5 Simple Problems Technology Should Have Fixed by Now

#2. Looking Up a Restaurant's Menu

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The bulk of information on the Internet consists of text and pictures. The transmission of text and images was among the first feats the Internet ever accomplished, and it excels at both of those tasks to this day. But nobody told that to every single restaurant in history. Oh, they'll have a website with a tab that says "menu," and the hopeless optimist in you will click on that tab, expecting a list of dishes and prices, or maybe even a scanned image of a physical menu.

But you will not get either of those things.

What you will get is a prompt for a PDF download, because restaurateurs are apparently the only people keeping Acrobat Reader afloat. Now, a PDF download is all well and good, if two conditions hold true: you are sitting at home in front of a desktop computer running a current version of Windows, and you have all relevant Adobe programs installed, updated, and ready to run.

There are two people on Earth who meet those criteria: the lead engineer in charge of updating Acrobat every 23 seconds, and Pamela Westwood, a housewife in Atlanta who suffers from severe OCD and has been trapped at her laptop for the last seven years, obsessively clicking "update now" over and over again.

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"OK. Last one. Last one. Last one. WHY HAS NOBODY COME FOR ME? Last one. Last one ..."

If you're not one of those two people -- if you're trying to access a restaurant's menu from, say, a mobile device -- you will get a download that will never finish, and would not open if it did. Simple text or scanned images would do the job fine, but Big PDF has the food service unions in their pockets, and restaurant owners would have their knees broken by burly men in jaunty red and white suits if they ever tried to post something as audacious as "Pot Stickers: $2.50" on their websites.

#1. Watching TV Shows Online

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Look, I know online access to popular television shows occupies a complicated gray area involving cable monopolies and exclusivity contracts and oh my God I'm so bored already that the rest of this sentence is now going to be about Transformers fucking: Jazz stroked the quivering Decepticon's cockpit lustily, staring deeply into his ocular scanners. "Let's see why they call you Starscream," he muttered.

I don't care about backroom deals and corporate maneuvering. I'm just saying that it baffles me that I can pull up a live-cam of a South Korean man's toilet -- every South Korean man's toilet -- right now, but I can't watch Game of Thrones on my media center unless I pay $140 a month for 7,000 other channels that I will only ever accidentally watch if my dog steps on the remote.

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"Coming up next on The Learning Channel: Horse Masturbators!"

There are two networks that I'm interested in: HBO and AMC. That's it. I would gladly pay for access to their whole lineups (even though there are maybe five shows between the two networks that I would actually watch), just because I like the idea of supporting quality work. I'm less crazy about funding 600 wholly unrelated channels that serve as digital hurdles for me: inert obstacles that bar my unimpeded progress to the new episode of The Walking Dead.

We've had video on the Internet for longer than I can remember, largely thanks to Internet videos utterly destroying my attention span, and the fact that virtually every major television network looked at this vast, untapped online audience -- this audience who, instead of buckling down and accepting their shitty bundled packages as intended, has opted to just outright steal the programs -- and thought, "Yep, this looks about right!" is staggering.

But then, as I was typing that horrible run-on sentence, 16 children in Africa were eaten by hippos. So I guess I should probably just shut up about my "problems," yeah?


Buy Robert's stunning, transcendental, orgasmic science fiction novel, Rx: A Tale of Electronegativity, right here. Or buy Robert's other (pretty OK) book, Everything Is Going to Kill Everybody: The Terrifyingly Real Ways the World Wants You Dead. Follow him on Tumblr, Twitter, and Facebook.

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