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Where Have All the Gadgets Gone? 278

waderoush writes "How many electronic gadgets did you own in 2005? How many do you own today? The answer is almost certainly a lot fewer. Counter to the dominant trend in consumer technology since the 1920s — and despite predictions of a coming 'Internet of things' — there may actually be *less* electronic stuff in our homes and offices today than ever before. That's thanks largely to the rise of multipurpose wireless devices like smartphones and tablets, which are now powerful enough to replace many older, dedicated devices like point-and-shoot cameras, music players, digital voice recorders — even whole home entertainment systems. To prove the point, here are before-and-after photos from one San Francisco household (mine) where the herd of digital devices has been thinned from about three dozen, eight years ago, to just 15 today."
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Where Have All the Gadgets Gone?

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  • by Anonymous Coward on Saturday March 16, 2013 @05:41AM (#43189471)

    Uh? What's going on here?

    Also note the pictures: It seems he changed, not the world in general.
    In 2005 we see a microwave and stuff that seems to be a lot of mobile phones and remote controls. What is preventing him from getting lots of unused mobile phones today? The remotes seem to belong to the stuff below the TV, he got rid of his fancy stereo (with CD-player, amp, loudspeakers).

    Yes, the world changed. Yes, you need fewer gadgets. No, personal experience is not evidence and I think those pictures show only a change in his personality: From a young "I need to have every crap" he went to understanding he does not need every crap. Apart from that, the reduction we see in the pictures is not impressive at all. And apart from that, "personal experience" is no evidence for global developments.

  • Hmm. (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Psychotria ( 953670 ) on Saturday March 16, 2013 @05:41AM (#43189473)

    I don't even have a mobile (cell) phone. I think my collection of gadgets is about the same.

    Anyway, the more important question is "what is the sacrifice you are making by embracing multi-purpose devices?" A DSLR will produce better photos than your iPhone (or whatever). A point-n-click camera will also. A dedicated scanner is likely to produce a better scan than a scanner tacked on to a printer. I could find examples relevant to the other examples as well but there is no point because they are easy to find. I, personally, would prefer a dedicated "gadget" that does one thing and does it well over a gadget that does many things but with less quality. YMMV.

  • by Trip6 ( 1184883 ) on Saturday March 16, 2013 @05:53AM (#43189507)
    Your point?
  • Re:Trashcan (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Saturday March 16, 2013 @06:14AM (#43189559)
    What do you mean by owned by a corporation? Why should owning one device mean you're owned by a corporation?

    Does that mean if you have more devices you're not owned by a corporation and instead owned by more corporations?

    You can always switch to a different multi-use device.
  • Re:Hmm. (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Zontar The Mindless ( 9002 ) <plasticfish DOT info AT gmail DOT com> on Saturday March 16, 2013 @06:20AM (#43189575) Homepage

    The "do one thing perfectly" bit works pretty well with software, and in an unlimited or at least "big" environment.

    I don't see how that carries over very well to the hardware in my jacket pocket, though.

    Yes, I *do* quite like having a portable multipurpose device that performs many communications and data retrieval/display tasks acceptably well. I certainly don't want to carry a phone, an e-reader, an mp3 player, and an Internet pad on my morning ride on the subway when my smartphone will let me get phone calls, read my novel, listen to that Sun Ra album I found last night, and check the weather forecast to see if there's a chance the rain will clear out by lunchtime, all in one go.

    But since you've evidently lots of pockets, go right ahead. :)

  • Personal choice (Score:5, Insightful)

    by cuby ( 832037 ) on Saturday March 16, 2013 @06:38AM (#43189605)
    The change from some Bang & Olufsen speakers to the earbuds was a real winner... Most of his choices revolve arround the adoption of Apple products.
  • Re:Hmm. (Score:5, Insightful)

    by DMUTPeregrine ( 612791 ) on Saturday March 16, 2013 @06:49AM (#43189623) Journal
    "Do one thing perfectly" works well in some hardware, worse in other cases. Cameras are a case where the physics dictates the size of the optics needed for certain capabilities, so to get eg good telephoto capability or good low-light capability one needs a dedicated lens.

    Likewise with printers. Sure an inkjet all-in-one printer/scanner/copier/fax is nice, but there are still uses for large format printers & scanners, and high-volume copiers. They're just not needed for the average household, so the specialized devices are relegated to the businesses and hobbyists that need them.
  • by Dunbal ( 464142 ) * on Saturday March 16, 2013 @07:06AM (#43189669)
    What's going on? It's a stealth "I love my iphone" story. Nothing to see here, please move along...
  • Re:Trashcan (Score:5, Insightful)

    by arth1 ( 260657 ) on Saturday March 16, 2013 @07:58AM (#43189839) Homepage Journal

    What do you mean by owned by a corporation? Why should owning one device mean you're owned by a corporation?

