Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Confessions Of A Technophobe

I suffer from severe technophobia. Period. When a new gadget comes out I immediately denounce it and say "what's with all these idiots wasting time and money on cd's, cellphones, the internet, friendster, myspace, ebay, ipods, etc?" only to repeatedly end up putting my proverbial tail between my legs and saying "awwww gosh, maybe them tings aint so bad after all". Trust me, I was the LAST kid on the block to buy a computer, get a cellphone, get on the internet or even acknowledge the existence of the dreaded compact disc (I'm a former vinyl purist w/ borderline OCD tendencies). Then I realized the hard way (after pretty much all of my friends did) that many of these gadgets make life cheaper, easier, and all around more convenient in the long run.

In my defense though, I DID grow up watching movies like Logan's Run, 2001 and Tron, where technology basically goes haywire and practically wipes out or completely de- humanizes humanity.

I am ashamed to admit that I have bitten the bullet and sold out almost EVERY GODDAMN TIME some new gadget which promised to make my life easier came out. This usually happens many years after everyone else had bought one. I didn't get a cd player until 1996 or a cellphone until 2005. Both of these purchases were made many years after everyone else I knew had already gone through several phones AND pieces of hi- fi gear. I tend to cheap out when I make these purchases too. I own a very basic Samsung cellphone, whose only real fancy option is a horrible camera, and my computer is a laughable piece- meal Frankenstein job, built mostly from parts I found in the trash or hand- me -downs that people gave me. My first "walkman" wasn't even a Sony, but a cheap Sanyo knockoff instead. By the time I even got a portable cassette player everyone in my school had one those neon colored waterproof fancy ones with earbuds, while mine was so big it required a shoulder strap. Don't even get me started on what the headphones looked like....

Ironically, the ONE time I put the pedal to the metal and said "kitschy new over hyped technology I don't REALLY need!? Here's $400 Mr. Capitalist!!!!" was when I plunked down my hard earned cash for a 40 gb ipod. That lil fucker rocked my world until exactly 13 months after I bought it. Then it croaked, bit the bust, kicked the bucket and bought the farm. Like an idiot I cheaped out on the additional $75 extended warranty, thinking to myself "what the hell, I already dumped $450 into this freakin' thing, how much money does Circuit Shitty think I have?" Then literally ONE MONTH TO THE DAY after the end of the standard manufacturer's warranty the thing fucking died on me. Can you say "murderous rage?"

So to this day, whenever something "new" comes out I approach it with a lot of trepidation, especially after the ipod debacle. Even when my friends are all like "I went on myspace and met all these totally cool people, hot girls who did me, and my band got a shitload of free publicity!!!" I rarely believe them. Technological advances can and often do improve very rapidly, so it behooves you to wait until some of the kinks in their manufacturing and engineering are worked out before you buy a new gadget. For example, compact disc mastering sucked at first, but a few years later digital mastering started to sound ok and cd's went from $16 to $12 and sometimes even $10 retail. The first cellphones were big, clunky, staticy pieces of shit and now they have ones that are like communication/ multimedia swiss army knives. I really should have waited for Apple to perfect the ipod before I ran out and grabbed one right away. My feeling is that quite a few lemons were produced from the first generation of ipods.

Conversely, I have also learned to become a bit more flexible about new technology over the years, especially when it comes to issues of saving money. When I was hell bent on not buying a cellphone (a device which, to this day I still find incredibly obnoxious) I realized that I was wasting a lot of money on gas and phone bills that I could be saving if I just broke down and got a decent cellphone plan. I remember one afternoon where I was running around from Taunton, to Warwick, to Providence and then Cumberland because I was making shirts for a customer. I had to keep running back to my house because I had to keep calling him back and checking my messages. I used an entire tank of gas that day, not to mention that the job took almost three times longer than it should have. It was then that I finally realized that a cellphone WAS in fact a sound investment.

The question here though is how badly does anyone really need most of the new technology which is nothing more than an entertainment distraction? I would put all video games and new advances in digitized music in this category. Except for the fact that you have cooler and more visually exciting ways of wasting your time, or smaller and more compact ways of storing your music, in the end is it really THAT important? More importantly, is it even that much of an improvement over the outdated gadget or format it may be replacing?

Take my car. It is quite old and broken down but it still has a working cassette player. People often make fun of me or look on in awe when I actually play cassette tapes. Screw them. Tapes aren't THAT bad. In my humble opinion anything beats the radio, and I have some really cool stuff on tape from back in the day. As I said before, as a former vinyl purist I was quite anal about my records being kept in pristine condition, so most of my favorites were dubbed onto cassette for durability and longevity. I won't lie and say that I don't ever miss being able to skip around on my ipod to some 1500 + bands with reckless abandon, but there's just something.... I don't know.... more honest about analog music. All of my tapes have lasted far longer than 13 months, and when I drop them they still work just fine. Sadly, the same couldn't be said for poor Mr. Ipod.

I'm getting really sick of how everything is very disposable and temporary in our society. I tend to like things that are made to last a lifetime, and products like that are becoming rarer and rarer nowadays. I often have to take some pause and remind myself that with a little maintenance many things I already own can last at least twice as long if I just took better care of them. I was actually online the other night looking for new boots, as my 10+ year old Dr. Martens have gotten quite a nasty hole in one of the soles. It didn't take me long to realize that all I have to do is get them re- soled for $40 and they'll actually be better than new. Hopefully out of necessity people will start taking care of their possessions, fixing them up and holding onto them a little bit longer. Now that our economy is about to tank that would seem like a no- brainer to me.

From here on out I intend to make it my mission to wear my clothes until they fall apart, play my tapes until they break, and use my computer until it crashes. The irony too is that I often forget just how quickly I adapt when I have to go without something. Case in point, when I moved last summer I didn't have the internet for about a month, and I couldn't believe how much reading I was able to get done, including many books that I'd actually downloaded some years ago and had forgotten about. When I didn't have a car I got into much better shape from all the walking and biking I did.

We don't really need most of the artifacts and junk we hoard. I'm actually looking forward to the day that we no longer have it. These trinkets, artifacts and widgets weren't built to last anyway, and many of them only serve to make us a lot more lonely and distant from each other than we already are. Most of our modern technological possessions are junk and will ultimately end up in a landfill, along with much of our lost humanity. Even with the internet "connecting" so many people I find that with so little face to face contact nowadays people have almost become terrified of actual real human interaction.

Painful as the transition may be, I long for a humanity which returns to a time when we live more in harmony with nature. I crave a society where bards and song smiths are loved by all, where craftsmen and artisans are seen as irreplaceable institutions, where we actually produce our own food, and where the constant roar of automobiles is finally silenced.

(sheesh, that ending was kind of dramatic...)

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