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behind the times
sliding down the tech bubble
by adam kraemer (@DryWryBred)
1.10.11
tech

A couple days ago, a friend of mine from work told me, “I don’t know if you care about this sort of thing, but it might make you really happy to know that they’re finally releasing the Star Wars trilogy on Blu-ray.”

Now, that does seem like the sort of thing it might make me really happy to know. In fact, I remember being thrilled when I heard they were releasing it on DVD. However, I currently own neither a high-definition television nor a Blu-ray player, so it was kind of like hearing that a local high school had won the state beekeeping championship. It didn’t make me unhappy to hear it and I could see how some people might even be affected positively, but overall, my life was not likely to change dramatically.

Unless the bees ever escaped.

Which, in this metaphor, would be the equivalent of taking the comparison too far.

I used to think of myself as a tech guy, though, or at least of being on the “early adopter” side of the curve. I bought my first CD player while stores were still selling records and upgraded to a CD burner back when everyone was still making mix tapes. I signed up for an Internet account my first year of college (1992), even though I didn’t actually know anyone else I could even e-mail at first (this is back when Prodigy was actually a thing). I got my first cell phone more than 12 years ago. I bought my first DVD player back when the only available DVDs were still made by putting laser discs in the toaster-oven like shrinky-dinks.

That last one may have been from a Diet Dr. Pepper-induced dream I had.

However, partly due to cost and partly due to never having been particularly good at any post-Commodore 64 video games, I have been feeling recently as though I’m falling behind in the high-tech ownership department. Not only do I not possess the two pieces of technology necessary to justify putting more money into George Lucas’ pocket (I already own three different versions of the trilogy), but I am also not currently a proud owner of an iPad, a Kindle, or any game that makes kids think that playing guitar is similar to playing Simon. In fact, my most current video game system is a Nintendo Game Cube, and that’s only because my friend Luke actually failed to sell it on eBay before giving it to me.

However, in an effort to cheer myself up a little bit following this realization, I sat down and wrote up a short list of technological trends I’ve finally caught up to in the past year or so. I freely admit that most of these I was way too late in adopting. The 26-year-old me would definitely be laughing toward, if not at, the 36-year-old me, and I’m guessing some of you will be as well. On the other hand, there may be some of you out there in the same boat, and I’m here to tell you it’s never too late (except for those of you who are still trying to decide between Beta and VHS. That train has sailed). But be careful; jumping on the bandwagon can be hell on your knees.

1. A smartphone. I should start off by saying this one was not entirely my fault. I’ve happily been with Sprint ever since I purchased my first mobile phone at Radio Shack in 1998, but they didn’t really have a viable smartphone until less than two years ago, by which time everyone already owned an iPhone. I was, and still am, thrilled with the Palm Pre (I’ll put WebOS up against any Apple, Windows, or even Android operating system any day), but I admit that I was feeling kind of left out for a while, as friends of mine would talk about an app they’d purchased and I was still stuck trying to argue that my LG flip phone was better because the camera had a flash.

2. Netflix. I hesitate to admit this, but I signed up for Netflix last week. I’m sure 95% of you know this already, but it’s pretty cool. I did it, actually, because my cable bill was getting out of hand and I really wasn’t watching anything on the 4 movie channels I had. Seriously, I had 7 HBO channels, 5 Cinemax channels, 6 Showtime channels, and 2 Movie Channel channels. In addition to each of those offering free on-demand movies and shows. And for the $40 I was spending on them each month, I maybe watched 2 movies. If I want to spend $20 to see a movie, I’ll actually go to a theater. (Seriously, it costs $13 to go to a film in New York City, and that’s not including concessions. I recently paid $5.50 for popcorn that literally cost less than the bag it came in.)

So now I can order movies, watch them online, etc. Yes, this is not news to anyone, I’m well aware. However, it’s especially useful to me because of the next entry in the list.

3. A laptop computer. I got my first laptop this year. I’ve always had a desktop computer in some form or another (well, not always, but since college), usually “Frankensteined” together from various upgrades over the years. In fact, it’s what I’m currently writing this column on. However, back in May, a friend of mine offered me an old Sony Vaio he had lying around and I said, “Sure, why not?” (It’s actually the same friend who gave me the Game Cube; apparently, I’m like a clearinghouse for tech he no longer uses.)

I like my laptop. It’s on the small side, which means I can actually just throw it in my bag whenever I’m traveling. I actually wrote a column earlier this year on it while sitting in my grandmother’s house down the shore, watching the ocean. Again, yes, I know that many of you have had laptops for years. It’s not as though I’m suddenly learning that these things exist – “Wait – you mean to tell me that they make computers small enough that you can take them on vacation? But what about the future we saw in Star Trek, where all the computers took up massive wall space? I’m confused.” I guess, more to the point, I’m learning that just because I don’t absolutely need something, that doesn’t mean I wouldn’t have a use for it. Like my right kidney. Or Viagra.

