Thou Shalt Upgrade At All Costs

The tech revolution is exciting! Advances in consumer technology are happening so rapidly, the individual strides are so long, I sometimes can’t believe most people aren’t watching for each development with bated breath. I bet it’s how many zealous religious believers feel when they think about how many people don’t share their ecstatic feelings about their particular theology. It’s the good news of technology!

Now, take an existing fascination with contemporary tech, and add to that the steady consumption of media about that tech, and it’s easy to feel like one belongs on what Jeff Bezos once called “The Upgrade Treadmill.” Yes, you have a very nice device in your hand right now, perhaps only owned for a few months, but look! There’s a new one! And it has New Things! It will, or so it is promised, change your life.

(Case in point, there’s this post from a year ago about how I was totally not going to get an iPhone 5S, and now I have an iPhone 5S.)

Normal people don’t feel this tug. I suspect the Upgrade Treadmill is exercised on mainly by enthusiasts like myself, many (most?) of whom are actually in or involved with the tech industry. Normals get a thing, they use the thing, unless the thing stops doing all the stuff it’s supposed to, and only then do they get a new thing.

But for folks of my own mindset, to not have The New Thing is to feel alienated. Look at the breathless coverage of the Things! These writers, reporters, and pundits, these folks who are makers and leaders and creators, they all seem to have The New Thing! They’re certainly all talking about The New Thing, and if I don’t have it, then I’ll be left out.

Out of what, exactly?

I think about this a lot as more New Things emerge, and my mental resources become devoted to acquiring these Things in a more or less revenue-neutral way.

There are times when The New Thing really does blow me away, and its utility for my life becomes immediately obvious. And then there are the times when it’s more granular, and I begin to convince myself that even if I’m not overwhelmed, being merely whelmed is enough to justify the acquisition process.

So it helps to read things like this. Here’s Patrick Rhone of Minimal Mac:

I keep looking online at the comments regarding Apple’s latest updates and offerings. I keep reading the posts. I even keep looking at Apple’s website every once in a while. I’ve gone into an Apple Store and held a few things in my hands. … And, after all of this, I finally feel I can start to put into words something that has lingered in the back of my mind for a few months now. A feeling that only increased with the last few events and product rollouts.

The current lineup of offerings from Apple are just not for me.

A small part of my id reads this and goes, “How can that be? Are you sure you’re human?” But this seems more like a defensive reaction in retrospect. I want these things (I presume) so why don’t you? What are you implying is wrong with me? It feels a little like, well, a defense of a dogma or faith. It is written that we will all upgrade as soon as possible. Rhone commits a kind of heresy with this way of thinking.

Heresy, of course, can be very refreshing and liberating. Heresy makes for progress. More Rhone:

[J]ust because something new comes out, it does not mean that this thing that I have will not continue to serve me for a long time to come exactly the way it is. If it works today it will likely work just as well tomorrow and for many tomorrows to come.

…I’ve been around too long and learned from experience that technology has to prove itself. It should make us better. It should solve problems. And, we should consider these things before allowing any new tool into our daily lives.

There’s nothing wrong with having a deep enthusiasm for tech (or any other subject over which one wants to geek out). As with any hobby or passion, the enthusiast goes the extra mile sometimes to further immerse themselves in their subject. For tech-heads, that’s usually gadgets. But it’s nice to remind yourself that there’s no compulsion, no Commandment from above saying to Upgrade At All Costs, no church from which one can be ejected for waiting or opting out of a given product cycle.

And these days, even the older stuff still works really well.

Something to think about…if not always live up to.

Update: Shawn Blanc just posted this, which suits this subject perfectly:

I think it’s a fascinating product lineup this year — there are some truly amazing and wonderful products available. But for the first time in recent memory, it’s not a completely obvious choice to just buy the latest version. Last year’s gadgets may not only be the better choice from a financial standpoint, but also as a personal preference as well.

Go see what he means.

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