"It is well known that the US is the most heavily technologized society; if you count TVs, phones, microwaves, cellular phones, pagers, cars or personal computers per person, you'll find that the numbers are far higher than in Germany, or most every other country for that matter. Clearly, they are also world leaders in many technologies, such as military applications, space exploration, biotech, software and computer chips
This is not the full story however. I am constantly amazed about the poor quality and backwardedness of many technologies routinely employed in the US. Sometimes I think that while Germans tend to tolerate outrageous prices without complaint, Americans tolerate substandard quality. Here are some examples, I keep discovering more every day:
Cellular phones in the US have operated for a very long time using an ancient analog protocol, while pretty much all other countries in the world adopted digital standards several years earlier. To get complete nationwide coverage, it is still necessary to use analog in the US, and it's trivial to listen in on these cellular conversations since they are not scrambled in any way (there is a whole underground scene of eavesdroppers who exchange tapes of the juiciest conversations they were able to capture), and it's also easy to place cellular calls on someone else's bill.
The banking system is archaic. It appears as if banks are not electronically connected at all (even though they are). It is not possible to instruct your bank to pay your rent every month directly into the landlord's account (the usual method in Germany). Every month, you have to write out a check, send it physically to your landlord, who carries it physically to his bank, which sends it physically back to your bank in order to get the money. Banks tell you to keep your account number secret, but it is openly printed on every check, along with your name and address. Some banks now offer "bill paying services"; this only means that *they* will mail the check to your landlord instead. Another new system, heralded as a huge achievement, is "Direct Deposit" or "Automatic Payment". It allows to make regular payments such as salary, insurance or utility payments directly without checks. It does not work between private accounts and it takes about 2 months to set up. (In Germany, it takes no time to set up a plan like that; you instruct your bank and then it works.)
Many US banks now offer "Internet banking" and claim to be on the technological forefront. All you can do with these services is move money from your checking account into your savings account and back, check your balance and find out which checks have cleared.
Merchants in the US accept checks, which of course can be trivially abused; German merchants only accept secured checks.
You will actually see Americans write out checks at super market checkout counters, and many people set aside an afternoon every month for "balancing their checkbook" and "paying the bills", two activities that nobody has even heard of in Germany.
In Germany, checks are not used to pay bills. You simply instruct your bank to transfer the money into the payee's account on a regular basis, or give permission to the payee to suck the money out of your account.
US ATM cards work in German ATM machines while US ATM machines could not accept German cards until recently. However: the US ATM system is much more secure since the PIN is checked online with the issuing bank; German ATM cards encode the PIN on the card with a globally valid key so that offline operation of ATMs is possible.
Digital ISDN telephone lines have been available to every German household for some 5 years. In the US, service started much later, some local telephone companies still don't offer them, and it's generally poorly supported where available. Far from being a well-defined standard, ISDN in North America consists of a zoo of slightly incompatible protocol variations. The analog phone system still uses tone dialing which for a long time made it possible to dial for free from every public phone with a $2 phone dialer. Plans for such dialers were readily available on the internet.
Online services and network computers: "Bildschirmtext" in Germany and "Minitel" in France have been accessible by everyone for at least 15 years. Both use dial-up telephone connections to browse material on central servers and allow individuals to publish material on these servers. Bildschirmtext displays the pages on the TV (optionally on a PC) while Minitel uses a proprietary little terminal with keyboard, something that would be called "network computer" these days. Bildschirmtext was never a big success because of the high connection fees and the start up costs for the device; Minitel was a winner because the terminals were given away for free to everyone. Services of comparable quality and breadth have come into existence in the US only about 5 years ago. Videotext, a textual information service broadcast together with the TV signal, is common in Germany and all over Europe but does not exist in the US.
Videotext, a free text based information system (news, weather, stock prices, sport results, TV schedules) broadcast along with the TV signal, is common in Europe and doesn't exist in the US.
Comparison USA <> Germany