    Does that mean if you have more devices you're not owned by a corporation and instead owned by more corporations?

    You can always switch to a different multi-use device.

    I think he means owned as in pwned. The point being that the cost of switching in both time and money becomes so high that you stay with the company.
    The more DRM'ed software and data you use, or the more apps for which there isn't a port or the API is proprietary, the more you owe your soul to the company (app) store.

    You don't have to reprogram your calendar, re-buy office software, stop playing your favourite game and set up numerous accounts again if you change your camera from company A to B. Unless, of course, that camera is on a mult-function device. Then you have a strong reason not to change your camera, or if you do, stick to the same company. Pwned.
    Doomed to mediocrity too, given that a multi-function device is always a jack of all trades, master of none.

    I like the freedom to choose, and change individual gadgets easily. You don't need the modern day equivalents of TVs with built-in VCRs, and if you think a little ahead, you probably don't want them either.
    You know that guy with the shiny smille and a device that does lots more things than yours does? Don't follow him; he's a Judas goat.

  • Re:Good Enough (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Sique ( 173459 ) on Saturday March 16, 2013 @08:23AM (#43189917) Homepage

    In the TFA, he speculates that these multipurpose devices are now "good enough" to suit most needs, and I think that is true, But it is true that the quality of our audio and video experience seems to have gotten worse of the last couple of years.

    Hm. This is the oldest complaint about home entertainment devices ever. If it was true, we would have the worst audio and video experience today since the advent of the videobox (Dickson 1891) and the phonograph (Edison 1877). But actually, the experience became better, we are just so used to the quirks and specialities of the devices of our childhood, that we miss them in more modern equipment.

  • by MacTO ( 1161105 ) on Saturday March 16, 2013 @08:35AM (#43189957)

    Convergence may have gotten rid of the need for multiple devices, but devices are much more personal these days. Rather than one phone per household, it is one phone per person. Instead of one computer per household, it is one computer or tablet per person.

    A lot of the old gadgets will still exist anyway. An individual may have a tablet to watch TV alone, but they will also have a TV to watch as a family. An individual may have a tablet for web browsing, but there will still be a computer for the kids to type up their school papers. While most families will be perfectly happy with their camera phone, any family with a photo nut will also have a digital camera. (The prior statement applies for most hobbies.)

    As for that disappearing microwave, I don't see how he managed that. It was a lot easier to cook eggs with your CPU in 2005 after all.

  • Re:Trashcan (Score:5, Insightful)

    by nine-times ( 778537 ) <> on Saturday March 16, 2013 @09:55AM (#43190351) Homepage

    Doomed to mediocrity too, given that a multi-function device is always a jack of all trades, master of none.

    Part of the difficulty is that they're really a jack of all trades, master of many. I gave away my old point-and-shoot camera, that cost me a few hundred dollars a just few years ago, because the camera on the iPhone gave better results. Not only do the pictures look better, but it automatically tags the photo with positional data, which is something that I specifically want.

    My iPhone is also a great at other things, and I don't think that it's limited to Apple. Modern cell phones do a lot of things incredibly well. Yes, you're forced to do business with a big corporation to have them, but really, what's the alternative that you would advocate? Building your own computers out of sticks and dirt?

  • In the 80s and 90s, a computer from a few years ago wouldn't just be slow, it would be absolutely obsolete. It wouldn't even run new software.

    That's still true on consoles. Xbox and GameCube were abandoned fairly quickly in favor of Xbox 360 and Wii. It's also true on mobile, where phones still being sold today can't run some of the apps on Google Play Store because the apps require Android 4.x and the devices are stuck on 2.x.

    You have a laptop that can run everything handily

    Except companies stopped making 10" laptops at the end of 2012 because they want customers to start buying a separate, higher-margin laptop and tablet instead.

    and a phone that includes the PDA.

    Except it can be far more expensive to consolidate. A PDA such as the Galaxy Player or iPod touch costs $0 per month more than what one's already paying for Internet. Replacing your dumbphone with a smartphone, on the other hand, means replacing a $7/mo bill with a $35/mo bill (source: because a lot of carriers refuse to activate voice-only service on a smartphone.

We gave you an atomic bomb, what do you want, mermaids? -- I. I. Rabi to the Atomic Energy Commission