Marie Kondo has become an international superstar by telling people to throw their stuff out when it no longer “sparks joy.” For most of us, that’s a whole lot of stuff. Especially tech stuff.
The bright and shiny, cutting-edge technology of yesterday is an obsolete paperweight within years, even months. As things advance, the state-of-the art device you had is no longer supported and can’t even function on the most basic level.
Whether you wanted to or not, you have to replace it.
Then, of course, there is the human drive. More. More. More. The latest, greatest, coolest thing is always the best thing. The must have thing. The thing that we can’t live without and will spend ridiculous amounts of money on which we sometimes can’t even really afford. Just because we want to.
There’s a serious environmental impact to all this.
Between the sheer amount of tech products and the fact they are usually made with extremely toxic materials, we are just destroying the planet. Like, feeding it poison pills, kind of destroying.
But, it’s not like we’re going to stop it. At least not in the near future. Make it better, hopefully. Hopefully, a lot better. But stop it? Not seeing it.
No, technology will keep moving forward at an astounding rate, and us little humans will risk almost everything to try to keep up with it. In part because we have to and in part because we want to. It’s just the way it is.
It’s a difficult dilemma. We buy products knowing they have a very short lifespan of usefulness. Yet, some of them, however briefly, really do, or did, bring us a bit of happiness.
These objects once, in the parlance of Marie Kondo, truly “sparked joy.”
Below are a few of mine. Tech items that I can still remember fondly for the satisfaction and happiness they once brought me. They still ended up in the trash, sometimes very quickly. Useless junk.
But, Man, in their day, they were damn cool…
Razr Cell Phone
The year was 2004. The first iPhone wouldn’t be introduced for another three years. And Motorola came out with this thing.
I had resisted getting a cell phone far longer than most people. To say I wasn’t a fan was an understatement.
The connections weren’t as good as land lines. Dropped calls were still common. People also tended to talk to you while they were doing something else instead of actually listening.
In addition, cell phones were another considerable monthly expense on top of my ever out of control cable bill (three words for you on that issue, CUT THE CORD!). Getting one was something I felt forced into rather than something I really wanted to do.
But the Razr was cool.
The way it just felt was great. Heavy. Solid. Machined. A properly engineered and manufactured device. And that whole thing of flipping it open made me feel a little like James Bond or the Man From U.N.C.L.E..
A cell phone I actually liked. And not even a smart phone. Weird.
Sony Discman portable CD player
Man, was I cutting-edge. I had a CD player in the 80s. Not just a CD player but a portable CD player!
Yes, I’ve just aged myself. To all of you out there saying in your heads “I wasn’t even born yet,” screw you! I was a kid myself when I got this. Well close enough to being a kid. Anyway, why are we talking about this? Screw you!
As I was saying, CD players were still cutting-edge all the way around back then. The promise of CDs wasn’t just that they sounded better than vinyl (which they didn’t in many ways) but that they were indestructible (which they weren’t).
On top of all that, Sony made a version that was “portable.” Which, spoiler alert, it actually wasn’t. I tried walking around while listening to a CD a few times. Just the way all those kids did with their original cassette-playing Sony Walkman.
The CDs skipped all over the damn place.
No matter, it was portable in the sense it could be moved easily from place to place like a modern laptop computer. I even took a few trips with it. Try doing that with your home audio system.
And the device itself was pretty neat. It was metal and heavy. Which, come to think of it, is not so great for being “portable.” But it felt solid and real compared to the much cheaper plasticky ones which would follow. The ones for sale in drug stores and big box retailers for years to come at prices one tenth the price of this one.
I still loved my Discman.
It was an extremely flawed device, even when new. But I didn’t care. It was one of the coolest things I have ever owned.
In October, 2001, Apple changed the way people listened to music.
For better or worse, the introduction of the iPod and a clumsy, over-copyright-protected place to get music in digital format from, called “iTunes,” made listening to music a different experience.
It was just insane. Thousands of songs on something so small. And they sounded good!
And, as if that wasn’t enough, unlike the previously mentioned “Discman” the iPod truly was portable. If you wanted to, you could actually listen to a customized soundtrack to your life as you walked the streets. You could completely shut out the voices of all those annoying people and horns of the cars about to hit you.
