I recently added a Smithsonian (the public periodical of the Institution) RSS feed to my accumulator. Yesterday I caught sight of an article on whether gadgets were coming to market too fast. [Link] The article is a bit of a pot pourri which is somewhat unusual for this periodical. Their articles lack both technical depth and detail, in general, but they are not frivolous. This one was rather a bit shabby, like the lint on a dust mop.
The good news is that there is competition in the marketplace. Apple has not yet destroyed everyone else in the corporate world. But the bad news is that there is competition in the marketplace. And as a result there are lots of products coming to (and going out of) the marketplace and too many of these gadgets are either trivially derivative, but have the advantage that they work, or are still in a transition state that we used to call shop queens when I was working for the Yankee army. Lately, when I buy a new gadget over the internet, it takes me longer to get it minimally functional than it did to ship to me. And I tend to select the cheapest, and thereby usually slowest, mode of shipping.
I have commented earlier that there is a large body of data, so much that it counts as common knowledge, at lest among geeks and nerds, and hence needs no citation, that the older we get the less likely we are to adopt new things. I have learned that this is not due to any decrease in adaptability but rather that adaptability seems to be a conserved quantity and as we age the medicalists consume an increasing fraction of our adaptability. So we have less available to accommodate toys.
This goes beyond that reassignment, however. Too many of these gadgets are not properly documented. Even the on-line pdf of the unincluded manual is inaccurate and too often inadequate. But beyond that, too many do not function as either described or advertised. So one has to set off on a voyage of discovery that is frustrating and often seems to end in gadgets being reboxed and hidden away since one gets past the warranty period before one gives up on getting them to do what was claimed of them.
The other thing that concerned me was how were people paying for all these gadgets? I know a few people, almost all SMUGs, who always have to have the latest that grabs their attention. These folks have a new phone every quarter or so and never seem to use anything for more than the minimal function. And they are forever losing phone numbers because of SIM death.
But it occurred to me that this is almost a religionist strategy. No gadget will be on the market long so there is really no point in using it for very long because once it malfunctions it cannot be repaired. Spare parts are as common as dinosaurs. So one buys a gadget, trusting in the propaganda promises and once one’s patience with its infidelity is exhausted, once more express unquestioning faith in the dogma of technology and replace it with a newer gadget that also will not work.
Another aspect of conspicuous consumption.