Saturday, August 20, 2011

Late thinking on early adopting

Recently, I was out with a friend and I received a call on my cell phone. Shucking my clamshell-styled telecommunications device, I took the call. After I hung up (in truth I was hung up on but that's another story), my friend marveled that I still have a flip phone. Everybody else, it seems, has some kind of Star Trek gizmo that they poke and stroke every few minutes to get information they don't really need except that it's fun to poke and stroke a device.

The fact is, I was the last person I knew to get a flip phone in the first place. I used to have a basic little flat thing that if I held the ear part to my ear, the mouth part rested at the top of my jowl. Considering that a number of my friends think of me as being somewhat of a mumbler, that phone never was all that practical for me.

What I find interesting is that I've become such a late adopter. I used to be just the opposite. I had one of those Cellular One bag phones in the '90s and I distinctly recall calling people from my car and saying, "Guess where I'm calling from? MY CAR! Isn't that so cool?" Back then it was. But that was probably the last time I was cool.

CD players became available between my junior and senior years of college, and when I moved into my senior-year apartment, I was rocking one of those beasts. I was, in fact, the first of my friends to own one. It was big, expensive, and had none of the features my friends' CD players had when they got theirs several months later. But I was proud to have one first. Only trouble was that music stores had maybe 40 CDs to choose from. Before long that all changed, of course. And by the time I got my second CD player (only a year or two later), the landscape was forever altered, and I was just another one of the masses who were making vinyl obsolete (for a little while anyway).

Another great technology I adopted early was a CB radio. Mine was about the size of a small radio station. I knew about five or six people who also had CB radios, and after school we would get on the air and talk funny to each other until we got bored. In retrospect, there was no good reason for me to have a CB radio. There were no smokeys I was evading in my Newton, Massachusetts, neighborhood. But it was cool to say "10-4, good buddy" and if you knew that 10-100 meant you needed to take a leak, you were pretty happening.

But of course, CB radios went the way of 8-tracks (had one of those, too) and I guess after all this time I've come to realize that there's no great advantage to being an early adopter of anything. Things always get thinner, faster, cheaper, and more powerful in their second generations than their first. Over the last several years, it was mainly my financial situation that kept me jumping on anything new; now it's more a case of replacement fatigue. I'm tired of upgrading.

Case in point: I took my daughter to the phone store the other day. Her phone and mine are on the same account and i had received a message saying that one of our phones was due for an upgrade. We went in and learned that it was my phone. My daughter, whose phone slides and glides and glows, was crestfallen. So I let her have my upgrade, and now hers is more like the Star Trek ones. I still have my flip phone. I can use her upgrade in November, at which point phones will probably be in our shoes a la Maxwell Smart. Keeping up with the Joneses is impossible enough for me; I'm not even going to try to keep up with society's joneses.

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