4. An external hard drive. Okay, this isn’t necessarily something that nearly everyone has, but among my more tech-minded friends, I’m probably behind the curve on this one, too. The rest of you can eat my dust. I really need a maid.

Seriously, I purchased it at Staples a couple months ago, and it’s been really useful. For starters, I didn’t have to spend an hour installing it myself, as I would have with a new internal hard drive. Just put it on the desk, plug it in, and, well, there is no “and.” Actually those are the only steps. And it’s got a big memory – 1 terabyte. To put that in perspective, that’s 1,000 gigabytes. That’s 1,000,000 megabytes. Someone check my math, but I think that’s 1,000,000,000 kilobytes. In other words, it holds close to 700,000 times as much data as one of those old floppy discs no one uses anymore or 1,300 times as much as a CD-ROM. It means I can save 66 million copies of this column.

In case you’re asking yourself, “What does he use it for,” you’ll be interested to know that I use it to store all my multimedia files. In case you’re asking, “How did he know I was asking myself that,” it’s because I’m smart. In case you’re asking, “Why did I ask myself a question I couldn’t possibly know the answer to,” it’s because you’re ashamed to be reading my column, so you’re sitting alone in the dark, which means there’s no one else around to ask. And in case you’re asking, “What multimedia files,” well, I’ve got a few writing projects I’m working on and I download a lot of dirty movies.

And, thanks to its external-ness, I can use this drive with my laptop, as well, which means if I’m ever on vacation and decide to work on my 100,000-page novel, or emulate my father and design a housing development, I’ll have a drive large enough to save it on. And, yes, I can even bring my dirty movies with me. But seriously, get your minds out of the gutter, people. Jeez.

5. A Bluetooth headset. This might be my favorite new purchase of all. For those of you who don’t know what Bluetooth is, well, I’m certainly not going to tell you.

No, the way I understand it, Bluetooth is a wireless way to send information over short distances. Which, admittedly, people have been doing for more than 100 years. However, I’m pretty sure that the Bluetooth data is also protected (people can’t just snatch said information from out of the air), which is good if you’re using, say, your phone’s Bluetooth capabilities to send someone your business card or plan the perfect bank heist. Mostly, though, it’s used for phone conversations; that douchebag on the bus with that thing in his ear who seems to be having a loud conversation with nobody? Yeah, chances are he’s actually talking on his Bluetooth ear thingy (the technical term) via his cell phone. Or he’s my friend Peggy’s crazy grandfather, who likes to put in his CVS-bought hearing aid and ride around on buses talking to himself.

The extra cool thing about my Bluetooth headset, and the reason I’m not that guy on the bus, is that mine is a stereo headset. I know, I know. There’s a good chance that my definition of “extra cool” and yours don’t quite vibe. Regardless, it’s super useful to be able to, say, sit at work listening to music (on my computer for instance) and have the headset also linked to my phone, so that I can answer a call without having to take off my earphones. Or walk to the kitchen for a cup of coffee with my music still playing in my ears. Or pretend I can’t hear what you’re all saying about me behind my back. You all think I’m paranoid, don’t you?

So yes, super useful.

And I think that’s actually it for the list. I don’t know about you, but I feel a little better after that. Maybe I’m not so behind-the-times after all. And if you feel you have to take some sort of lesson away from all this, I can think of two things: a) I could use a high-definition TV. I would not say no to you buying me one. b) You'll always have the chance to upgrade your gadgetry. But remember, there's no such thing as being "fashionably late" to the tech party.


ABOUT ADAM KRAEMER

A native of Elkins Park, PA, Adam Kraemer spends way too much of his time repeating "K-R-A-E..." He moved to New York City in 1998 and earned Master's in Journalism at NYU; don't let his writing fool you. He feels he is best known for saying the things no one is thinking, but afterwards wish they had been. He spends his free time wondering where all his free time goes and why he can never come up with a decent kicker for the ends of his articles.

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COMMENTS

dr. jay gross
1.12.11 @ 8:26a

Adam, you are showing your age. There IS a split in generational tech awareness. This might be the first time that 'one' generation has bifurcated into 2 distinct groups. You are part of the tech awareness and amazement....not the user of all the goodies.

I, for one, will not by a Blue Ray player to access another medium (especially when it only makes Sony richer). 3D TV/movies are also totally unecessary. Smartt phones will alwaysbe smarter than me. I'll let those yet to be born enjoy current and future tech reality and I'll continue to enjoy the science fiction writers of the past as if their 'miracles' haven't happened.



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