Warning: This article may appear to be a complete rant against consumerism. That is only partly true. I am not advocating a life of caveman-like existence, but I am advocating a life free from the addiction to technology’s latest over-priced, over-hyped gadgets that are oversold to a society drowning in debt. Take a deep breath, forget everything you’ve learned from Best Buy about required technology, and follow along on my journey to live without a single dollar in my “electronics upgrade envelope.” Here’s a list of the “must have” tech gadgets that I don’t have, and unless I receive as gifts, probably never will have.
- The Nintendo Wii. I was way ahead of Nintendo on this one. I’ve been throwing remote controls around my living room for years during college football games. They make a mint off the idea and I’m stuck buying replacement universal remotes twice a season – go figure. My favorite excuse for buying a Wii is to help “kids get exercise.” I know things have changed, but when I was a kid exercise looked more like riding a bike and playing basketball with my friends, not standing in front of a game console.
- TomTom. I keep a neatly bound collection of maps of various roads I might travel safely stowed under the backseat floor mat. It’s called a road atlas, and it set me back $8.42 at Sam’s Club. No power, subscription, or satellite up-link required. Like I would ever look up directions anyway – don’t you know guys are born with the ability to use celestial navigation to triangulate the position of any convenience store in the country.
- The iPhone. A $600 cell phone doesn’t seem very frugal, does it? Ok, so it is more than a cell phone, but will it really replace your computer, your mp3 player and your digital camera? Probably not. Use the $600 to upgrade your home computer and you’ll be much more efficient than trying to work on a screen the size of a deck of playing cards. Besides, desktops aren’t as likely to shatter when they fall out of your pocket.
- Voice Activated Car Stereos. Let me get this straight – I yell out the name of a song or artist and my stereo system plays it for me automatically? I could see this being a problem in my world. “Honey, I wish you were here with me – it’s a beautiful day?” Suddenly the lyrics from U2 start buzzing through the speakers. I think I’ll stick with my old-fashioned radio. It pretty much ignores everything I say, and never follows any of my instructions. It’s almost like having the kids right there in the car with me.
- Ipods, Nanos, and their “shuffling” cousins. There are a ton of mp3 players on the market that do basically the same thing as the iPod. This is a case of people paying for a brand name. Sure, my $19.95 mp3 player from Amazon.com probably doesn’t have a digital LED readout, a shuffle feature, or a hot pink faceplate kit, but it serves up my couple dozen favorite songs reliably enough.
- Plasma televisions. Sometimes I think I must be the last guy alive who doesn’t own a plasma television, especially after Super Bowl weekend. Now, I am not completely immune to the normal technology desires of the average American male. I’ve stood in front of my share of plasma screens on display marveling at the video quality, and picturing that 60″ behemoth hanging on my living room wall. However, I just can’t bring myself to pay for something that is three times the value of my car. Besides, with our cable cut down to basic offerings there isn’t much left worth watching. “Everybody Loves Raymond” reruns look surprisingly good on our old 32″ television.
- Bluetooth. When these things first hit the market I had not been around them much. I flew out to Denver for a business trip, collected my luggage at the airport and headed for the rental car shuttle. I sat down on the bus with only a few other people and suddenly the woman next to me starts screaming at no one in particular. I really thought the woman was crazy, or on drugs (or both). The guy across the shuttle from us must have been amused by my reaction because he leaned over and said, “She’s on the phone.” For the remainder of our trip around the rental car lot I looked for that phone, but never found it. It wasn’t until she got off the bus that I noticed a glowing blue appendage on her ear. That was my introduction to a “bluetooth” and I swore I would never get one. The only thing more annoying are those 2-way cell phones that sounds like a walkie-talkie. Please, have some courtesy – put the phone up to your ear and have a semi-private conversation with the person on the other end.
Which cool technology gadget do you secretly covet, but refuse to purchase?