Do I really need that gadget

The US economy thrives on a singular concept: Consumerism. The concept of spending money I don't have for things that I don't really need but still want to possess. It is contagious, addictive, and . This also creates a huge market for second-hand goods. Together, these two drive the market - more cash flowing through the system, more wealth being created, more debts (a revolving credit card debt of $10,000 is pretty common it seems) - and eventually, more goods being consumed. Therefore, if your TV or the sofa comes with a 5 year warranty, most people are happy with it. They will sell it or discard it and get a new one at the end of five years anyway. So far so good.

In India, however, I grew up with the concept of buying things for the long term in practice around me everywhere. Or as Westerners are learning the concept so recently, we believe a lot in Jugaad technology - making do with limited resources to achieve equal ends. When I was in school, one of my friends showed me how the refill of a ball-point pen could itself be refilled with a little turpentine oil and a drop of ink, and there was a person who would do that for you for a rupee. Consider the numbers here again - a Reynolds pen that used to cost Rs. 10, would be refilled with another thin cartridge for Rs. 5 (branded Reynolds, the local equivalent was available for Rs. 3.50), and the cartridge in turn could be refilled for a rupee. In effect, the pen would last about as long as you did not chew off the other end (that too had its fixes) or the ball did not actually fall off the nib of the pen or start leaking too much. (I am proud to tell you that I fixed a couple of those as well - you need strong teeth to do that).

Today, however, when I go to a conference or an expo today, I can collect about twenty to thirty pens just like that - and I tend to throw away a used pen after it is empty. And I rarely use it except to sign or take notes in meetings sometimes. When I look back at the time I used to do so much to make a worn out pen last that long, I sometimes feel guilty that I don't pass them along to those who need them more.

Which brings us to the title of the post. Like any self-respecting true geek in the Silicon Valley, my first reaction when I see the latest new gadget in someone's hands is "wow". It isn't just peer pressure or a fad. The amount of new features and processing power that come bundled with those sleek and tiny phones or behind the 8 inch screen tablet are just plain mind-boggling. Five years back one would have paid an arm and a leg to buy the kind of processing power in a full size desktop PC that comes bundled in a smart phone for free with a contract these days. And people are willing to pay north of two thousand dollars to buy the latest Macbook Pro where their primary job would be to browse the internet and prepare MS Word documents. The question is - do I really need it?

The first PC I bought had the latest specs at that time - and I mostly ended up playing computer games on it. I did some bit of programming, but not much. Truth be told, my programming needs would have been solved with a machine with half the processing power and definitely a quarter of the cost. Of course I learned quite a lot while troubleshooting it, but it wasn't perhaps worth spending my parents' money over that entirely. The current laptop I possess is the third computer that I ever bought (I've had it since 2007). My office refreshes my laptop every one and a half to two years My latest computer was bought in the spur of the moment when I still had another perfectly fine laptop. Today, however, when I go to others' homes and see a stack of laptops strewn around, or when I try out someone else's slick new laptop with triple the processing power as my own, the urge to get myself a new one grows big. And during Thanksgiving or the holiday season, the sales and the ground-breaking "deals" on laptops seem to make the night-out outside of Best Buy absolutely worth it.

But then again, the question arises, do I really need those? My laptop serves my purposes very well - of programming, downloading stuff and web surfing (not necessarily in that order of priority). Could I use another laptop? The tempting answer of "Yeah, sure!" actually raises the big question mark - and the true answer becomes no. Why? Because the current laptop will fall into disuse then. The purchase of my current laptop from five years ago would become a bad investment - I wouldn't get the right value out of it for all the student-time hard earned chunk of money which I spent at that time. Well, what if it lasts for another 10 years? Would I pass on the sleek light and blazing fast machines of then just to hold on to an "investment"? Here is my favourite part of any answer - "It depends". It depends on whether the laptop still serves my purpose. Can I still use it if I have to travel and lug it around? Can it run my programs and tasks then? Would it be able to handle the network speeds then? If yes, then no I still don't need a new laptop. If no - woohoo!! Off we go to the gadget shop! :)


  1. Sudipta, this is off-topic, but the google adbar is right on top of the content in Firefox/Iceweasel. I think you should move its position.

    On topic: Yes, I agree with you. There is a general tendency to acquire gadgets that seems ingrained in some people. I usually love gadgets myself at least when I see it in attractive displays or as photos on websites, but one look at the price-tag usually cures me of any ideas to purchase it.

    Not to say I won't accept a gift though! :-)

    P.S. I will never buy an iPhone - it is one heck of a toy, but the price is just insane.

  2. Hari, yeah I need to move and edit that sidebar.

    On-topic, yep, the price tag gets rid of the fever faster than any meditation or counseling could! :) Oh and I am open to gifts as well! :D

  3. I had similar resonating feeling on the same topic a few months back when one of my friends flashed his latest mobile phone on Facebook whose processor had faster processing speed than the 5 year old laptop I still use :)

  4. this info is very useful .


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