Sunday, September 11, 2011

I'll get you next time, Gadget.

I've always been obsessed with gadgets. Four large plastic containers full of things I'll never use again but can't bear to part with sit in the attic as testament to that - A veritable elephants graveyard of Psion III chargers, PDAs, proprietary leads that I can't work out what they ever belonged to, Portable CD and minidisk players, Archos and creative video players, tiny mp3 players with enough storage to comfortably hold a short cough and accessories for pretty much every incarnation of the Gameboy; It's an Aladdin's Cave of gadgets from history. Just sat there gathering dust. If they were ever opened, it'd probably be best to avert your eyes - it'd be like the opening of the Ark of the Covenant at the end of Raiders.

Few of life have ever been life-changing (although Patience on the Psion III was so maddeningly addictive it nearly stopped me eating and sleeping) but the possession of some of them have been epochal moments in my life.

Despite the fact the very first iPod had been released back in the early parts of the decade that shall forever be referred to by cocks as the noughties, I couldn't see the point of them. Ah, how naive that seems now. They seemed overpriced, especially when my local Argos had something with four times the storage space for half the price. Hence me spending a joyous week before going on holiday loading all my albums onto the monstrosity that was the Ministry of Sound HDD 20 GB MP3 player.

Who cares about aesthetics, right? Who needs Apple and their fancy elegant functionality when you've got 20 gigabytes of storage space in a gadget from 2002? And can proudly carry (well, "haul" at any rate) around something that looked like VINCENT from the Disney Film "The Black Hole"? It's a little known fact that if you took all the music that ever existed back then it wouldn't take up more than 14 gigabytes of storage space - 12 if you left out the works of "Yes" - so I was future proofed, right? Was I bothered that it was the size of a VHS case and had a battery that required three strong men to lift? Not in the slightest, for I was living the dream - my entire music collection stored on one (semi) portable device. I could even live with the archaic proprietary software that took around 4 months to import a CD (which I learned was still better than early incarnations of Sonys SonicStage, mp3 fans).

And then three days into the holiday the buttons decided to retire early. Shitty manufacturing took its toll and I suddenly found myself with a huge portable hard drive/shoe box incapable of playing music because the buttons didn't seem to want to respond any more - and hence it went back to Argos, was angrily thumped onto the customer services table and was quickly replaced with an iPod. Less storage, but it worked. Elegant and simple - the only downside being the CPU-hungry behemoth that was iTunes back then. Even touching the keyboard or moving the mouse when iTunes was running made the computer respond with an angry frustrated growl.

And from then it was onto other incarnations of the ipod, an iPod Mini won in a competition and then on to the iPod touch. And then getting rid of that to go back to an iPod Classic because I valued storage space over a fancy touch screen interface (160 GB?  I'll never fill that).

And laptops too. When they became affordable some years back (I.e. weren't simply the price of a desktop doubled) I worked my way through a few of those too. My first (outside of huge bulky Toshiba models lent by work) was a crappy Asus barely capable of displaying more than 256 colours without catching alight, and then a considerably better Toshiba (currently owned by my Dad), then to a HP Pavilion which decided to self-destruct two days outside its warranty - and then replaced finally by a Mac Powerbook.

It seems that Steve Jobs is slowly infilitrating his way into my life. I try other a variety of other manufacturers gadgets and then move to Apples variant and it seems to stop there. They work. They do the job. I'll be the first to admit they're overpriced, but when you end up with a reliable piece of tech that works for years that doesn't seem so much of a problem.

And so, to the point. In my traditional style of banging on about apparently unrelated things, and then arriving at the destination we were heading towards all along. You should have had a wee before we left.

The iPad 2. A gadget I've always secretly wanted have never of dreamed of buying but ended up with one due to a phone upgrade to replace a phone I loved, so essentially ended up getting one for nothing.

The tablet market is an odd one in that much like the pot noodle market I doubt it was ever a product that consumers were clamouring for. Unlike, I imagine, netbooks. They've essentially invented a brand new market.

To set the scene - I work in software development for a living, so outside of my works PC have no real interest in doing anything on my home computer that is in any way taxing; I get enough of that during my working day. I just need something capable of browsing the internet, making blog posts and doing the odd bit of photoshop; I don't even bother with the regular having-to-upgrade-my-computer-every-six-months-to-be-able-to-play-games malarkey since I got a console to do that for me.

The iPad is absolutely perfect at that. It's light, works from a single charge for an absolute age, is quick and is convenient enough to carry around.  It isn't blessed with an abundance of storage space but just enough that it'll suit if I keep it tidy. I could have gone for a competitors model, why bother? All of them seem to look identical to the iPad anyway and they're all exactly the same price - I honesty can't see the tablet market working for any other hardware manufacturers until they at least make cheaper models or something more innovative than simply be given the design brief of "make it look like an iPad".

And the lack of ability to play Flash content on it? In all honesty that doesn't seem to have made a great deal of difference or impeded my browsing experience in any way.

So, Mr. Jobs. You win. Little by little my tech becomes iTech. Your team have a wonderful knack of making stuff that works. You're all a little smug about it (and it still annoys me when people whoop like chimps when you make a new product announcement) but you're okay in my book.

By which I mean iBook.


  1. I name my gadgets. and what's worse, actually remember their names when i find them under the bed/in a box when moving. "Aww, that's lazlo, my first laptop" etc etc....
    I've just had to hand back my work ipad (Paddy) and iphone (Pie), but have a galaxy tab (Gordon)and new laptop (Optimus). I miss them, but not being contactable by the office the weekend is making me smile :)

  2. 'Yes' really upset you at some point, didn't they. That said, I do love my 5 Archos's, the first of which I purchased from a gadget heavy colleague all those years ago, still going strong and loaded up with Audio books for those long journeys. As I'm typing this on my shiny HP Touchpad I feel my rapidly obsolete gadget collection is expanding nicely.


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