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How does it work?

Earlier today, I was watching one of my friends trying to get a video playing on their computer.  First there was no sound, then no video, then sound but blurred colors behind it.  Not exactly what they were trying for.  I helped poke and prod a bit, but it seemed like there was nothing we could do.  It had been saved as an .avi file, instead of a more friendly .mp4 or .mov, which I wouldn't mention were it not for the fact that when this was pointed out, someone actually asked me, "So, what is an .avi file?"

I honestly hadn't a clue.

I'm not trying to point out my own ignorance, but rather emphasize that the more complicated our technology gets, the less and less we really know about it, and how it works.  I call tell you which files will and will not import in Final Cut Pro, but most of the time I can't tell you why that is.  I can tell you that recording on a Vixia camera involves a ration of roughly 1 GB per minute of filming, but why that is remains a mystery.  The list goes on, and I know I'm not the only person in the office that encounters this from time to time.

It's not just computers and cameras that I'm talking about here, by the way.  I have an old boombox that acts up now and again, and when it does I'll usually take the back off and poke around to see what's happened, but so help me, if something goes wrong with my ipod it's getting sent straight back to the store.  My neighbor likes to work on cars in his spare time, but complained once that it's getting harder and harder to work on newer models that have almost as many computer parts as they have engine bits.  We're living in a paradoxal world that has somehow managed to become simpler even though everything has grown to be much more complicated than it was in years past.

Before you try to reason the argument out by saying, "Just Google it!" I'll counter by saying that's part of the problem.  There was a point in time when all you had to do to figure out what was wrong with something was to take it apart and look through the pieces to see what was wrong.  Now you need a good Internet connection and a few engineering classes under your belt to even figure out what's actually causing the problem, never mind how to go about actually resolving the issue.  If a toy car broke 20 or more years ago, usually one of your parents could turn it over and immediately see you'd broken an axle by slamming it too hard against the tree roots in the backyard.  Nowadays you need to unscrew the toy's casing and check for live batteries and frayed wires.

I'm not lamenting how advanced our world is; this technology is the reason I have a job right now, and I kind of like living in a future world.  I just wish that we better understood how things work now.

And for those of you who are curious, the friends got the video to work.  How, I'm not sure.  I'm chalking it up to witchcraft right now.