Consume!

The wind whips its frenzy around the house, the ghosts are trying to get in, and the rain sounds like it is throwing gravel at the windows. The gods are not just angry, they are apoplectic. This is a good night to write horror stories. But I’m not. I’m thinking about something worse. Something real.

Local Shop was quiet on Monday. The first quiet day since the start of November. Last Saturday was incredibly busy and I was not the only cleaner to ask ‘What the hell can they still need to buy?’ The Consumers were out in force. Consuming. Trolley loads of the same stuff they filled trolleys with only days before. Why are these people not all fifty stone (700 lbs for the rebel colonists across the Atlantic) in weight? Do they have banks of freezers ready for the coming apocalypse? Bad idea, the freezers won’t work when the power goes off. Consumerism has become what humanity is all about.

In a sensible world, you make something, someone wants it, they trade for something you want and that’s a deal. If they don’t have something you want then they give you tokens – money – you can then trade for something you want. If nobody wants what you make, you stop making it and make something else.

It’s happened in my lifetime. I grew up when hardly anyone had a home freezer or central heating or a TV. I remember the posh girl at school who was first to have a colour TV. I was already B.Sc. when video tapes appeared and most people rented the players because they were damn expensive to buy. They were immense – great slabs of technology.  Try finding one now.

The whole war of Betamax, VHS and Laserdisc came and went in a few years. They were undreamed of in my youth and yet there is already a generation that does not know about them.

I was part way through a PhD when I had my first computer. A Sinclair ZX81 with the massive 16K memory expansion. It didn’t word-process. I wrote my PhD thesis longhand, using real cut and paste.

My first post-doc job, I was provided with shared use of a BBC Master. It had a proper keyboard! I typed the report for that job at home on an Amstrad PCW using Locoscript. That computer used CP/M, not MS-DOS, and could address a massive 64K of memory. I inserted chips by hand to boost the memory but all that did was give me a ‘virtual disk’ which let me play games.

There were no hard drives until my third post-doc job. An incredible 30 Mb became available. We’re up to 1990 now, by the way, and not far from the terabyte hard disks that could have run the world back then.

The old stuff all died out. Floppy disks – there were 5.25-inch ones, then 3.5-inch ones, 3-inch ones for the PCW and nothing else (you idiot, Sugar) and now you rarely see a computer with a floppy-disk drive at all.

The videotape is dead. You can record on DVD now and Sky lets you record to a hard disk so you don’t even need that. Heck, you can stream films to your house without recording anything at all. In the 1980s and possibly into the 90s, ‘live streaming’ could only have meant ‘taking a pee’.

And yet… the drones keep buying. Anything and everything. It’s out of date before they get the box open so they queue for the upgrade, never realising they have not used even ten percent of the capabilities of what they bought five upgrades back.

I have a mobile phone that looks like a Blackberry but isn’t. It was cheap. It can do amazing things but I just use it for phone calls and texts. Sometimes I scan for open networks for a laugh, usually when waiting for my order in the curry house, but the idea of using a tiny screen to look at the internet does not appeal.

There are all these ‘tablet’ computers now, just a screen and nothing else. I have looked at them, I have considered their wondrous gadget-appeal, but cannot for the life of me work out what they are for. They are expensive toys. I can see no means to get the information off one of those things and into a proper computer for formatting and editing. If I could, I’d carry one around like a notepad for when the story ideas strike. As it is, on a limited gadget-budget, I cannot justify one of them.

Besides, I’ve only just caved in and bought a new keyboard. One with letters still on all the keys. It’s the Microsoft bendy one, the one that looks like someone left it on a radiator and forgot about it. Takes a bit of getting used to so expect a higher than normal typo rate for a few days. The effects of this bottle of Teacher’s will pale into insignificance by comparison – although it probably won’t help. Next I need a new mouse. I have to click and hold the buttons to get a response now.

The bendy keyboard was actually the cheapest in the shop! It was the only one with a cable coming out of it. All the rest are wireless. The claim they will work at insane ranges – tens of metres from the computer. What the hell? How big are these peoples’ monitors? Are they using a spotting scope to see what they’re typing? How often does their remote keyboard and mouse need new batteries?

