Friday night topic: Things that have gotten worse


— 5:15 PM on April 16, 2010

Submerged as we are in technology and its progress, I think we sometimes take for granted that things will and do improve over time. So very often, that's the case. However, I can name a few examples of things—material goods or practices—that have pretty clearly regressed over time.

In our realm: the keyboards and displays on laptop computers are generally much worse than they used to be. Cheap TN panels are ubiquitous. I'd pay more to get a system with an IPS panel, but you have to search far and wide for such a rare beast. I also happen to think that the move from a 16:10 to a 16:9 aspect ratio is a step down. And don't get me started on the trends in keyboards: glossy coatings, dead-flat key surfaces, and "innovative" layouts are not progress, but again, they dominate current products. Give me a three-year-old laptop's keyboard and display any day.

In another walk of life, I am dismayed that the carbon paper once used for credit card signatures is virtually extinct. Now, to pay in a restaurant, one must fill out two paper slips with the amount of the tip—one for the restaurant and one for your records. I suppose there are security advantages to not having that carbon copy of your signature laying around, but that is a small way in which life is now more difficult than before.

Poorly thought out DRM restrictions on video games are, of course, another prime example of regression in consumer products. I'd say the switch from sugar to high-fructose corn syrup has kinda ruined Coke and Pepsi, too, although now there's Pepsi Throwback.

Can you think of any others? I'd like to stay away from, say, changes to tax rates or politics generally, if you all don't mind. The question is really about goods and services that have somehow gone downhill. Thanks. And... discuss!

   
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