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The price of technology.

August 3, 2007

I was forced to go to Best Buy recently, and it got me thinking (again) about how much money people spend on technology. I abhor those places at the best of times (is that a strong enough word: abhor … I despise those place …. they disgust me …). Anyway, as much as technology gets cheaper, it also seems to get more expensive. It seems that it is impossible to buy anything anymore for less than $200 … that seems to be the going price for everything (bottom of the line everything, that is). This particular visit I was shopping for a new digital camera. These things are now virtually disposable (I mean, I was was getting anew one because we just left our old one somewhere … it has pictures of us on it … people could figure out who owned it pretty easily). I can now buy a bottom-of-the-line digital camera that holds 2000 pictures of insane resolution (7 megapixels means that I can see every hair in my beard in tremendous detail … not that I have any desire to do so), or take 2 hours of video. Problem is that I wind up spending $200, which is way more than I would have spent to snap perfectly nice pictures some years ago in the ancient past. I wouldn’t have been able to examine my beard in great detail, but as I mentioned, I don’t want to. The fact is that these cameras are full of amazing technology, but they’re also built to last about 3 days … the lens doors on this thing can barely close properly (and when they don’t, we go into error mode of Apollo 13 complexity). So, it’s weird … I can buy this insane technology of Blade Runner-ish complexity, but it’s built like, well, crap. When the little doors stop closing forever, I’m not going to want to get the thing “fixed” because that involves sending it to the manufacturer, which is on the other side of the earth, where they’ll throw it in a big trash bin to be picked apart for scrap by teams of slaves, and send me a new one with a letter addressed to “Doog Home”, which will also last for 3 days. The folks at Best Buy will shrug their shoulders because they just get shipping containers full of these things and hang them on hooks, and consider me to be getting what I deserve for buying the bottom-of-the-line $200 model. (which, by the way, probably cost about $12 to produce). My lovely manual Minolta SLR cost $200 (used), and it’s a lovely piece of precision-crafted machinery. My previous film-based camera was a really nice point-and-shoot that cost $120.

To quote the always quotable John Lydon: “Ever get the feeling you’ve been cheated?”

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