Wireless keyboards usually sit in the same place on people’s desks as wired ones. All they achieve is… no wire. And they keep battery producers in business. I have no gripe with them, if you like them, buy one. I just don’t see the point.

Somewhere along the line, the game changed. It was recent too.

Somewhere it changed from ‘making what people want’ to ‘making people want what you make’. Consumerism changed from the transaction of work for goods you need or want via the mechanism of money, to the consumption of what is made whether you need it or not.

For the sake of the economy.

The ‘why’ of it is easy. Every transaction is taxed. When you work to earn money, the transaction between your work and your employer’s money is taxed. When you use that money to buy something, it’s taxed again. When someone makes something, the raw materials they buy are taxed, their business premises is taxed and their profits are taxed. We normal people make money by working for it.

The government make money whenever something changes hands. They don’t need to do a thing other than encourage us to ‘consume’ and thereby pay them for the privelige of owning more shite we don’t need. At the extreme end of the scale, the government will use the taxes they have to pay people to sit at home and buy huge televisions and games consoles and then tax them on those purchases. Round and round the money goes.

Again, for the sake of the economy. The Economy must Grow! Why? Why are we are zipping about like (as my father puts it) blue-arsed flies just to cover the bills that are mostly tax anyway? If we didn’t have so many people paid to collect tax, we could pay less tax. We could work less. We could trade what we need and want without busting a gut to keep some false god called ‘economy’ alive. So we make less this year than last year – so what? It just means the stuff we made last year lasted longer than the stuff we made the year before. ‘The Economy’ does not need to grow. It is an artificial entity with no place in nature.

All this money moving around and none of it is real anyway. It’s just numbers on a screen. The cynic in me wonders if the money has to keep moving so we don’t get a good look at it, and realise it’s all just smoke and mirrors. These days, smoke is banned so for the moment it’s vape and mirrors – until that’s banned too.

It’s not about people any more. At all. None of the modern obsessions with smoking or drinking or waist size or what you say or what you think have anything to do with people. It’s all about money. Just look at the comments on any article covering any of those things. ‘Dealing with this costs…’ Sod the people, they are there to serve the money.

I still recall that Star Trek documentary that claimed there was no explanation for where the Borg came from. Dammit, just look around! We are nearly Borg now! Everyone the same, everyone connected, no privacy, people putting their personal data online and then being surprised the whole world can see it and some not minding because ‘nothing to hide, nothing to fear’.

It is recent. Credit cards are recent. Even taking money from machines in the wall is recent. It was 1979 when I had my first cash card from the bank. The first ones let you take out £10. No choice. The card worked once a day, ten times, and then you had to get a new one. Less than £10 in your account, you would get nothing. Now I can take out £350 even if I don’t have that much.

I have a credit card, rarely used, that lets me take up to £6000 credit even though there is no way I could pay that back. It is for emergencies only. That is enough credit to let me abscond to another country with a pocket full of cash and disappear. Is that a good idea? No. Why does it work? Because the drones have been assimilated. They will stay put and accept the debt.

There was always the ‘never-never’. Buying things on credit on the seller’s terms. They were never good terms. They still aren’t and never will be but they will always have customers. There will always be those who want something now, when they can’t afford it. Nobody is blameless here. I once bought a Praktika B200 camera on those terms. It took a few days to realise that if the camera was lost or broken, I’d still be paying the instalments.  The sting in the tail came in the last year when I bought another, identical camera on eBay for peanuts. Well, I liked that camera.

Did I need it? No. I had a Zenit EM which was a great camera, if a tad primitive. I just felt like moving up a notch. Did I want it? Yes, it was much lighter and more versatile. So I traded my work for money and the money for the camera. My choice. If I had that choice again I would have saved for it rather than buying on-tick. But then, I learned the hard way – it wasn’t just the camera, it was all the later stuff.

This post is rambling, I know. It’s taken two nights and still I am not able to clearly articulate the problem in my mind. I remember times before television was widespread, when everyone went to the shops with cash and when they had no more cash they stopped shopping. I remember the introduction of credit cards, cash cards and computers. I remember when video tape was introduced and when it vanished. That might have been the trigger, An entire technical industry came and went – not even in my lifetime. It took no more than thirty years to rise and fall. Those VHS video cameras I drooled at in the past while cringing at their prices – I have five now. All from eBay at an average of eight pounds each and all in full working order. Isn’t that shocking? I bought a collection of Zenit-B cameras for less than a tenner. I recall when these were the bee’s knees. The lens quality is the same, they just don’t have the convenience of seeing the result right now.

