Am I Becoming An Old Fogey?

I started taking programming classes in 1971, and in 1977 I got caught up in the microcomputer mania.  By 1981 I got swept away with the PC revolution and during the 1980s I was quite passionate about BBSes and online computer services like CompuServe and GENIE.  And I was wowed when my university got connected to the Internet years before the WWW.  I’ve always been an early adopter of any computer gadget, but somehow I’m letting the smartphone mania pass me by.  Is this a sign of aging?

At some computer news sites there are more stories about smartphones than computers,  and some digital pundits even predict smartphones replacing computers.  They sneer that the desktop is just a boring office device.  I guess I’m getting old because desktop computers are still as exciting to me as muscle cars were to me in my teens.

I’d love to have a smartphone, but I just can’t justify spending a $1,000 a year to use one.  The iPhone 4 is one seductive piece of hardware and if it was only $199 I’d get one in a snap.  I can’t stop thinking about getting an iPhone 4 or one of the new Android smartphones – but I keep remembering that I barely use my cell phone, and that I have both an iPod touch and netbook that both go weeks without being used.  And my GPS sits at the bottom of a desk drawer, and my three digital cameras seldom get snapped.

I add $50 to my T-Mobile pay-as-you-go phone and I can talk for 6-8 months.  Now I might justify paying for a smartphone if I could ditch my house phone, but cell phone service from my home is terrible, for both AT&T and T-Mobile.  My wife does have an iPhone.  She works and lives out of town and greatly benefits from her smartphone but she practically lives on the damn thing.  But Susan is a couple years younger than me and loves Farmville, Facebook and going to live rock concerts.  Her favorite band is The Foo Fighters while I enjoy people like Laura Bell Bundy who sings a tamer country rock.

I spend all day at work at my desktop, and all evening at home at my desktop, and my commute is 8 minutes.  So I don’t exactly need a powerful smartphone or laptop.  But the smartphone mania keeps gnawing at me.  They’re like a toy that every cool kid owns, and I don’t.

When I saw the video for the new iPhone 4 at the Apple site I thought the face time video calling was fantastic until I remembered Susan and I bought webcams two years ago for Valentine’s Day and only used them once.

Now I’m not trying to be the Grinch that steals Christmas but is all this smartphone mania some new kind of addiction?  I know some people who don’t have home phones, and who don’t have a computer at home, or Internet access, and the smartphone is a great, affordable solution for them.  These folks are the kind of people that a smartphone will be their computer, and the ones the pundits were talking about.

And if you’re an on-the-go person that’s already spending a pile of money for cell phone calling and texting, it’s not that much money to add a data plan.  I suppose kids and young people who stay constantly in touch with their friends via cell phones can’t imagine living any other way.  And that might be the reason why I question all of this.  Am I too old to see the necessity of such a wired lifestyle?

Will spending a $1,000 a year for smartphone use just become a necessity of life?  And what is that cost for a family with three teenagers?  On one hand, I know the smartphone mania is a great boost for the economy, so I shouldn’t complain, but on the other hand, it seems so wasteful.  But I guess I’m just an old fogey.

And now the 3D TV mania is starting.  HDTV was sexy to me, but 3D TV leaves me limp.  I wonder if I need a Viagra for my techno lust?  And did I give up cable TV and my two DVR boxes to save money, like I thought, or was it because I’m getting old and couldn’t stand all those channels, like I felt.  Now that I think of it, I did sell my Kindle, and I’m actually reading books.  Well, I’m not as bad as my friend Lee, he’s returned to listening to LPs.  I wonder if that will happen to me too?

JWH – 6/13/10 

10 Responses

  1. I don’t know if it’s an old fogey thing or not. It may be a personality issue.

    I can equate my reticence to buy a smartphone to my reticence to commit to any new piece of technology. He says this knowing completely well that smartphone aren’t new.

    One of the first brand new PCs I bought was an eMachine. It wasn’t even top of the line when I bought it. I kept it for 9 years, 1996-2005. I made massive upgrades to it in those 9 years and it reached the point where I couldn’t upgrade it anymore.

    When I purchased a new machine to replace it I spent like a year looking at all the new computers that were coming out. I finally settled on a Dell XPS Gen 4, a model that was being retired because the Dell XPS Gen 5 was coming out. I got a really good deal on it for around $1200. I wanted something that was just a notch below being state of the art. 5 years later my Dell XPS Gen 4 is just now reaching the point where some of the newest games can’t be played on it. All of the other producity applications work fine still.

    In a very similiar manner to the pace of new PCs and technology that I was slightly overwhelmed with back in 2005, the latest smartphones give me the same feeling in my spidey senses. Apple is a great marketing company. But in reality it doesn’t cost me anything to drool over an iPhone 4 without actually buying it. And I’m not a big fan of anything where I have to commit to a monthly fee.

