Monday, January 08, 2007

Gadgets..when's it gonna stop?

Many of my friends and family will not believe me when I say this, but frankly I'm completely and utterly tired of gadgets. This world has gone completely insane. The Consumer Electronics Show is currently happening in Vegas, showcasing this year's future landfill fodder in all its glory. Last year the largest flat-screen TV one could buy was 103 inches. This year the ante has been upped to 108. Samsung has just released a gadget called USBTV that allows you to plug it into your computer, copy a show onto it, then walk across the room and plug it into your 108" TV so you can watch it.

Okay, let's think about this for a second. You spend, I don't know, let's say 20 minutes downloading an episode of Scrubs (I'm including not only download time, but messing-around-with the computer time, blogging time, etc). You then spend another ten minutes digging out your USB doohickey and copying the show onto it. Then, you walk over to your TV, plug it in, and do it all again in reverse. Ever think that perhaps maybe computers haven't made our lives so efficient after all?

Okay, yes, I am the pot calling the kettle black. I love my iPod. I have a laptop. a TiVo. A Blackberry. and yes, a flat-screen hanging on the wall. But what I don't have is a desire to buy a gadget only to find out another gadget's been invented that's slightly better than the last gadget, making the one I have now horribly outdated and embarrasing to be seen with.

Now Bill Gates is telling us we all need servers in our house. Why? So that we can offer up our own "content" to all our various computers in the house. Oh, and so that we don't have to use that USBTV thing and can instead grab a show from the server on any TV that's networked. The hell with that, my kids are getting bikes.

I remember when Ma Bell gave up renting home phones, and offered them up for sale. I believe my parents even bought one. It was a rotary. They still have it. It still works. My dad has a Rockwell radial arms saw in his workshop that's older than I am, and at that age it's still far more accurate than my 2-year-old Delta table saw. Heck, just last week I took my $40 Craftsman cordless drill to Sears in hopes of getting a replacement battery, where I was told a new battery would cost me $53. Yes, you read that right.

With the renovation on our house came a ton of new, but relatively unusable, attic space. I think I'm going to rent out some of that space to permanently bury the old PCs, non-working televisions, dead cordless drills, palm pilots and Tivos so they don't make it to the landfill and pollute our streams. In fact I think I just stumbled on a new form of home insulation. yes folks, this house has an insulating factor of R-30 and because the walls are filled with Blackberrys!

Ironically, I don't think the heart of the problem lies with us, the consumer. We're not stupid. We're not going to buy crap we don't need just because it's there. Every gadget I ever bought, I bought for a good reason and to fulfill a need. Okay, so the plasma TV was a bit extravagant, but it's only a 37", making it about 450 lbs. lighter than an old fashioned CRT TV. and we needed a new TV anyway, as the old one (which lasted 14 years) was busted.

The problem lies with the manufacturers. They've somehow made the manufacturing process so easy, so efficient, and so mundane, that they think nothing of completely changing a gadget every couple of months to offer a new hot thing, throwing it up on the proverbial wall in hopes that it will stick.

Oh dead lord, I'm ranting. We'll, tomorrow's speech by Steve jobs at MacWorld will surely set me straight. Can't wait for that new iTV to come out.

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