‘Right now’ is maybe a big part of the ‘how’. How did we turn from people into money slaves? How did we get here? How did we become ‘consumers’? In a sense we always were – we traded our stuff for other people’s stuff as work or produce – but how did it become humanity’s defining characteristic?

Everyone wants everything right now. I want another bottle of whisky and I want it now. That is impossible because I live in Scotland and you can only buy booze here between 10 am and 10 pm. Okay, I’ll slow down and spin this one out, There is brandy and red wine if necessary. It isn’t 3 am yet, so for a full 8 hours sleep I have to be in bed by 4 am to get up at 12 and go to work at 2 pm. Calculating? After 30-odd years in science, what would you expect? It’s second nature.

It’s perfectly natural to want everything right now. It is also natural to recognise that it is not possible.

But… what if someone makes it possible? What if you can take a photo and see it without waiting for developing and printing? What if you can buy that camera with the money you will make next year? It’s hard to resist, isn’t it?

Not for me, but then I already had my fingers burned in this game. For those coming new to the game, it’s different. They work on credit entirely. My generation did partially and some (yes, including me) screwed it up. The one before frowned on the ‘never-never’ users and most bought only what they could afford. Three generations from sensibility to madness, from freedom to slavery.

I wish I could articulate the point here. I have a feeling it’s important. I also have a feeling that nobody under fifty will even care.

Sometimes thoughts are not in words. This is one of those times.

I think, basically, you should look at the latest ‘must-have’; and think ‘what is it for?’

Usually, you’ll find, it’s for taking money off you.

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70 thoughts on “Consume!

  1. “They are expensive toys. I can see no means to get the information off one of those things and into a proper computer for formatting and editing.”

    Ties back to people as consumers. You can’t do serious* work on a tablet; its made for consuming other peoples’ product.

    * You can do work on a tablet, but it’s the equivalent of using a unicycle instead of a car for a daily commute: faddy, a bit silly, and decidedly suboptimal.

    “For those coming new to the game, it’s different. They work on credit entirely.”

    Have you ever read John Brunner’s excellent “Stand on Zanzibar” Leggy? His author avatar character rants on about people in circa. 2000AD being _poorer_ than their grandfathers’ generation because 1) essentials like water, clean air, etc. are commodified, and 2) all consumer goods are designed cheaply and for automatic obsolescence, and all purchased on the never-never. Eerily prophetic of our own era for something written in the early 60s.

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  2. That’s the trouble with being my age. I simply do not understand how people have got themselves into this state.
    I actually had a think the other day about what I could buy on credit, and I couldn’t think of a single thing I wanted. How sad is that?

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  3. Before I left UK, I had a wallet full of credit cards with enough credit that I could have bought a small house with them. A frightening prospect when you consider the usurious interest rates they charge. When I moved, the first thing I did was to pay them all off and cancel them, so now I no longer have any lines of credit. It takes away the safety net, but gives great peace of mind. These days, if I don’t have the money in the bank to pay for something, it remains un-bought until I do. I now owe nothing to anyone.

    Wireless keyboards usually sit in the same place on people’s desks as wired ones. All they achieve is… no wire. And they keep battery producers in business. I have no gripe with them, if you like them, buy one. I just don’t see the point.

    I agree on the keyboards, because as you say, they generally would remain in one place anyway. I am, however, sold on the wireless mouse, and I wouldn’t go back to one with a tail. They are just so much easier to use.

    Technology is moving so fast that it really is difficult to keep up, and I have boxes of expensive obsolescence stored. I just find it difficult to throw out stuff like that. I have a very good 35mm SLR, with a selection of quality lenses, but it hasn’t seen the light of day since I bought my first point and shoot digital. And the camera on the phone I have now has more options than my old SLR and 14 megapixels resolution. My first digital camera had, I think, 2 or 3 megapixels. And I know that in another year, my state of the art phone will itself be obsolete. You are right, LI. We have become slaves to technologically driven consumerism, and I don’t see how we are ever going to get off this rather expensive merry-go-round.

