If it sounds too easy….

There was a marketing campaign a while ago that touted “there’s an app for that.”  I’m pretty sure it was Apple, and for a while I heard many people use that phrase.  Until recently, I used a company-provided Blackberry device.  It was great for email, but any apps were pretty lacking in my experience.  When I switched to an iPhone a year ago, the apps became more useful.

Now I use apps for weather (Wunderground and NOAA), driving (Waze), and listening to Podcasts (Downcast) every day.  I have an app to help me find sights and restaurants when I travel (Tripadvisor), an app for my photos (Flickr), two light meter apps for when I’m shooting older cameras  (Light Meter and myLightMeter), and I always have a map with a built-in a compass, a flashlight, a camera, and a Bible in my pocket through apps named likewise.

But some apps just don’t work as well as the ones I use.  I checked out a handful of apps to help me improve my golf game.  None of those seemed to work.  There were some apps for finding vinyl albums.  While they may have located where albums were, they aren’t as fun.  Then recently I started using the Parking Panda app instead of just finding a spot in Pittsburgh.  One night I was headed to dinner in Market Square, and saw there was Valet Parking.  It was a few dollars more than what I’d pay at one of the garages, but figured it would be worth it.

Everything went as planned until several weeks later when I received a delinquent parking ticket notice in the mail.  At first I dismissed it, but then looked at the date and realized it was the night I used the valet.  I called the people at the Parking Panda app – they said they’d take care of it.  It took only about 10 minutes, I sent them a copy of the ticket, and no problem.  At the time it was $35.

The next notice the ticket was about $100 – they hadn’t paid it.  So I went through the effort to track down the Market Square Valet manager.  He apologized, said he had a few bad employees in the spring, and said they’d take care of it.  Today, the bill is $200.  I’m going to pay it, and never park there again.

I know I’ve saved well over $200 due to the technology in my iPhone.  Some of the deals on things I’ve bought probably saved me that in one transaction.  But sometimes the old ways just have a different quality to them.    If I think of the Valet – they were running late, and I waited in front of their not-yet-opened stand for 10 minutes.  Had i not pre-paid via the app, I would have left nearly immediately, parked elsewhere, and saved $200 whilst still arriving at the restaurant at the same time – perhaps even a minute earlier.

Vinyl records versus digital streaming – I find the quality of the music to be better, but the visual and tactile parts of the experience make it just that – it’s an experience to play an album.   Our society is changing, and perhaps not for the good because of the app-based instant download mentality we’ve started to develop.  I’m not a Luddite, I love technology, but I think we need to guard ourselves against the negative aspects.  I’ve personally never used Facebook or Instagram.  I just don’t see that I’ll get any value out of them.  I prefer connecting with friends for dinner, or by going somewhere together, and sharing an experience.

It’s a large part of why I shoot film – it has a different feel and it pulls me into the moment  and creates something that really exists in our physical world.  It’s a memory, yes; but film stops time and locks a slice of our world into a thin piece of plastic that will persist.   The images we create on film will probably outlive us.  Think about things like floppy disks, tape drives, and compact flash cards.   How many people actually have a computer that can use any of those media types today?

Last week I shared photos that were 50 years old.  Today, as a reminder of the permanence of things non-digital,I’ll share a few images from 1941 – 75 years ago.  I don’t have any images from 1916 – so no 100 year pictures are coming next week. These images are part of a collection of color slides I purchased – buying that has largely been inspired by the images from Vietnam.  They were shot on Kodachrome, and were identified an dated – every single slide.

As a man who’s spent most of my career pursuing efficiency, I just thought it worth noting that sometimes the easy way isn’t the best way.  Perhaps that’s the common thread between the things that fuel my passion.

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