Confessions Of A Tech Addict

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Tech addict Andrew Donoghue won’t be buying an iPhone 4 until his old phone wears out. And that goes for all future gadgets

Apple iMac 24″, Apple Wireless Mouse, Apple Wireless Keyboard, Apple Wired Keyboard, Apple iPhone 3G, Apple iPod Shuffle, Apple iPod 30G, Asus Eee Netbook, Seagate External Drive, HP Photosmart Printer/Scanner/Photocopier LG 50″ Plasma TV, XBbox 360, PSP, M-Audio Speakers, Canon PowerShot S5IS, Sony Wireless Headphones, Bose headphones, Sennheiser headphones, and a Logitech Squeeze Box.

My name is Andrew and I am a technology addict. The list above is proof. The really worrying thing is that most of that has been bought in the last couple of years. It doesn’t include the myriad gadgets and other tech toys accumulated and discarded over the last ten years or so.

But eventually you have to say enough is enough. And that is what I am doing today. Writing about green issues and technology leaves you wide open for accusations of hypocrisy and I have to hold my hands up to being guilty on all charges. Shooting holes in the tech policies of companies such as Apple, Dell and HP while also continuing to happily consume a good chunk of the new products they churn out is pretty shameful.

So from today I have decided to draw a line. I am going to take my own advice, and that of numerous environmental experts, and sweat my tech assets. No new tech unless it’s replacing something broken. Citing the claim in numerous articles that 75 percent of the environmental impact of new tech is incurred during manufacture but continuing to buy new kit on a regular basis cannot continue.

Why now you ask? Well my epiphany came during Steve Job’s latest sermon. Despite knowing all about Jobs’s infamous reality distortion field, the environmental costs of creating and disposing of tech, not to mention the shocking series of suicides at one of Apple’s main manufacturers in China, I felt myself being sucked in – again. I felt that nagging little voice in the back of head whispering that my old iphone is looking a bit tired and the new one is so lovely and shiny. So shiny and precious. I have turned into a tech Gollum without realising it.

A Technology Gollum

Yes, the iPhone 4 does have some genuine new features. Better battery-life for one is a fantastic improvement. And so is the idea of video-calling. As a new father I was shamefully sucked in by the saccharine promotional video from Apple which shows some road-warrior Daddy gazing lovingly at his wife and child via an iPhone video chat.

Then I came to my senses. I already have a perfectly good iPhone 3G. Yes, it is not capable of video but it does a thousand other things – most of which I have never tried. And that is the crux of the problem. We are all happy to jump over to the next toy even though we’ve not explored half the functionality of the previous one.

Just like children on Christmas day we often don’t even consider the presents we have just unwrapped before seizing the next one from under the tree.

The thing is that I basically have all the technology I need right now. I really do. Tech companies – especially Apple – have gotten very good at delivering products that really work.

That hasn’t always been the case. Buying a new piece of kit used to be a pretty hit and miss affair. I can remember my first computer – a Commodore 64. I loved it but it was pretty crappy. Loading games on a cassette? So when the Commodore Amiga 500 came along – nagging my parents for the new machine was a no brainer. With 512k ram and a disk drive it was a clear evolution over the clunky 64.

But sitting here, typing this in front of my 24 inch iMac I really can’t imagine a fundamentally better machine. Apple has updated the iMac since I bought mine but it’s almost as if Jobs and co were scraping the barrel to come up with improvements. The major selling point for the new iMac is that it has more screen and less casing at the bottom. Wow – is that really worth shelling out another £1200 for?

As you can see from my list of shame – I pretty much have all the tech I need for any occasion.

  • Gaming? Sorted. Xbox 360 attached to Plasma TV with wireless headphones so I can game in high-resolution and stereo-sound without annoying my girlfriend.
  • Mobile working? Got that covered. The Asus EEE is a great second generation netbook and is perfect for taking on press events and trips. And thanks to the iPhone’s App store I can do things like Tweeting, uploading photos and even recording conferences all from the same device.
  • Camera? Yep, the Cannon S5IS is a great compromise between an SLR and compact and produces as good photos as I can ever really want.

All The Tech I Need

The pile of tech I took travelling

Testament to just how much my tech bases are already covered , this picture shows the amount of stuff I took on a recent trip around the world.. plus a netbook just out of shot, of course.

Seeing all that technology splayed out on a Youth Hostel table in Australia was probably when I realised I had a problem. It was a backpacking trip not a tech conference. But the guilt has been nagging ever since I had enough disposable income to indulge my habit.

But no more.

My public commitment from now on is that I won’t buy any new tech unless it is replacing something that is defective or broken. That feels like a bold statement somehow but it shouldn’t be. The only time I would entertain replacing my washing machine, dishwasher or hoover is if it packed-up. So why is IT different? I wouldn’t even really think about replacing my car unless it starts acting up. But I caught myself seriously entertaining the idea of replacing a perfectly functioning iPhone 3G for the new model.

The answer of course is obvious. An iPhone or Xbox is a lot more fun than a washing machine. As Stephen Fry points out in the excellent BBC series The Genius Of Design, Apple and other tech companies craft their products to have an emotional impact. Unfortunately, while that emotion can feel like devotion – it’s actually more akin to addiction.

So there we have it. My photo is on this column and if you see me in an Apple shop or Dixons in the future feel free to pull me aside and interrogate me on what exactly I am replacing. If my answers are not up to scratch then I fully welcome accusations of hypocrisy and even a (gentle) clarifying slap around the face. And if you like I’ll do the same for you.

Thank you for listening. My name is Andrew and I am a technology addict.

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