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    • I have one credit card for buying stuff on the Internet – so I don’t have to use my bank details. If the card gets scammed I can simply cancel it without all the hassle of re-doing direct debits etc, as I would if I lost my bank details online (I don’t even use online banking – no point, I pass the bank every day on the way to work!).

      If I lived a long way from the bank, I’d use their online services. It’s not that I have anything against those things. It’s just – why add another layer of risk which, for me, serves no real purpose?

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  4. There was – unusual for these days – an interesting documentary on telly a few years ago which traced the history of marketing. It seems that, at a specific point in time, (the fifties, I think – with the realisation of the potential of telly) marketing types realised that, not only could they promote one brand of a product that people need but that they could create demand for a product that people didn’t need, and so consumerism was born.

    All adverting appeals to the human desire to be better in some way or other to others be that sexier, smarter, happier, more successful and so on. It doesn’t even really matter if people are aware that this is what the marketers are up to – those who set out to project a particular image will be the first in line to buy because the others they want to impress understand what is being ‘said’ and those they don’t want to impress don’t matter.

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  5. XX My choice. If I had that choice again I would have saved for it rather than buying on-tick. XX

    I am after a DSLR Nikon, +- €3000. Last year I saw what I wanted, a DSLR Nikon, €2000. What happened in between?

    My savings of €1000 were effectivley wiped out overnight when, after less than a year on the market, the latest model came out, and the one I was after was withdrawn for no other reason than “the new model was out!” of cours a “mere” 1K more expensive had NOTHING to do with it!

    So, sometimes, credit is the only way. I would have had that camera by now, and would be happy with it for the next five to ten years. (Which is probably another reason for a new model every three weeks.)

    As to “consumerism,” they don’t have much luck with me there.
    No telephone, no T.V, Computer struggles along on pentium 4 and windows 2000, with Office 98, washing machine is a thirty years old Hoover twin tub, no car, one 1973 vintage Triton, most people would call my fridge “Balcony,” and as far as it goes 90% of my clothes are bought from military surplus stores.

    The dicatorship must LOVE me!

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      • I despair of Youngest Useless Object and his Fiancee. http://tinyurl.com/nrjhxo6

        Despite not having the proverbial pot-to-piss-in, they HAD to have a 42″ TV in the bedroom…and another the same size or larger in their lounge. Youngest can’t comprehend how we-me and his Mutti- can LIVE without a TV…and then he badgers me to put the latest blockbuster movies I have downloaded (for free of course) onto a stix for him….

        I suppose I shouldn’t grumble cos I get his cast-off -cos-too-outdated-phones…which is why I have a Phablet Galaxy S-something or the other which costs more still to buy new than I’d pay for a car.

        Army surplus clothes rock -cheap, last for years and never come into fashion 🙂

        Infact my favourite label is ‘Bundeswehr’ or ‘Heeres Eigentum’…those well known German gentleman’s tailors.

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          • From about 1940/41 until 1945, a lot were “Boss designed”. In particular SS/SD and dress uniforms.

            Before that, they were basically WWI uniforms with the breast eagle added.

            45 until 49, there was no German armed forces….(Debatable, considering a lot were kept on as advisors for everything from engineering to bomb disposal, to mine sweeping). 1949 until around 1960 they wore old Wehrmacht uniforms, which were basically WWI uniforms with the breast eagle removed, and U.S army helmets.

            The DDR carried on using the Wehrmacht uniform, with small changes until the very end. (Their helmets, for example, were actualy designed, and were ready for delivery to troops before the end of WWII. But “events” caught up with the supply line.)

            Whether that can be counted as “under licence” is a civil law question.

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          • “I thought the German military gear was made under licence from Hugo Boss…”

            Gives a whole new undertone to ‘does Sir dress to the left or to the RIGHT?’ …

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    • I was lucky a few years ago, when I bought a Sony DSC-H5. The H6 (I think) had just come out, the H5 was discontinued and the last few were at clearance prices.

      Just have to catch them at the right time.

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  6. The current obsession with economic growth reminds me of body builders and anaboic sterioids. Madness and tiny testicles will be the result of the abusive measures taken to pump up economies, simulating growth.

