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angry penguin


Scritturare (engage)

Brian Alleyne's weblog on culture, politics, and technology

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Dropping out of the gadget upgrade race
angry penguin

Not sure when or why, but I’ve lost my enthusiasm for new gadgets. Quite something for a person who was labelled as ‘homo gadgetus’ by his best mate.  Might be because I don’t really like touch screens. I tried an ipad a few months ago and recoiled at the feel of the slick shiny screen (had the same reaction when I tired an iphone). Found the large icons ugly. But the real problem is that I could not get under the hood. Apple products seem like closed worlds to me. And that is the problem. My wanting to go under the hood is very last century, as is my attachment to physical keys.

The writing may have been some time on the wall. To the surprise of many of my hacker geek friends, I am a regular user of Windows. I actually like Windows 7. Despite also using Linux, I run a Windows 7 laptop for its stability. Yes. Stability. In the past two years I have re-installed Linux dozens of times and had various sub systems fail. In that same period I had  one Windows 7 crash, in 19 months. NO viruses. Becoming comfortable with Microsoft technologies is a sign of losing one’s tech edge, I was told.

Was I losing my edge? I have been in computing since 1982. I am an expert user. I have worked on every personal computer platform and can read and write code. Maybe after 28 years the thrill is gone. I still love Linux as a political movement and the technology is fantastic, but when I want to get some work done, I reach for the Windows lappie. And so  it slowly dawned on me that I was no longer on the tech cutting edge. That was reinforced when I realised that I had no interest in what Apple have been  up to in recent years. I ran OS X for a year,  then went back to Windows and Linux. The iphone and ipad leave me cold. Its great that Apple made complex technology so accessible, but what I love about technology is its very complexity. I DON’T want my gadgets simplified too much.

Nothing symbolised my dropping out of the tech race so much as when I went in to renew my Vodafone mobile contract last week. As a long standing customer I had a good upgrade discount, so I could have any phone I wanted on my existing tariff: an iphone 4s or the latest Samsung Galaxy with android (used Blackberry for a year and not going back there). I have a serviceable Nokia N900 running Linux – the perfect geek phone, but it is a bit battered so it was time to upgrade.

The helpful bloke in Carphone Warehouse was shocked that a person who could afford the latest iphone did not want one; how about the  top of the line android then? I refused that too. The atmosphere became a bit strained. There was a frisson of disapproval from people behind me in the queue. The salesperson then took on a patronising tone and started talking to me as if I were ignorant, so I had to set him straight (ALMOST told him that my knowledge of mobile tech was greater than his and that I’d been working as  a programmer when he was probably still in nappies, but held my tongue).

In the end  I went for the newest Nokia running Windows phone 7.5 Mango. Sadly a touch screen, but very different from the visual style of apple and android. NOT cutting edge, no member of the hipnorati would be seen out and about with  such a phone. Stuff the hipnorati, I thought.

In making that choice I was fatally, but knowingly,  damaging my credentials as a member of the technorati. But I didn’t care. Not at all. I wanted a phone that would play well with my Windows 7 laptop. For the first time in many many years, I had refused to go for a cutting edge technology. Oh well. I am middle aged. I’ll leave the gadget race to others. I’m out of here.