I used to be a gadget freak. Every time a flashy new device was released I’d be the first in line to buy one. Over the years I’ve had 5 Palm devices, including one of the first Palm phones (the Kyocera 7135), several digital cameras, 3 iPods and 6-7 cell phones. After a while I began to realize that I was constantly on the phone with technical support. The damn things kept breaking, failing and simply not working as designed. Time after time I would finally have to give up, as the problems were for the most part unfixable. These days the last thing I want to buy is another gadget. The “PDA” that I now use on a daily basis is a small pad and pen that fit in my pocket.
Now computers are fast enough, mobile phones are small enough and digital music players have enough memory. Manufacturers now have a problem. How will they sell new products to consumers who are perfectly satisfied with their current electronics? My IBM XT, 20 years old, proves that we were capable of manufacturing durable technology decades ago — now that the performance problem is also taken care of, presumably the majority of us (certainly the shops and offices of the world) can stop buying new computers?
The electronics industry has clearly spotted this problem, and has worked out a simple way to make you upgrade even if you’re not a slave to fashion: your gadgets will simply break within the year. The evolution of the microchip to a point where the average consumer cannot tax it technically has ushered in The Age of the Flimsy — delicate, beautiful supermodels that can’t go the distance.