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  7. The problem with all this is that no one actually knows what anyone wants until they are offered it and no one knows what anyone ‘needs’ either, who is anyone else to decide that ? It’s all very well saying that we could all get by with less and just trade for what we want but that’s more or less how economies worked before the industrial revolution, it meant most people lived in poverty as wealth accumulated to the already wealthy. It also resulted in mercantilism as a result of the fallacy that economics is a zero sum game and that in turn led to wars. It’s also a huge mistake to see growth as simply the production and accumulation of more stuff, most growth actually comes from making better more efficient use of the stuff we’ve got and building on it, which is exactly what has happened with computing. If we stop growing then we start using more resources to stand still, which is what socialist economies do, until they start going backwards that is.
    Every period in history has had people complaining that there’s just too much consumption
    and it will all end in tears, sometimes it does but always for some other reason. This used to be a favourite argument of the aristocrats who thought the peasants were vulgar and lazy and just getting to much stuff for their own good, now it is more common amongst socialists and especially Greens. They are obsessed with reducing consumption, other people’s anyway, because they are both fanatical puritans and nasty control freaks and it’s very disappointing to see you echoing their false arguments.You are quite right about credit bubbles however but that’s part of the same mistaken view of how economies work, politicians have sort of half grasped that it is consumption that is the engine room but they think they have to encourage it by ‘stimulating’ the economy, all they are doing is revving that engine beyond breaking point. Which is why we have the tax merry go round and credit booms, it’s this that causes manic consumption not growth or companies bringing new products to the market.

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    • Well, I’m not advocating anything at all, really. A quick look around here will convince anyone that I am in no position to say ‘don’t buy junk for fun’. I have loads of stuff I don’t need. All of it is paid for, nothing on credit (except the house, I have never been and never will be rich enough to buy a house with cash).

      What I was trying to work out was the change in attitude from ‘buy it when you can afford it’ to ‘buy it now and worry about paying for it later’. It’s not what you buy, it’s how you buy it.

      It’s also not about reducing or increasing consumption or production. Those can runb at a natural rate as long as prices and wages allow it to.

      Prices are a case in point. The profit margin on some gadgetry is incredible. Why? Because people don’t need to have enough money to pay that price. They just wave a bit of plastic and it’s theirs. Then they take months to pay the inflated price plus interest. If there were no credit cards, people would still buy gadgets but the makers would need to make less profit per unit in order to make the sale. They’d still make a profit, just not a massive profit.

      Credit cards are great if you’re a bank. People buy things they can’t afford and then pay back the price plus around 30% p.a. interest to the bank. They’re also great if you make trendy things. You can boost your profit margins and people will still buy them with next year’s income.

      I hand over cash when I buy things (except on the internet, obviously). It makes me think before buying because I have to part with something real.

      I’m also still wondering about those tablet computers. All I would really use it for would be a notebook that didn’t run out of paper and had the words typed instead of scrawled. Something to note down story ideas when I’m not at home, and just load them to the computer so I don’t have to type therm again. I don’t care about cameras but if it had a good one I might use it. I don’t want one in front. If there’s a cheap one that does what I need, I’d buy it.

      Just… not on credit.

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      • You’d probably be able to pick up a decent, albeit basic, tablet for about fifty quid. I buy stuff from an electronics e-shop here, and so they send me spam all the time with offers, and today’s included this one at €60:

