Thursday, September 13, 2012

This is not about the iPhone

Yesterday Apple announced the iPhone 5. I'm not an iPhone guy, heck I'm not really a phone guy, but I know this because my Twitter stream filled with comments like this:

"Why am I holding this pile of crap? Oh yeah, it rang. Until an hour ago, it was great."


"Back in 2012, our economy was so bad people skipped work to wait in line for a $500 phone." "Sounds like bullshit, Dad." "It was, son."

There were also numerous "My God it's X% lighter and Y% faster!" and "It has a new connector!" comments delivered in the calm, measured tones that some teen girls employ while discussing Justin Bieber. As I said, I'm not an iPhone guy, but the shear volume and tone of excitement delivered by the discovery of the existence of this tiny glass and aluminum monolith made me feel that I must be some pre-conscious primate roaming the savanna. I sensed that if I actually beheld the device, I'd be overcome.

"My God! It's full of stars!"

I am not, despite a certain affinity for that philosophy, a Luddite. I spend a lot of time staring at screens, tapping at keyboards, gee-whizzing at gadgets. I like gadgets and I believe in progress via human ingenuity. We get better at making things through iterative design and experimentation.

Bringing this around to bicycles, as I tend to do and I should, because I believe that people come here to read about bicycles, every year the people at Trek and Specialized and Cannondale and all the rest bring out something newer, lighter, faster or better in some way. Even the retro folks, the Rivendells and the Velo Oranges of the world, will have some new old thing, a curlier lug, a cushier tire or a brassier bell that will be more desirable than whatever was the last thing their loyal customers bought.

And I'm not decrying this state of affairs, I do believe in commerce and progress and I make my living selling and fixing and preaching about bicycles. I think it is useful to keep this business in business. But I have a tip, a suggestion, an observation to offer those who tend to frugality but still like novelty.

The most frugal course, of course, is to stick with what you have if it is working fine for you. If your old phone or bicycle or whosit was fine before the new one came out, it's probably still fine now. But if we stick only with what we know, we would never travel beyond our own boundaries and there are new wonders in the world.

If the wonder of the new is overwhelming, let it overwhelm you and go for it. Grab your gadget with gusto and meet the future at its bleeding edge. Godspeed, Gageteer, Godspeed. You keep the whole system in motion.

Or do what I often do: move forward as a somewhat reluctant time traveler. This is my favorite way of meeting change. I tend to meet the future a year or so back. Buy the 2012 bike that you wanted last fall, this fall and you'll find it's still a good bike. If it was a great bike back then, it's still a great bike now. And it's a hell of a deal because the 2013 bikes are here now.

If you want to get really great deals on last year's cutting edge, find someone who has just bought this year's cutting edge. Ask them what they're going to do with their old phone, or bike. It may be junk to them and a bargain for you.

Keep 'em rolling,

Kent "Mountain Turtle" Peterson
Issaquah WA USA


Jim said...

"curlier lugs"!
Good one, Kent!

scottg said...

I enjoy exploring new things,
old "new things" can be fun too.
Winter project was getting some cutting edge 1937 technology figured out. Osgear Super Champion tension arm derailleur.

Keith Moore said...

I like gadgets, but I hate getting rid of something that functions perfectly well. This is why I still have an ancient Sony Trinatron TV -- the damn thing just won't die!

Tim said...

Kent, You just missed "Samsara" at the Cinerama, but it sounds to me like you would appreciate it. It delicately and artfully addresses consumerism and want not unlike your post.

Anonymous said...

Buying last years "new hot thing" when it's made obsolete is a great strategy. Personally, the 20th century was quite good to me so I'm staying put. Not a gadgeteer but I have good friends who are & I benefit from their cast-offs.