Do you remember your very first personal computer?
If the first PC you bought for your home could do little more than crunch numbers and run a simple spreadsheet application – and you paid about five times more than a state-of-the-art laptop would cost today, then you are probably an early adopter.
While I love my gadgets, I am happy to wait for the second generation for most of them. But I married an early adopter, which makes me a reluctant early adopter.
Don’t get me wrong. The world needs early adopters. After all, someone has to be first. Someone has to try the things the testers never thought of. Someone has to work out all those bugs. If noone ever bought first generation technologies the market would collapse before we ever got to the second and third generations – the good stuff.
But too often these first generation technologies become obsolete too quickly, or they become unaffordable to maintain. What happens to the gadgets early adopters buy that never catch on, or when that first generation technology is outdated?
We have a basement full of computer parts that we can’t part with because we “might need them some day”. This collection harkens back to the days when the best way to have a state-of-the-art personal computer was to buy cards and memory and computer accessories at computer shows – shows that were magnets for like-minded early adopters.
We own a laser disc player. (If you’re wondering what a laser disc player is and you’re over twenty-five you don’t qualify as an early adopter.) Most people skipped right from videotape to DVD, while my spouse was insisting that laser disc players were the wave of the future. He even paid extra for a feature so we didn’t have to get up to turn the disc over halfway through the movie. Do you think we can sell it on ebay?
For Christmas one year my gift was a photo iPod. It was the largest capacity iPod available at the time, and its claim to fame was that you could store photos (in addition to music) on it. It was quickly displaced in the market with iPods that were video-capable and played games. Just a couple of years later my new iPod Nano model has the same capacity, weighs about six pounds less, and even has a video camera.
We had to have a high definition TV as soon as they were available (despite the fact that we didn’t get an HD TV/cable signal until three years later). The large screen TV was indeed a welcome addition to our living room, but each projection bulb only lasted about a year. When the replacement bulbs could only be purchased from third party vendors at about the same cost as a brand new flat screen LCD TV, we knew it was time to move on.
So what does my technology-hungry spouse want now? An iPad? I could go for one of those (but will wait until the second generation). His eyes light up when he sees commercials for 3D HD TVs … and I have visions of 3D glasses gathering dust on the family room coffee table.
Okay, early adopters. Time to fess up. What’s in your basement?