        Το Manta MID706S DUO POWER HD tablet είναι εξοπλισμένο με έναν επεξεργαστή διπλού πυρήνα Rockchip RK3168 χρονισμένο στα 1.2 GHz. Το λειτουργικό Android 4.2 Jelly Bean προσφέρει ευκολία στην καθημερινή σας εργασία αλλά και ψυχαγωγία, καθώς και πρόσβαση στο Android Market, απο το οποίο μπορείτε να κατεβάσετε πολύ εθιστικά παιχνίδια αλλά και χρήσιμες εφαρμογές. Με 1GB μνήμης RAM και 8 GB ενσωματωμένη μνήμη flash, το tablet αυτό μπορεί να χειριστεί εύκολα ακόμη και τις πιο απαιτητικές εφαρμογές.
        Οθόνη: 7″ οθόνη πολλαπλής αφής, 1024 x 600 pixels.
        Επεξεργαστης: Rockchip RK3168, Cortex A9 Dual Core στα 1.2 GHz.
        Χωρητικότητα: 8 GB.
        Μνήμη: 1 GB RAM.
        Webcam: Ενσωματωμένη 0.3 MP.
        Συνδεσιμότητα: MicroSD slot έως 32 GB, 1 x mini USB 2.0, headphone jack, power input.
        Ασύρματη επικοινωνία: WiFi (802.11 b/g/n).
        Πρόσθετα χαρακτηριστικά: Ενσωματωμένα ηχεία και μικρόφωνο, G-sensor.
        Τροφοδοσία: Μπαταρία 3000 mAh, εξωτερική τροφοδοσία ρεύματος.
        Διαστάσεις: 185 x 119 x 11 mm.
        Βάρος: 305 gr.
        Λειτουργικό: Android 4.2 (Jelly Bean).
        Εγγύηση: 1 χρόνος. DOA 7 ημερών

        You’ll have to paste it into Google translate to read it, but it looks more than adequate. Small, with a 7″ screen, but easy to carry with you, and expandable memory to 32 GB. And stuff like that tends to be more expensive here than in UK, so I reckon £50 tops where you are.

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      • No I know you aren’t advocating anything but a lot of other people are and they use the anti consumerist arguments as part of their assault on liberty, we only have to look at the anti alcohol and tobacco lobby to see that.

        No one has to gorge on credit but if it’s there a lot of it some people will, it’s a natural response to glut, just as a fox will kill everything in the hen house if it gets in. Provision of credit is largely state generated through the central banks which is the equivalent of the farmer leaving the hen house door open with a big ‘Foxes This Way’ sign outside. Mind you I’m not sure who is the fox and who the hen in this analogy but we all seem to have lost a hell of a lot of feathers recently.

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        • There have always been credit junkies, in the old days it was bank loans or dodgy lenders who had Big Vern collecting instalments and dishing out penalty clauses with his fists.

          Credit cards make it look different. It is, in effect, a bank loan but you think you have control over it. You decide when to buy and what to buy, you don’t decide how much interest to pay…

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  8. Ah yes the old Zenit slr, My first camera too. I traded it for a Praktica BCA1.
    Only the last 2-3 months. I bought 2 Praktica BX20s, 1 with a cracking 35-80mm zoom, and the other with a standard 50mm/1.8f lens. They were as new, and paid about £20 each inc delivery.

    I have an enlarger (bulbs broken whilst moving) but I also bought a film scanner to digitize all my photos. That said, film cameras have way more resolution than any digital, but they’re fine for what most people use for picture taking ie holiday/family snaps.

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  9. I think that these days (more than ever) almost everyone is conditioned to want the latest thing, look at the Apple iPhone sheep, the iPhone 5 is a good phone, the iPhone 5S comes out with not too much of an advancement yet people HAVE TO HAVE that one, even though most of them have the iPhone 5 (which looks EXACTLY the same!) It’s a similar story with Android fans and the Samsung Galaxy S2, S3 and S4, except that going by the size difference by release the Galaxy S8 is going to be about the same size as a cupboard door.

    It’s clever marketing and a fear of not keeping up with the Jones’ that make all these people buy the latest crap. And it’s only going to get worse, imagine how bad it is going to be in 20 years??

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    • Good old Apple. They put out that they won’t honour warranties for smokers, in case their techs have to fix something that has a molecule of tobacco smoke inside.

      I will never buy any Apple product as a result. They’ve saved me a fortune.

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  10. “I think, basically, you should look at the latest ‘must-have’; and think ‘what is it for?’

    Usually, you’ll find, it’s for taking money off you.”

    Great advice . I learnt that lesson , finally, the hard way. Left alone in my , then, girlfriend’s flat all day with the shopping channel, Whiskey and an unlimited credit card -on her account.- for company.

    Never never never NEVER ‘do’ ebay at 00:30 after a bottle of Glen’s Ol’ Socks btw….

    But WAIT there’s MORE!

    Another good bit of advice that took me years to master, was from a self made millionaire who explained to me “if you pay the phone bill every month *then* they leave the darn thing turned on!”. Only took me 20 years of intermittent phone ownership to get the hang of that one.

