoDaddy. I host my websites elsewhere, so I was fine on that side, but I run my e-mail through GoDaddy’s Microsoft Exchange Server. Bad idea. Do you realize how much we are all reliant on e-mail, and, to a lesser extent, websites? My e-mail was out from 10-4, which essentially meant that I should just go home, since none of my clients were going to get through to me.
More interesting to me, now that I have my e-mail back, is the reason behind this tech fail. At first, everyone thought that a hacker had brought down GoDaddy’s cloud. The more likely scenario is one in which internal software simply couldn't keep the cloud running smoothly. While we breathe a sigh of relief that we are not being invaded by hackers, I believe I should be more worried by a company of GoDaddy's size that can't write good software...
POWER ISSUES FOR MUSICIANS
Last night’s show (with Tribute, at a very rich house north of Los Angeles) was going really well, until midway through the third set the lead singer’s electric guitar and microphone both died. Why? Nothing big, just a faulty power strip that got kicked a few too many times on stage. Not a major tech fail but more like a minor one, but one that constantly bugs me: why can’t musical equipment come with good power solutions? Wall warts (i.e., having the transformer in the power cable, instead of inside the instrument) saves cost and weight in the instrument for the manufacturer, but means that you have to deal with all sorts of non-standard power cables, and trying to get them all to plug in nicely on stage, and so on and so forth. I would love it if every piece of sound equipment and musical gear that we take to gigs had exactly the same power requirements, so that if one power cable was bad, it could immediately be switched for another, identical one.
Obviously, the list of tech fails could go on: Katrina, 2003’s Northeast power blackout, Alison Pill’s “accidental” topless tweets, Mars Climate Orbiter, Apple Maps on the new IPhone 5. What are your recent tech failures?
LOREN A. ROBERTS produces films, videos and music, designs magazines and logos, plays and sings in a rock-and-roll tribute band, and is a student of what happens when science and technology and the arts and culture collide. www.hearkencreative.com
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