    I’ve been drooling over the Spring HTC Evo Android 4G phones. My current cell phone is the free one I got when my wife and I signed up with Sprint. My mother who had a stroke and is paralyzed on one side wanted to get a cell phone. She went to the Verizon store without talking to me first. She told them she wanted a phone that could do voice dialing. They told her the _only_ phone that could do that would be the Droid. So she bought a droid and was showing it to me over dinner. I whipped out my free 5+ year old phone from Sprint and showed her that my free really old phone could do that, too. I think I was more horrified than she was.

    The other main reason I have avoided smartphones (so far) is that I _really_ don’t like starting a small little screens and pressing small little buttons. For some reason it seems dehumanizing to me. Not quite sure, why.

    • I hate the way salesmen oversell technology to older people and people unskilled in technology.

      Now that’s a new one – feeling that small screens are dehumanizing. I’ll have to think about that. I think of texting as dehumanizing. Phone conversations are one step away from face-to-face. But texting is like saying to your friends, I don’t really want to deal with you, but I’ve got somesomething to say.

      But if we’re honest, we have to ask if computers and networking aren’t a dehumanizing force.

  2. Oh, I’ll definitely concede that computers and networking are dehumanizing. It just seems like the whole starting at small screens and messing with small buttons is taking it one step further.

    Maybe desktop computers, screens, keyboard and mice are a 4 on a scale of 1 to 10 and the smartphones are a 6…? Completely made those numbers up off the top of my head. Maybe my threshold is just a 4 or a 5 and I’ve reached my threshold?

    But then even though I love technology and the idea of technology I’m always proud to boast that i like to live on the trailing edge of technology (as opposed to the leading edge) because it’s so much cheaper there and the headaches are lessened. I don’t like to pay big companies to be their beta testers.

  3. If it makes you feel better, I spend all day on a PC, use a laptop for movies, spend a few hours at night in front of another PC, and I don’t own a cell phone. (I confess, I do own an iTouch and an iPad.) I think cell phones in general have become an addiction. People can’t leave their house without one glued to their ear. Half the drivers I see leaving our subdivision are holding up a cell phone, and I always wonder – who are earth are you talking to? You JUST left your house a minute ago!

    It’s not aging – it’s called wisdom.

  4. Speaking as a representative of a younger generation (I’m 28) I am in complete agreement with you.

    I too work in front of a computer everyday and can get in a few minutes of blogging while on breaks. I too have a short commute and it’s about to get shorter. I too sit in front of the computer while at home, unless my wife is using it. (I’ve considered getting a laptop, but don’t think I need one just because my wife and I occasionally vie for computer time.)

    My wife and I share a i-pod which I never use. We have both a gps for the car and a gps for camping, both of which get little use. And I’ve got a 2 megapixel digital camera that is now considered ancient, yet it still takes great pictures.

    Anyway, for our two cell phones that are just phones, High speed, and a home phone, we already pay $140 a month.

    Why the heck would I pay even more for a toy like an I-phone that I would use for a week or two and then basically never use?

    You didn’t mention it, but cable and or satellite tv also make no sense to me anymore. With high speed and some smart web searching I can find any shows and stream them a day or sometimes just a few hours after they air on tv. They stream, ie no download time and I don’t even pay the extra money for Fios, which drives Verizon nuts because they want everyone to get it, but it I have zero lag time on my streaming, why would I need it?

    • Well John, I wrote an earlier blog post about giving up cable TV. I got tired of spending $120 a month for hundreds of channels I didn’t watch. A good chunk of that bill went to 2 DVR boxes, but it was still way too much money for just TV. I built my own HTPC to record over-the-air TV, and installed Hulu and Boxee, but I don’t even watch them. It turns out I can find plenty of TV to watch with just ABC, CBS, NBC and PBS and Netflix. And now that the regular shows are over, most evenings all I watch is Netflix. I just finished a wonderful 3 part documentary on photography in America, and now I’m watching a 4 part documentary on Rome in the first century AD.

      I could give up OTA TV and my HTPC if I had too without much grief and live just with Netflix, DVD, BD and streaming. The only thing I can’t live without is a high speed Internet connection. I really enjoy living on the net.

      • Wow, I had to look up what half that stuff meant. I just have a computer with high speed. I didn’t have to install anything.

        I can’t even figure out how to get over the air channels without cable.

        Jim you are definitely still cutting edge.

        I use netflix a lot, but I find a lot of the movies they end up getting for play instantly are really cheesy movies. You have to be discerning.

  5. I’m an After Fiftier – and a 20-something fellow came to help me in my office a few days ago. I mentioned that I have a smartphone/organizer and I love the functionality. I asked him if he thought I should get an iPhone. His response floored me. “iPhones are only toys – playthings. Real business people don’t use them. They use smartphones.” And again, this kid was no older than 25! I found it hard to fathom his distaste – but, there it was. This kid just may be the youngest “old fogey” out there! So relax, my friend! We’re all getting older – but you just may be getting wiser than most!

  6. Yep – I’m an old fogey and damned PROUD of it, too! Now if you’ll excuse me, I have to get out there and chase those pesky neighbor kids off my lawn – durned young whippersnappers!

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