Will Digital Stuff Always Be Worse Than Analog?

ImageWhen I tweeted today that it’s getting tougher to do phone interviews because of poor-quality cell and IP telephony calls, I touched a nerve. “Bring back the Bell System!” said one tweeter.

The fact is, cell phone quality has never been great, but a lot of people, CEOs and executives included, now seem to use them almost exclusively, so the poor quality is more noticeable–and annoying. And while enterprise-quality IP phone systems seem fine, home versions like your cable company’s or Google Voice that more people are using still don’t match landlines.

Perhaps it’s just a transitional phase, before we get the unlimited bandwidth we’ve been promised for so long. But it seems like a long transitional phase.

And it’s not just phones. CDs still don’t sound as good as vinyl, and MP3 files are even worse. Do I even need to mention Internet video? Most people probably don’t notice that the average digital camera image can’t match the best film images, but film images taken with a good camera still have better resolution (or at least the grain looks better than pixels).

Of course, digital has its advantages. No skipping records, for instance. (Well, not actually true–my car CD player doesn’t like it when I hit a bump.) No snarled tape. Digital phones and music players are much more convenient to use, and do a whole lot more than just make calls. Videos taken with most digital cameras look a lot better than anything we used to take with tape-based camcorders.

I don’t mean to sound like an old crank, even if I might be. But I wish in the rush to digitize everything, we could remember that quality matters, and make that as important as convenience.

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