Getting off the Technology Carousel


People often wonder why I don’t embrace technology more than I do. I use computers for my work and I have to keep those up to date. But I don’t own a smart phone. My phone is stupid and used only for talking. I’ve given up on video games. I don’t have an iPad. I only have a Kindle because reading is my true joy and I can’t carry twenty books on a plane. I’ve given up on owning anything like DVD’s or CD’s, or even downloadable content. The reason for my technology avoidance isn’t fear or even dislike. It’s simple exhaustion.

I used to keep up with every technological gizmo that hit the market. I was an early adopter. I had all the gadgets. Gradually, though, I got frustrated. When a new game system came out, my old games were no longer compatible. When Apple shifted from PPC to Intel processors, many of my older games and applications became (or have since become) incompatible. Now my DVD’s and CD’s are on the way out.

I have no doubt that the MP3 and other digital formats of today will eventually give way to something else. The equipment will change and the formats of today will no longer be compatible. The apps on cell phones today won’t wonk two or three generations down the line. My choices always seem to boil down to keeping my old equipment so I can keep using the old applications, games, and files, or constantly switching, upgrading, and paying more and more just to keep up. Since I don’t have room in the house for piles of junky equipment, I end up paying more money for the upgrades.

Then there are the accessories that these things always require. The cell phone case of today won’t fit tomorrow’s model. The Kindle case has to be replaced with a new one. The screen protector won’t fit a newer model. The power cord/adapter is different on every model. And on and on. You get a new gizmo and you have to buy all new accessories, too.

One day I said, “Enough.” It’s not that I don’t enjoy technology and the ease it creates in my life, but I decided to stop sinking my money into things that don’t last. I keep my computer up to date because I have to for work. I upgrade my design and word processing software because I have to in order to keep my sills up to date and earn a living. The rest of it, I leave alone.

Now I use services like Netflix or Amazon for DVD rental or streaming. I play free online games if I have to have something to pass the time. I get my eBooks either through free downloads (legitimate, not pirated) or from the library. I use my cell phone for calls only so I buy one and use it until it gives out on me and I don’t worry whether my apps will be able to evolve with me. I look for free software alternatives rather than boxed software. (At least if it become obsolete, I didn’t pay for it.) I no longer put my money into things like game consoles, digital content that I pay to own, physical media of any sort, or equipment like cell phones, iPads, and iPods that will soon be obsolete, replaced by newer models that require different file formats. I only buy and update what I have to have to make a living. Everything else I rent or skip.

Yes, this means that I’m often behind my peers technologically. But it also means that I’m saving money. By using free or rental alternatives, I’m not wasting money buying things that I know won’t last. By deliberately keeping my technological life small, I don’t have to worry that the next new thing won’t work with my old files or require me to buy all new accessories. It not only saves money, it save me stress, too. I can buy a new computer and not have to agonize over losing valuable applications simply because the new operating system no longer supports my old stuff. I don’t have a house full of media and equipment gathering dust because I need it to access old products.

If I want to spend money on something, I buy something that I know will last like a real paper book or a board game. With proper care, those things can last a lifetime and aren’t dependent on the whims of technology. Generally, though, I choose to spend my money on experiences and things that create value in my life like home improvements, education, or travel.

Since I jumped off the technological carousel of buy, upgrade, discard, buy, repeat, I’m much happier. I save money, time, and stress and I’m not constantly distracted by technology. Technology can be a great thing and can make your life easier. But it can also make things much more difficult and expensive than they need to be.

(Photo courtesy of Joe Shlabotnik)

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7 Responses to Getting off the Technology Carousel

  1. Julie says:

    I am getting tired of having to learn the latest technology just when I finally have become adept at the old. It really slows me down, and lately I have found that the upgrades haven’t been worth the time lost from having to relearn how do do everything. Moving to Office 2010 on my work computer is my latest example. I used to be able to do everything in Outlook, Word and Excel withouth even thinking about it. 6 months after making the change, I am still struggling to find things that I used to take for granted, and I use the programs every day.

    I have tried to teach my kids to be very realistic about what the latest version of a product has to offer. The difference from dial-up to DSL was incredible, but the improvements from one I-Phone purchased 12 months ago to today’s model really isn’t worth the extra money.

  2. Cindi F says:

    Jennifer I totally agree. It is really hard to put into action. I have always loved gadgets and used to spend a lot of money always having the newest and greatest. Recently my family is trying to only spend money on things we really need in order to keep a sane budget and save. We share a cell phone. I have three kids and two are at the age where they think they are required to have a cell phone by social law so it has been interesting. We use Google Voice also, which is free and I receive most of my call through my computer. It works well for us. It is hard to give up the tech gadget habit but I do believe it does save a lot of money and stress. Thank you for the great article.

  3. Jay says:

    Well said. Planned obsolescence seems to be built into all new technology!
    Have had my cellphone since 2004 and have replaced the battery only once. I think it’ll last several more years since not much in it to fail.

    Life is much simpler not having to figure out every new gadget that hits the market. Every time I get tempted, I consider the hassle and cost of startup/maintenance/upgrading, and am “cured”.

  4. Ronil says:

    This is a great article. I use to enjoy buying new gadgets and following up on gadgets blog. In the long term, I realized that I was “throwing” my money away for understanding new technology that did not addd any productive input to my life. From now on, I plan on using what I have until it breaks.

  5. bobebob says:

    I find that (as with most things in life) a balance is prudent. I don’t get in on new technologies as early as I used to. But I am a gadget head. Once my current product wears out or becomes obselete for technologies I use, I try to get into it again just at the levels where the early adopters have worked out the bugs. I then pretty much ride it into the ground.
    For instance, I use a GPS when I ride my motorcyce. I’ve used a Garmin Quest 2 for 3 or 4 years now. It’s all but obselete now (I’ve even soldered a new non-user replaceable battery into it to keep it going, and I doubt it even shows up on Garmin’s website it’s so old). But the maps are getting too far out of date and it wound’t be worth the cost of the unit to get them updated now.
    So I bought a Garmin Zumo 660. It’s been out a couple of years now and seems to work ok. So I got a version with lifetime upgradeable maps and will use it until it won’t work anymore.
    I think that this is the best way to be economical with technology purchases. Buy near the top of the technology curve and ride it into the ground before you get another one.

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  7. Miiockm says:

    In all fairness, nothing lasts. Avoiding new technology just puts you behind and eventually you’ll be completely lost.

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