Technology Rant

Trip Start Oct 18, 2012
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Flag of Germany  , Hesse,
Sunday, January 27, 2013

Howdy folks,

It has been a big weekend in the Andorfer household because Steffie's father Winfried turned 70 on Friday. Steffie and I baked him a cake and she came home early so that we could spend the afternoon with him. We also decided to do him a favour and clean out all of his empties from the basement as well. Recycling works differently here than in Canada or Australia where you take your empties to a recycling depot. Here in Germany you buy beer in plastic cases of 20 or so and return the bottles with the case to the place of purchase like Kaufland or REAL, but like South Australia, you get a refund for the bottles. I don't think it is such a bad system and it seems to work well.

We all went out for an early dinner at the Friedrichsfelder Hof which is a restaurant over by Neu-Edingen. A glass of sect (champagne) and a few pilsners ensured ein gutes essen. I bought him a case of König Pilsners to restock his cellar at the high cost of €15 - a good beer which still costs less than a €1 per beer. It becomes too easy to drink a beer everyday. I still need a couple of dry days each week.

On Saturday we had a lazy morning before heading off to Darmstadt at 1pm for the monthly siblings dinner. The women also wanted to do a bit of shopping beforehand at the Loop 5 shopping centre which is about the biggest you get around these parts at 170 stores. Split over 3 levels and only 3 years old, the shopping centre is quite modern and carries an aviation theme throughout. The seats were giant propellors or ex-airplane seats, there was a jet hanging above the food court and the tables had airplane signs on them. In summary it was a shoppers paradise and while the women went off to look for clothes, the men took a leisurely stroll or bummeln. There was even a large depiction on the floor of distances and Australia surely is the longest destination from there.

I took a look in Saturn for a new iPod lautsprecher because I gifted my Canadian one to Matt Slater. Electronics are 25% more expensive here than in the USA (just turn the $ into a €). It got me thinking about all the changes in technology that I have experienced in my lifetime and how that has affected me and society in general. In my lifetime I have owned a 1969 HMV record cabinet ($30 garage sale), a dual tape deck, a 3 Disc CD stereo, a mini hifi system (made a good nightlight as well!), a walkman, a discman, a mp3 discman, a Creative 20GB touch mp3 player and now an iPod 16GB nano. Phew! That is quite a lot and it doesn't delve into my mobile phones (Nokia, Nokia, Three, Motorola, Nokia, Samsung) or computers (don't go there!).

I guess that makes me an electronics junkie which is a funny word because for a majority of electronics that I have bought over the last 15 years have become junk. The evolution of personal electronics has been so mind boggling over the last 30 years, but even more so just in the last 15. I can say that my generation will be the last to buy physical media because in the future everything will be digital. It isn't so bold of a prediction because with iTunes it is already a reality. I've bought records, audio cassettes (and recorded the radio onto them), CDs (and burnt my own mp3 discs) and downloaded music over the internet. Thankfully I missed 8 Track and skipped mini disc. But now more than ever things are finally seeming to converge to digital. Although like with DVDs jumping to Bluray, I guess the only thing that will change will be sound quality and definition.

Cameras are anothing thing that have definitely evolved especially in the last 15 years. I had a point and click film camera which had a photo counter and took an hour to get photos developed and I remember sometimes going through a roll in a month when I was 20. My first digital camera was I think 2004 and at 3.2MP was definitely not quality. I even flirted with a film SLR because the digital ones were ridiculously expensive, but again it didn't last long! My Canon that I bought in 2008 was definitely better, I bought a new Panasonic in Banff, but it only lasted a year until I dropped it. Who knows how long I will have my latest Canon although at least I use it every week!

If I could add up all the money that I spend on electronics over the years from a $10 cassette tape to a $500 mp3 player (which wasn't worth it), the result would be mindboggling. But such is the case with technology that things are outdated so quickly. Even iPods are updated nearly every year to a astounding degree. I bought my iPod nano in 2010 and it was a huge leap over my last Creative mp3 player from 2004. Something smaller than a remote control which included a radio, 2000 songs and even solitare has now been outdated by the new which can transmit music wirelessly to a speaker and a touchscreen. The newer iPod touches (basically an iPhone without the phone) can make skype calls, have gorgeous screens that play movies and surf the web. Even my Sony laptop which I bought in 2010 for $1500 and which was the same price that I built my 2006 computer, has fast been outdated by the iPad revolution. Even the new Windows Surface comes with a built in keyboard which blurs the line between the two even further.

I ended up buying a Logitech S715i dock to plug my iPod into which doesn't play CDs or have a radio, but then again when I have 2000 songs why do I need one! But even this technology is already 2 years too old because Apple have changed their connectors meaning any iPod from now will require a cable or adaptor just so I can use the speakers. But I'm hardly going to buy a new iPod now am I? Perhaps in 5 years when I feel so outdated, I will have to!

My question is: What is the effect from such a big jump in technology other than having no money! Personally I feel guilt and envy. Guilty that I spend so much money on what is effectively a newer version of effectively the same thing and envy that I don't have the latest and greatest. Guilt also comes from throwing out something that still works just because it isn't the newest or best. TVs are a pretty good example of that. The older TVs worked for 20 years, but because they weren't flat screen then people upgraded, then to digital, then to HD digital, then to 3D, then to having a big fucking movie theatre screen in your loungeroom because people want to keep up with the neighbours. 

So I guess the conclusion is that I'm just a big sucker for spending so much! But regrettably I can say that I am not alone. There are plenty of other people that do the same thing including upgrading iPhones every 2 years. Obviously it is bad for the environment, wastes resources and draws money away from say curing cancer or developing sustainable living (another passion of mine). Will there ever be an end to such madness?
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