Let's all be cool for a second, and just assume that no one reading this has pirated music, movies, books or anything. OK? So now that we're cool, and only a little deluded, and living in a world where we're all legitimately buying all the media we consume, let's see what that experience is like, and ... hang on. Where'd it go? Who messed with my shit!? Why can't I get the shit I own onto the widget I own? The widget that would be perfect for viewing the shit I just bought?
Look for the Amazon Shit Widget on store shelves this holiday season.
Right now, almost every piece of content you legitimately buy is going to be tightly restricted to be available only on its own little ecosystem of devices. Any attempt you make to move it to a better or more convenient device will result in immense frustration, or, more likely, in you proudly breaking whatever law you were earlier so diligent about trying to respect.
Why It Still Sucks
Remember that assumption we made at the start? It turns out that content owners and their lawyers don't really make the same assumption these days, perhaps with good reason. The Internet's appetite for "everything, free" has hit the people who actually make everything pretty bad over the past 15 years or so, and a big chunk of all the software bullshit wrapped around the content we buy is related to combating this piracy.
"Are you saying everything shouldn't be free!?" -A thousand angry pirates filling the comment thread.
The other big problem is how licensing rights get divided up. The people who actually own the content will parcel out the rights to different partners; someone has the rights to sell a piece of content in North America, someone else gets the rights to sell it in Europe, someone else gets the rights to sell the eBooks, and so on. From the content owners' perspective, this makes a lot of sense; different rights buyers will have different markets and areas of expertise, and won't need all the rights at once. But from the perspective of an end user, this practice throws up roadblocks all over the place, especially when we stray across one of these invisible boundaries. We end up with shit like Hulu being unavailable in Canada, or the Amazon Kindle, a device that is fantastic for reading books on, being unable to actually read fucking books. All because some dickhead with a tie couldn't agree with another dickhead with a tie about dickhead-tie-guy things.
Hands up if you've ever lost both of your hands inside a printer trying to unjam it. No one? Nothing?
Oh, I'm sorry. Was that too soon? Fine. Hands down, everyone.
The point I'm trying to make is that printers are bullshit. There is no way a just world should allow such a critical piece of technology to fuck up basically constantly. Streaks, blotches and paper jams are an everyday occurrence with printers, filling our offices with their symphony of beeps, grinding noises and incoherent error messages. And don't get me started on the ink, OH IT'S TOO LATE, YOU GOT ME STARTED ON THE INK, WATCH THE FUCK OUT.
HALF-FULL INK CARTRIDGES REPORTED AS EMPTY.
COLOR PRINTERS THAT DON'T PRINT BLACK AND WHITE BECAUSE YOU'RE OUT OF YELLOW INK.
YELLOW, FOR FUCK'S SAKE. YELLOW! WHO THE FUCK WAS USING ALL THE YELLOW?
WHAT DO YOU MEAN I CAN'T JUST BUY YELLOW INK?!?!?!
Printer ink is why most Staples employees work behind bulletproof glass now.
Why They Still Suck
Printing is actually one of the hardest, messiest chores we regularly ask of our technology. Given the challenges of simply working with mass quantities of paper and ink and all the moving parts involved, printing things on paper has always been a fairly complicated, labor-intensive process. The mere fact that we have mostly reliable printing devices in each of our homes now is kind of remarkable. Our grandparents would think we're big babies for putting up such a fuss.
They'd also consider us babies for our immaculately shorn genitals.
There are other factors, of course, notably the fact that the printers that we use in our homes are cheeeeeeap, often given away for free with the purchase of computers, software and ink cartridges. We shouldn't be too surprised to learn that a cheaply built machine with many moving parts is not likely to be a paragon of reliability.
And even when we do spend on quality, bulletproof performance isn't guaranteed. The high-end printers and multifunction devices we see in office settings are rarely just bought anymore; they come with massive, years-long service plans to accommodate the fact that something with that many moving parts is going to break down. Factor in all the dust, variety in paper quality and idiots running staples through the document feeder, and most printer technicians will point out that it's a wonder printers are as reliable as they are.
They're wrong, though. Printers are bullshit.
For more from Bucholz, check out The Most Powerful Man in the World: The Voice in Your GPS and The 6 Most Overhyped Technologies .