By Harry McCracken | Thursday, December 9, 2010 at 8:52 am
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I can tell you when I bought my first computer. (1982–it was an Atari 400 with a tape drive, which I bought at a Service Merchandise in New Hampshire.) I can tell you when I got my first VCR (1985–a cheesy Sharp model with a wired remote; I think I bought it at the late, lamented Boston electronics retailer Lechmere). Same thing for cell phones (a Nokia I still miss), MP3 players, and sorts of other gadgets.
Countless technology products have meant a lot to me. Few have meant a lot for more than a few years, though–they tend to either break or be rendered obsolete by something even more exciting. And even entire classes of products which I thought I couldn’t live without eventually become dispensable.
Herewith, a few categories of gear I’ve owned, and my best guess as to whether I’m done with them yet.
Laptops. I suppose the day may come when I use some seventh-generation iPad or Android tablet as my only general-purpose computing device. In the short term, though, I expect to continue on buying MacBooks and Windows notebooks as my primary machines.
Desktop PCs. I bought my last one right before Windows Vista came out. Unless I unexpectedly take a job that requires me to sit in one place all day long, I don’t expect to buy a desktop computer ever again–it would be sort of like buying a bicycle without any wheels.
Computer monitors. I have a perfectly pleasant 23″ Samsung widescreen display, but it sits unused; I’ve just gotten used to computing anywhere and everywhere rather than at a desk. (I do assume that I’ll eventually buy multipurpose “displays” that are both TV sets and computer monitors in one handy-dandy device.)
Mice. On the rare occasion when I’m seated at a desktop, I like using a trackball. But it’s been years since I’ve bought one, and even longer since I’ve bought a mouse. These days, when I close my eyes and think “pointing device,” what I see is a touchpad.
Printers. I have an HP all-in-one (the first and only all-in-one I’ve ever owned). I’m in no rush to replace it, but I assume I will at some point. Less clear: Will I still want to print out stuff on dead trees in, say, twenty years?
Networking routers. I have a two-year-old Wireless-N one sitting next to my cable modem. It’s likely to keep on being perfectly useful for several years to come, but I expect that some technical development will eventually lead me to upgrade.
HDTVs. I’ve owned a flatscreen for three years, and while I hope to keep on watching it for years to come–I consider it more like a car than a PC–I’m sure it’s not my last TV set.
Cell phones. I expect to purchase many of them–too many, probably–over the next few decades–I’m having trouble coming up with any scenario which would render them obsolete.
MP3 players. I owned and loved a bunch of them over the years, from the original Rio PMP300 to the Creative Nomad Jukebox to too many iPods to count. But with the possible exception of devices I might purchase to review, I’m pretty confident I’ll never buy another MP3 player that isn’t also a smartphone.
Digital cameras. It’s possible my new Canon PowerShot S95 is the last point-and-shoot I’ll ever buy, but I don’t think it’s likely, unless some unexpected technological breakthrough leads to spectacular smartphone cameras.
Video cameras. I bought a Flip a couple of years ago–after having owned various other video cameras dating back to the days of 8mm tapes–but wouldn’t do it again. For me, video capture is a feature built into phones and still cameras, not a product category.
DVD players. I last bought a standalone one a couple of years ago–a midget-sized unit that fit into my bulging entertainment center. I only see myself buying another if this one conks out and I still have DVDs I want to watch. But I bet I’ll acquire more devices with DVD drives or burners built in–they’re kind of like floppy drives.
VCRs. I picked up one just recently! It’s a combo unit that lets me burn stuff from VHS onto DVD. In other words, it’s designed to help me leave the world of tape behind. If I find the time to dupe my tapes, this might be my last VCR, after a quarter-century of owning them.
Audio cassette decks. Can’t tell you when I last bought one; don’t have one in the house; can’t imagine why I’d buy another, except maybe to digitize a unique tape or two. (I interviewed the Car Talk guys years ago, and the tape is around here somewhere…)
LP turntables. I bought one of those ION USB turntables last year, but haven’t had time to play with it much. I will, though: In fact, I still buy the occasional collectible LP. But I’d only buy another turntable if this one croaked–and maybe not even then.
FM radios. I picked up a nice Boston Acoustics clock radio around three years ago–but rarely use it these days. If it turns out it’s the last FM radio I ever buy–not counting ones that come with automobiles wrapped around them–I wouldn’t be the least bit surprised.
Analog wristwatches. The one I wear every day is older than I am–and it still looks good and keeps excellent time. But I’m sure I haven’t bought my last one; I’ll probably still wear a good old fashioned watch long after I’ve lost interest in neatly every type of gizmo that’s a big deal at the moment.
What major technology products do you think have reached the end of the line–at least for you?