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    • I once bought an iron from a shopping channel before I came to my senses – think I got carried away by suddenly having the multi channels offered by ‘freeview’ 🙂

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      • “I once bought an iron from a shopping channel ”

        *only* an iron?! *once*? You LIGHTWEIGHT poofter! Amateur! I could make the Generation Game’s Conveyor Belt look poorly stocked….BEFORE they even got round to the “and that’s not all, ORDER TODAY and get this 3 Disc set of Jimmy *insert Irish surname* GREATEST HITS ABSOLUTELY F R E E”

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    • “Never never never NEVER ‘do’ ebay at 00:30 after a bottle of Glen’s Ol’ Socks btw…”

      Too late. I’ve woken to emails that say ‘You have won this shit you don’t really need’ after 3 am whisky sessions.

      Usually it’s a broken bit of railway that sold for 99p, or something that was cheap and the auction ended at some stupid time like 7 am so nobody outbid me. So far, no major disasters.

      I did end up with an Imperial-units micrometer for about a fiver once. That’s been useful.

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  11. ‘The wind whips its frenzy around the house, the ghosts are trying to get in, and the rain sounds like it is throwing gravel at the windows.’ Thank you alone for that wonderful opening sentence.

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    • “As a matter of interest, tablets can interface with your computer via the USB cable they come with.”

      No that’s just an ugly rumour…. :p

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      • An easier way to transfer data between a desktop and a tablet is some sort of cloud system like Google docs or Dropbox.. However Tablets are really not the best for text input, you will end up swearing at auto’correct’ an awful lot.. Limited note taking is fine but writing anything long winded is a major pain

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      • The cable has a USB plug one end and the standard phone charging plug at the other end. You can charge your tablet by connecting to a computer USB port, or to the supplied charger which has a USB port. Obviously the small plug fits the tablet. With mine I can also connect wirelessly to my laptop, but they are both Samsung. I don’t know if you can do the same with other makes though.

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        • Shouldn’t be a problem. My laptop is connected wirelessly to my desktop and can access all the files. Laptop is an Acer, desktop was built for me by my local wizzkid.

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  12. YOUTH! There’s a problem right there! Yes they started selling any old shit way back when, to whoever. It really kicked off recently when they started targeting young, gullible, so called young adults.
    I had a beautiful moscow olympics Zenit EM camera, but I ‘needed’ (HA!) TTL metering!
    Got rid of the shitty analogue synthesizers to get the ‘superior’ digital ones!
    I had a bloody brilliant ZX Spectrum, but I ‘needed’ a disk drive! – Got an awesome Amstrad CPC 6128 with printer and colour monitor, but somehow ‘needed’ 16 fucking bits!!!!!
    Tossed out my vinyl and bought CDs!!!!!!
    Makes my fucking arse bleed thinking about all the stuff I got rid of and replaced by something ‘better’.

    Nuff F now.

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    • I was a young, gullible adult once and fell for exactly the same thing. Almost a year of homelessness taught me to never, ever fall for it again!

      In those days, of course, ‘lessons have been learned’ wasn’t just a soundbite.

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    • I blame “K-Tel.”

      Crappy records from groups no one had ever heard of, or songs from one hit wonders that otherwise would have been consined to “Round file, B.I.N”

      Then they started doing vegetable choppers, and many other useless pieces of crap.

      A sort of 70s “Amazon.”

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  13. A colleague at work was crowing on about their latest upgrade, an I-phone 4 or whatever, she was asked what she used it for – “texts and phone calls”, sweet fucking Jesus – you can get a decent Nokia 5110 for less than a fiver on the bay, and if you buy a new battery they last for ages!

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    • There was, maybe still is, a very very basic phone that doesn’t do much more than text and phone calls. Last I saw, it was around £15 brand new.

      I went for the Blackberry cheapo lookalike because of the keyboard. Pressing keys multiple times, missing the letter you want and going round again was driving me nuts.

      The phone does lots of other things. I doubt I’ll ever use more than 10% of its ability.

