The graphing calculator plateau
This piece in The Atlantic by Alexis Madrigal deals with an interesting case in technological evolution: the stabilization of a technical objects, which in this case in the so-called graphing calculator.
The column wonders about the reasons why graphing calculators such as TI-83 did not change that much, unlike teenager gadgets. Some explanations the article surface:
"First, for high school level math classes, the TI-83 Plus and TI-84 Plus are essentially perfect. After all, the *material* hasn't changed (much), so if the calculators were good enough for us 10 or 15 years ago, they are still good enough to solve the math problems.
Second, standardized test companies only allow a certain range of calculators to be used. If they got too powerful or complex looking (seriously, the aesthetic is part of it), they could be banned, hurting their sales. Horizontally oriented calculators have been banned by the SAT, even if they have near identical functionality to vertically oriented models.
Third, and this is probably most important, teachers tend to recommend a particular calculator or set of calculators, and the more of their students using the same tool, the easier it is to teach them. That puts a drag on the change in tools because the technological system in which they are deployed militates against rapid change"
Which leads the author to the following conclusion:
" Some technologies don't change all that quickly because we don't need them to. Much as we like to tell the story of The World Changing So Fast, most of it doesn't. Look at cars or power plants or watches or power strips or paper clips. The changes are in the details, and they come slowly. But that's ok. More change isn't necessarily better."
Why do I blog this? An interesting example of a technical object that seemed to reach a certain plateau. An example to keep up my sleeve for my course about interaction design and technological evolution.