Apple and its designers really hit a home run with the iPod. That giant scrolling wheel, the monochrome screen, the pure simplicity and ease of using such an advanced device. It really was a piece of fantastic industrial design and technology.
And then there was the “Shuffle.”
People underestimate what a big deal the iPod Shuffle feature was. Well, not everybody, this guy wrote a really nice post about it.
Shuffle let you sit back and let your iPod be the DJ. It introduced anticipation and randomness to listening to your own collection. A personalized radio station of your favorite artists.
Sometimes songs you hadn’t listened to in years would pop up and remind you how much you liked them. Bizarre, sometimes incongruent, clashes of styles could happen that made songs gain new life.
Shuffle just made listening more fun.
Don’t get me wrong, most of the time I still used my iPod to listen to music the way God intended: full albums, in order, no songs ever skipped. But not always. And for those times, Shuffle usually proved a worthy change-up.
Thousands of songs in one little, really well-designed box. It doesn’t get much cooler.
APPLE imac G3
I’ve had a bunch of computers I really liked. For instance, the Macbook Pro I’m typing this article on, or the Polycarbonate Mac laptop I had years ago, or the Amiga 500 from way, way…..way back. Yet, none of those have made me as happy to use in the same way the iMac G3 did.
Hell, I just smiled looking at the damn thing.
You have to remember that before this, pretty much all computers where very large, beige boxes. Even Mac desktops. There was nothing fun or cool about them.
And then in 1998, the iMac G3 came out.
The shape was bizarre, you could see through it, and it came in a choice of very bright colors. Mine was “Blueberry” a “purer” blue than the “Biondi Blue” of the computer in the photo above.
This was also key, the iMac was also a highly functional piece of tech.
Apple had found a way to consolidate all the innards into this unique looking thing with a built-in CRT screen. It killed off the floppy disc once and for all and replaced it with a recordable CD. It got rid of a host of different types of connections and made everything USB. It just all made sense and worked well as a unit. All in a groovy-looking, weird-shaped box that didn’t take up very much space.
I loved it so much that I convinced my parents to each get one. As I predicted, as computer averse as they were at the time, the little iMac won them over. Just look at the thing. How couldn’t it?
A computer that made you smile when you looked at it. Amazing really.
CANON PowerShot digital Camera
TWO Mega-Pixels! ALL digital! And so tiny!
This camera came out in that brief era between traditional film cameras and smart phones. Smart phones which were soon capable of taking far better photos.
I thought the Canon PowerShot was amazing.
I found this review of it that explains, in part, why. It was like a tiny little brick of brushed, stainless steel. Super-small. Super-compact. And it didn’t use film! Whoa. Mind blow, right there.
Of course, in hindsight, I’ve now got years worth of super-low resolution photos either deleted or scattered across the hard drives of computers I no longer own. Years of photos that are gone or, essentially, unusable.
There’s something to be said for actual film prints. But that’s another topic for another day.
With digital photos you could just go crazy. Taking pictures of your pets, your friends, yourself….all sorts of things people really don’t need to document or share….
Sorry, once again, another topic for another day.
Anyway, at the time, the Canon PowerShot was the sh*t. I really liked the thing.
It was easy to use. It was cheap to use. Remember that film developing and prints was normal but still a bit pricey. And did I mention that it looked kind of cool?
Really too bad about the low-res/pre-cloud storage thing.
But whatever. It was fun at the time.
All the items I’ve mentioned in this post meant something more to me beyond that they simply worked. They made me happy to use them or, in some cases, even to look at.
Yet, they were still technology products. Over time, sometimes a shockingly short amount of time, they began to function poorly at their given tasks. In most cases, they became completely unusable at a certain point.
It was at this point, most were brutally and uncaringly disposed of. Tossed away as garbage along with the dirty napkins and spoiled lettuce leaves.
And I neglected one of the most basic teachings of Marie Kondo when I did so. I didn’t even say “thank you.”
So, better late than never.
Thank you Razr. Thank you Discman. Thank you iPod. Thank you iMac. And thank you PowerShot, even though the photos you took are now gone or useless.
Thank you all, my fine tech products. You served me well and brought me joy. You really did.
At least for a while.