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Friday Summary: May 4, 2012

My conversation started like this:

“Do you know where the recorder is?” she asked.

“The what?” I replied.

“The tape recorder we bought you!”

After a long pause, I replied:

“You mean the Panasonic cassette tape recorder you bought me in 1974?”

“Yes, that one! I want to record myself playing the piano.”

My brain froze momentarily, as I processed the many implications of this statement. After another long pause I asked:

“Mom, did you really call me up to ask me about a cassette recorder? From the 70’s? And for the record, no, I’ve not seen it in – uh – three decades. I think we threw it out when the batteries corroded the insides. That would have been in the early 80’s.”

“Oh, darn!”

“If you don’t mind my asking, why not use the computer? Or one of those dictaphones you’ve got scattered around the house. Or your phone should – wait, don’t you have a smartphone?”

“No, your father and I do not have cell phones.”

This conversation occurred last month. I literally put down the phone after that comment to think about what that meant. They didn’t go all Amish on me, did they? I consider myself a ‘late’ adopter because my first phone that was more than a basic phone was the iPhone 4. I still use email. I have really just started to appreciate Twitter, placed my entire music library on a computer, and started streaming television over WiFi. But I have owned cell phones for 15 years or so. This is a whole different universe of thought and perception. Other than their DVD player and the ‘recent’ upgrade to Windows XP, it seems my parents stopped advancing with technology a long time ago.

My wife has a theory that you can tell someone’s ‘heyday’ when you walk into their home, by looking at the period decor. I have got lots of friends who are 10, 15, even 25 years older than me; and it seems to hold true. For my parents it’s velour, brass, and mauve – you do the math. Some people continue to modernize but most just stop at some point. I think that there is an economic component to the lack of change – it’s expensive to just replace things for the sake of modernization. But this is different. An old couch is a long way from not having a cellphone. I grew up hearing about the generation gap, and I mostly ignored the discussion about the digital divide as – in Berkeley at least – it came across as some socialist rant against what was perceived as a technological caste system. But I am starting to see the point, not in the “technological literacy” sense, but more about humans’ willingness to adapt or sample new things, or just try something different. But damn, this is still shocking. And I’m their offspring – could this happen to me too?

Is it because you own a device that already does something similar, so you figure “Why buy a new one?” Do you need a robot vacuum cleaner when the Hoover upright still functions? Do you need voicemail when your answering machine still works? If the Mr. Coffee still cranks out brown water, why invest in a single-cup espresso maker with those fancy foil packs? Why replace the refrigerator that’s been working great for 30 years? If IE6 still browses the Internet, why change? Do you need LED lights when you have an incandescent desk lamp?

Mom was more comfortable with a cassette tape recorder than any other recording device invented in the last 40 years. She was headed to the store to see if she could find a new one. I told her that her best bet was [snark]Office Max[/snark]. The good news is that I have figured out the perfect Christmas gift – I’ll send them the Patrick Nagel prints I have stored in the garage.

On to the Summary:

Webcasts, Podcasts, Outside Writing, and Conferences

Favorite Securosis Posts

  • Mike Rothman: Friday Summary: TSA Edition. Rich nails the issue with airport security in his intro to last week’s Summary. He’s right – more security theater will be coming to an airport near you.
  • Adrian Lane: Stupid Human Tricks: Security Job Interviews. The LiquidMatrix guys are like family, so this is my favorite ‘inside’ post of the week. Guaranteed to make the most cynical security people laugh out loud!
  • Rich: FireStarter: Policy Wonks and Pests. Have I mentioned how little respect I have for people who want to govern things they don’t understand?

Other Securosis Posts

Favorite Outside Posts

Project Quant Posts

Research Reports and Presentations

Top News and Posts

Comment of the Week

Remember, for every comment selected, Securosis makes a $25 donation to Hackers for Charity. Unfortunately this week we had zero comments. Starving hackers will go without, so something like that.

—Adrian Lane

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By LonerVamp  on  05/04  at  06:20 AM

Definitely think you’re on the right track about the technological divide with your questions of why replace things when something still works?

I think there’s also a certain level of fatigue and comfort involved. Fatigue in always changing something (a new cell phone every year?). Comfort in having the thing you worked hard to understand and tailor to your needs working.

I’m also sure there’s a lesson in change buried in there. :)

By Pat Bitton  on  05/04  at  10:52 AM

Agree - I don’t replace things that still work fine. The 1993 Camry. The CRT TV. The 2009-model basic cellphone. The 1995 microwave I bought when I first came to the US. Heck, I srill have a record player and vinyl music. Much of the stuff I replace comes from thrift stores. Just my way of practicing sustainability. (Although as a writer I use my laptop so much that I plan on needing to replace that every three years - that’s about when the fatal limping starts ...).

By Adrian Lane  on  05/04  at  11:36 AM

@Pat - I spin vinyl because it sounds better that digital—or at least any digital source I can afford. I use a 30 year old Chem-ex pot and/or 20 year old French-press for coffee. And I just bought old fashioned kitchen timers from a thrift store. These are quality issues as ‘new’ is not always ‘better’. You bring up an angle of sustainability I did not really think of. But in the parental case, I think it’s both comfort and that they don’t need what they are not aware exists. 

Thanks for the comment! 

-Adrian

By Pat Bitton  on  05/05  at  03:03 PM

@Adrian, at my age, I think I live in both worlds - sustainability and “if I don’t know about it/understand it, I probably don’t need it”. Thanks for continuing to mix the real world in with the technology!

By Bert Latamore  on  05/07  at  01:08 PM

I liked the comment about telling when someone’s heyday was by house decor. The same holds true often in clothing choices according to fashion experts. That is more obvious with women than men because women’s fashions change faster and more radically.

I believe strongly in selective technology adoption. Change isn’t always good. For instance, we were early adapters of iPods. I can carry my entire music collection (plus interesting podcasts and audiobooks) in my pocket and the repro, while not perfect, is good enough. On the other hand, I don’t do Twitter. I tried it and found it much to distracting—I can either keep up with my Twitter account OR do my work, and I don’t get paid for reading Tweets. I am a very heavy e-mail user and would like to get more use out of IM, particularly on Skype (my Skype handle is Bert.Latamore), but so far I don’t have many contacts who use it. I like store-forward because I can check for messages in breaks in my work.

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