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  14. One of the advantages of being a (fairly) old ‘un in this fast-moving technological world is that by the time you’ve got your head round the latest wizzy-gadget that “everyone wants,” the technology is old, you can’t buy it any more and something else even more confusing has come along to replace it. There are huge chunks of technology – which have come along, morphed into the latest Must Have, become commonplace, and died out become something even more confusing has come along – which I have completely missed out on. I didn’t get a video player until everyone else had had one for at least 20 years and I still have (and occasionally use) it, I only got a DVD player when I got one going cheap with a new TV (because the old big-tube – yes, really! – TV died) and my video collection is still larger than my DVD collection, I’ve only just replaced my 10 year-old computer (again, because it died, not because I wanted a new one), and I’ve never owned, nor wanted, a mobile phone. I can’t even answer my boss’s new-fangled Smartphone when it rings because it’s nothing like my OH’s much more basic (and old fashioned!) mobile. I’m on neither Facebook nor Twitter simply because one look at their homepage has me reeling in confusion. What are these sites actually for? Jokes? Gossip? Boring “dear diary” entries by saddos who quite frankly don’t do anything worth writing in a paper diary, let alone inflicting on the public? Search me!

    I’d love to sit down one day and work out how much money, over the years, I’ve saved by not buying the latest techno-gadgets simply because I can’t understand them until it’s too late. Even more fun would be trying to work out how much revenue I’ve denied the Government of the day by not doing so.

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    • I admit I did like the DVDs. I like not having to rewind the film at the end. I also enjoyed the looks of confusion in the early days when I’d loaned someone a DVD and on returning it, I asked ‘Did you rewind it?’

      My computer has a DVD player. I watch films on this high-resolution screen. Don’t even need a TV. The only thing that interests me on TV is Dr. Who, and I can get that on the iPlayer after the live transmission is over.

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      • XX I also enjoyed the looks of confusion in the early days when I’d loaned someone a DVD and on returning it, I asked ‘Did you rewind it?’XX

        In similar vein.

        I once had a Wife. I also had a VW Beetle.

        So. I went to Llanfairfechen to work in a hotel/Guesthouse, and went by train for some reason, and left the car at home.

        Christmas Eve, the Wife rings up on the staff phone… “Happy Christmas” and all that shite.

        “O.K, thanks, got the post, and can you make sure the car is O.K? Make sure there is enough water in the radiator!”

        Tja… EX Wife.

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      • Same as that; I watch everything on my computer. I don’t have a TV.

        The only thing that interests me on TV is Dr. Who, and I can get that on the iPlayer after the live transmission is over.

        Can’t you watch it live? As I may have mentioned before, I follow F1, and for the BBC transmissions of the event I have a proxy server in UK (they won’t allow me to watch if I use my Greek IP) which I use to stream it real-time. I just go to the BBC1 site and click ‘Play’.

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  15. I hate to sound like goody two shoes but I’ve never gone in for buying stuff just because it’s new or funky. Perhaps that’s just a difference of temperament or maybe I’m just a tight bastard, then again I do have far too many books so perhaps my spendrthriftiness just takes a different form. It could be plausibly argued I think that a surfeit of consumer shite is the by-product of a sea of plenty that allows us to swim through life in comfort ( poetry ). As the economy grows and more stuff becomes both available and affordable a large amount of it will be dross, that’s just something we have to learn to ignore. I don’t think it a good idea to drain that sea of plenty just to get rid of the excess algae which is what the Greens and their fun loving co belligerents in the “ban everything, it’s bad for us” lobby would like and I don’t think we do ourselves any favours by tutting away like a lot of Guardian readers about how gross and wasteful it all is.

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      • No idea about the computer but if you do have to source a TV then make sure it is a somewhat newer model ie ohne ‘bananaen Stecker’ for the aerial etc. It must 1. BE COLOUR and 2. have SCART etc than you might normally go for. If it runs off electricity not steam that’d be an advantage too 😛

        (Note for the Non-Continentals among us- German TV sets used to have their own special aerial sockets- a curved pin or ‘banana’ not the standard CoAx)

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        • “It must 1. BE COLOUR and 2. have SCART etc than you might normally go for.”

          Damn you touchpad!! I somehow repositioned a whole chunk of that sentence. Anyways you’ll get the drift that you can’t use a 50s B&W Siemens from the Sperrmuell!

          Like

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