by Eric Schwartz
From the AmiTech Gazette
Dayton, Ohio, August 2020

It’s been a challenging several weeks for me, in the middle of a challenging year for the entire world. My luck seems to be unusually poor this last month or two, as I’ve been dealing with one equipment failure or personal injury after another. Last month I told the tale of replacing my G5 Powermac that I use to run MorphOS (and some day I intend to get the failed one running again). I’m happy to say the replacement machine behaves nicely, with perhaps a tiny bit more reliability than my previous G5 did. Whether this has anything to do with its lower clock speed or other hardware choices, I cannot say, but I refuse to look a gift horse in the mouth at this time. As much as I want to complain about all the problems I’ve been having, I don’t exactly feel entitled to do so, as an injured knee or technology crapping out comes off like the well-worn “First World Problems” meme when viewed against a time when others are literally fighting for their lives. So while I seem to avoid death and disease for the time being, I get all the lower-tier misfortunes instead… for example dropping and cracking my current tablet.

Early this year, in the before-time, my Samsung tablet of about 4 years was well and truly broken—the kind of damage that you know would make it more practical to replace than repair, so replace was what I did, with the help of some generous benefactors. Now, after having the new tablet for five months, an accident. The tablet fell from my hands to the floor. It was partially protected by its case, but not enough, as the screen glass cracked in almost a shockwave-like pattern radiating from the corner of the casing that hit the ground. Everything else about the tablet still worked just fine and was still completely usable, aside from the fast the screen’s surface has a bit more texture to it afterward. While the tablet was new enough to still be under warranty, naturally said warranty does not cover when you drop the thing. Regardless, after some back and forth, and some stressful moment regarding whether it was actually received or not, my tablet is in the hands of a Samsung service center as of this writing, to perform the repairs I paid for. If I’m lucky, and as I’ve already made clear I haven’t been recently, I may have my tablet back in my hands in working order by the meeting. Wish me luck.

Based on my recent and past experiences with mobile technology, I’ll borrow a quote from the internet’s “Angry Video Game Nerd” and say “You know what’s bullshit!?” - modern phones and mobile devices! Actually, some of them are pretty incredible, but the stupid, crappy aspect is the tech advancements that are actually counter-intuitive when you start thinking about it. As I mentioned earlier, I cracked the screen on my tablet. As most people will probably tell you, that’s stunningly easy to do on most phones and tablets today. Part of the problem as I see it is this prevailing belief perpetrated by the companies making these things that phones and tablets are only ‘high tech’ if they have large screens with a minimal bordering frame, and are as thin and light as possible. This makes the technology much easier to break, whether it is dropped, bumped, or left in one’s pocket when they sit on it, forcing it into a potato chip shape. I hear tell of “gorilla glass” and other damage-resistant screens, but even the strongest glass can only be so durable when it’s barely thicker than a sheet of paper. These thin, weightless hunks of technology border on unusable in their stock form, with their scant frame with nowhere to grip, and slick casing that slides along any surface or out of a hand easily. This is why protective cases are such a big symbiotic industry. It’s a given that most mobile devices wouldn’t survive more than a few weeks without one. I’ve proved as much with the second tablet I owned, which fell to the ground and cracked its screen in half before I had it for much more than a week. Its slick surface caused it to slide off a table and drop before I had a chance to get a protective case for it. Thankfully I was able to bluff my way into getting that one fixed under warranty, unlike my current tablet. My point is a protective case is pretty much a requirement to keep your device from turning into a ball of crumpled foil in a month. That case protects your device, but also doubles its weight and triples its thickness, negating that amazing thin, light tech which seemed to be the point in the first place.

To give a bit of contrast, my first tablet, a Samsung Galaxy note 10.1, their first tablet with a pen, one I seem to keep coming back to when a newer device needs fixing, even though it’s a bit like going back to an Amiga 500 when you’re used to using an A4000 with a 68060. While that tablet also has a case and cover, It has been dropped at least half a dozen times in its life, including a couple times straight onto rough concrete, or against the edge of a table. Its edges and corners are scuffed and scarred, but its screen has never cracked once, even though it’s endured punishment that would probably make a modern device look like a bag of crackers that was stepped on. As it’s older technology, it’s much chunkier and beefier, with glass that might actually be more than a millimeter thick, and has been a far better survivor for it, out-enduring its successors. I think tech companies and their consumers need to focus more on durability than looking like a high-tech silver sliver. It’s probably in the manufacturer’s interest to not make devices too strong, as it helps sell more cases and protective gear, and more new devices when old ones are broken, but screw them. It’s wrong to punish consumers for being humans that don’t have a perfect grip on their phone 100 percent of the time. You’ve already proved you can make tech that can take some hits, as I’ve experienced it personally. Stop making “newer, better” technology that’s actually worse because a butterfly bounced off the screen and shattered it.