Traitor to my demographic

My iPod has finally died, and I may have had a hand in killing it. Semiconductors shouldn’t get that hot. It was something of a kindness, though, as it’s been intermittently rubbish for nearly a year now (starting shortly after its warranty ran out, which is hardly a surprise). The newly-greened me is dithering over whether to buy a replacement: it would have to have longevity and reliability, which probably rules out anything made by Apple, which only has good looks. It’s rare to find something that looks fantastic, lasts a lifetime and is always there for you, and my advice in that case is to marry it.

It occurred to me yesterday, though, that for a geek, web developer and qualified physicist, I’m just not your standard gadget consumer. I mentioned this to K. and she looked at me like I’d started growing antlers. But consider:

  • My iPod was bought for me. Arguably I was thinking of buying one for myself, but at the time I was also thinking of quitting my job to become a full-time author, starting up a network of freelancers and slaying my ex-landlord in a bloodthirsty rage.
  • I have never bought a mobile phone, relying solely on the contract models.
  • I bought one digital camera, a Kodak that started to play up after six months. When I finally ground it under my heel in a fit of pique in the otherwise charming confines of Glastonbury, I did not buy a replacement. A year has now passed.
  • I have never owned a:
    • Video camera
    • PDA
    • sat nav
    • GPS locator
    • Furby (technically)
  • When my bicycle’s speedometer stopped working a few months into its use—the cable got damaged—I decided it would still make a perfectly good handlebar-mounted clock and let it be.
  • Even the thought of getting a new computer for the house fills me with dread. My desktop and laptop are eight and six years old, respectively, and more or less work, so there is no impetus on me to buy replacements.
  • I did buy a wireless network for home, but only after I’d decided that the technical, financial and security obstacles were all surmountable in return for a service that I would actually use.

Mechanical devices, on the other hand, fascinate me; as a student, though, not a consumer. I’ve always been one for twiddling with my own bike, and the semi-lemon (that nonetheless stood me for some eight thousand miles of commuting around Oxfordshire) forced me to climb many a steep learning curve on the landscape of mechanical repair.

I’ll happily replace a car battery, hack and ultimately fix the barrel-lock on the front door, or sort out the washing-powder tray on our Indesit. But I don’t particularly want a handheld device I can program Python on, or a camera outside of the one integral to my mobile. Despite my pretensions to programming, I’ve arguably been born at the wrong time: I want 1950s fridges, 1930s cars and late Victorian electrics. I want the whole world to be steampunk, and not just occasional graphic novels.

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2 Responses to Traitor to my demographic

  1. Janet says:

    The newly-greened me is dithering over whether to buy a replacement: it would have to have longevity and reliability, which probably rules out anything made by Apple, which only has good looks.

    I’m always surprised at the suggestion that Apple don’t make reliable computers. An SE/30 (c.1992?) and an Apple ][ dot-matrix printer (1980s…) got me through four years of doing two essays a week; my flower-power iMac still works fine after 7 years; and the only problem I’ve had so far with my PowerBook is that the catch no longer works properly (which I could probably fix if I could be arsed). My parents only got rid of their old beige G3 (c.1998) this year, and that wasn’t because there was anything wrong with it but because it’s about the size of a small family car. (Mind you, like a family car of that era, it’s probably fairly inefficient energy-wise; I should check that out.)

    Maybe I’ve just been lucky.

    Despite being biased towards Apple, in fairness I should point out that Greenpeace have quite a lot to say on the subject of Apple’s greenness from the manufacturing point of view; though it sounds like they’re making improvements there too.

    I have never bought a mobile phone, relying solely on the contract models.

    In other words, you upgrade your phone once every 12-18 months? 🙂 I’m also amused at the idea that having a digicam in your phone makes you less of a gadget-freak…

    I want hardware which is made to last, not shiny gadgets brimming over with built-in obsolescence. But I don’t really believe (though I may feel it in grumpier moments) that “nobody makes ’em like that any more”, and I don’t think shiny automatically means shit; though I think the proliferation of cheap consumer goods means it takes a lot more careful choice to sort the reliable from the rubbish. But thinking about whether you need wifi, or a new computer, or a new digicam, or whatever before investing in it doesn’t make you a luddite.

    Now if you’ll excuse me, I’m off to double my RAM, upgrade my PowerBook to OS X 10.4, and (hopefully!) install Ubuntu on the beige G3. 😎

  2. sbalb says:

    I’m always surprised at the suggestion that Apple don’t make reliable computers.

    Me too. I’ll hit anyone who makes it. The suggestion they make unreliable iPods is, however, all over the web like a rash, and the editorial content in Mac magazines seems to take it as read. I don’t have any statistics to hand, though, so my aregument is a straw-man aregument.

    In other words, you upgrade your phone once every 12-18 months?

    I’m flattered you think I’m able to remember when my phone contract is about to expire. After all, I forgot my mother’s birthday, even though it was the same as yours and addedentry’s. I was only reminded by a cold-caller ringing at 11am and getting me out of bed.

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