If it ain’t broke

Music on the move – Obsolete but perfectly functional

Our precarious relationship with hardware and software

‘If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it’ goes the saying. Today when computer hardware and software have a precarious relationship, does this aphorism still apply?

Software updates can render our phones or computers dead or bricked at a click of a button. Most folk can relate tales of a printer that just stopped working.

Recently Microsoft managed to render millions of webcams unusable for weeks, this was due to a Windows 10 update. Another example is how hundreds of  apps stopped working when Apple introduced iOS 11.

Items we depend on quickly become obsolete even though they are still in full working order. The advent of flat-screen technology consigned millions of Cathode Ray Tube TVs and monitors to landfill followed by scanners, printers and PCs that could not keep up with progress. Tech companies are intent on weaning us off wired connections, so those headphone sockets keep disappearing from new phones and TVs.

I have certainly been affected, A Roland app necessary for my music stopped working with the advent of iOS 11. It took months for Roland to get around to releasing an update. My inkjet printer has been replaced with a laser version. My FM radio – replaced with a DAB version. My TV – replaced by one with higher resolution. Also discarded is my DVD player which could not play BluRay disks. My iPhone 4 is now obsolete and can’t be updated…. do I wait till the battery dies before I upgrade to a newer phone?

Bad news for me came in Nov 2017 when Gibson (the guitar firm) withdrew support for Cakewalk, (the company that produces Sonar). This is the software I have used for over 12 years. Unless Cakewalk is rescued, my software will be at the mercy of the next Windows update. Do I jump ship now or hang on and hope for the best?

Latest news is that Bandlab have taken over Cakewalk. Meanwhile Gibson is on the verge of bankruptcy unless they can service their massive debt

There are still some areas where retro technology is making a comeback. Vintage hifi and vinyl records are back in vogue. All respected synthesiser manufacturers such as Moog now label their product fully analogue and guitarists all seem to want tube amps based on circuit designs that were developed before transistors were even invented. Analogue film technology is still revered and Kodak have announced that they will restart production of Ectachrome film. Filmmakers are also hoping that the Kodachrome film, praised in the Paul Simon song, will also be remanufactured.


For those puzzled by the terms. Analogue is all about tubes, transistors, resistors and capacitors, (discrete off the shelf components that can be replaced when repairs are necessary). On the other hand digital technology is all about integrated circuits or chips. These have a long working life but when things go wrong it is seldom worth replacing these complex entities – they are usually out of production anyway.

As for photography and film making РDigital photography replaces  specks of chemicals with digital code that can be read by computers.


So how do we respond to ‘If it ain’t broke’?

A design guru might say – ‘If it ain’t broke, it could do with some more features’.

A parent might say – ‘If it ain’t broke, my child hasn’t found it yet’.

An owner of a modern car might say – ‘If it ain’t broke it is probably due for an expensive check up and service anyway’

And the IT manager might say -‘If it ain’t broke, it will be soon if I don’t replace it’.