Confessions of a Recovering Gear-aholic

Hi everybody, I’m Mike and I like to buy stuff . . . lots of stuff. 

 I have all the latest and greatest cameras, computers, iPads, iPods, iPhones, routers, receivers, amps, speakers, TVs, and every other conceivable gadget and gizmo. If it’s new and techie, I either already have it, or am planning on buying it.

DISCLAIMER: The above statement is not totally true. I don’t really have all of that stuff, but only because of limited funds, and a wife that isn’t nearly as enamored with gadgets as I am.

 

Houston, We Have a Problem

For anyone unfamiliar with 12 Step Programs, the first step is always the same, admit you have a problem. Well, I have a problem, and I’m not the only one. I suspect that many of my fellow MacForums members struggle with and identify with the above. So in the interest of my recovery, and to aid my fellows, here are my confessions and observations regarding the scourge of gear-aholism.

 

Warning Signs

Before I go too far, some would ask, “What are the symptoms, or how do I know if I or someone I love is a Gear-aholic?”  Glad you asked. Look for these warning signs:

1)      More time is spent fantasizing about that next great acquisition than actually using the current one.

This is a major sign with me. I’m an engineer and spreadsheets are an engineer’s way of entertaining himself while giving the appearance of doing actual work. Any time I buy something or make any substantive decision I create a spreadsheet. Here I capture all of the ‘pertinent data’ (translation: Marketing Specs that probably have no real relationship to my actual usage of the item, but sound cool). Next I develop an algorithm to massage the data and create a rating. Last, I add a value analysis section and I am done . . . Not!

Now comes the really fun part, hours of research, reading and sifting on-line reviews and user comments, then updating and modifying my spreadsheet as required. This process can take months, even years. Sometimes it takes so long that newer models are released before I am finished and I have to start all over.

Sadly, I generally get more pleasure out of this effort than in using the ‘whatever it was’ I end up buying. In fact, I have recently discovered that I can save a lot of money with little loss in overall enjoyment and increased functionality in my life, by deciding at the very end to not purchase anything and wait for the next generation. This is good for my bank account, my wife’s patience, and allows me to relive the fun part of the process multiple times before I have to commit to an actual product.

2)      Your closets and drawers are filled with previous generations of items that languish unused because your affection now belongs to a marginally improved version

Somewhere in my house is a stack of CPM Floppy Disks and a pair of 8 inch Drives to use them in. For those of you who have no idea what I am talking about,  I will say that CPM predated DOS (the precursor to Windows).

My first digital camera was an AGFA ePhoto 307, that I bought back in 1998 (as I remember). It was a wonderful device and I loved it (for a time).  The pictures it produced were awesome on my 13 inch EGA CRT monitor, the 350K pixel sensor and 43mm equivalent f/2.8 fixed focus lens delivering screen filling images from a little camera that looked and felt a lot like the current crop of film-based compacts.

It wasn’t long, however, before something new loomed upon my horizon, an Olympus camera with a 3X optical zoom and larger 512K sensor. Obviously I had to have it and the AGFA went to reside in a drawer somewhere. It wasn’t to be a lonely exile for long, though, because the Olympus soon joined it, displaced by a new love. And so it went, with me averaging a new camera about every 18 months.

My current compact cameras (I won’t go into DSLRs in this post) sport 10M pixel sensors, advanced controls, vibration reduction systems, and quality optics. So, have my photos seen a 30 fold improvement, as one would expect from the improvement in equipment specs?

Short answer: No . . .

Yes the pictures I get today are better, especially if printed, but since the overwhelming majority of my pictures are only viewed on screen, the visual improvement is more on the order of 4 to perhaps 10 fold. This raises the basic question, “Would a truly sane person purchase and replace a half dozen cameras over a 15 year period for relatively modest gains in true performance?”

Short answer: No . . . but I did tell you upfront that I am an engineer, so I get a free pass here.

And now for the last sign I will give (though there are many I could list)

3)      Your enjoyment of your current device, thing, whatever, is always limited because you can’t seem to get it to do what you really want it to do. It is obvious to you the answer here is to buy a better/improved model.

This last sign really grows out of the first two. You can’t buy experience or skill. This is a terrible truth, and I wish it were otherwise. I am an inveterate Operating Manual non-reader. My opinion is, one is generally better off learning by doing. And, while there is some logic behind this truism, what I find that I learn more often than not is 101 ways to be frustrated in trying to do something that would be simple if I had bothered to read the instructions.

Add to that some basic practice so I can remember and quickly do those things and the performance of my device or system skyrockets. Hours spent researching that newest, greatest, fastest, whatever-est gadget or software package is probably better spent on learning how to effectively use what you already have, but it isn’t nearly as fun.

Do you see yourself or a loved one in any of the above?  If so, don’t despair; there is help.

 

Recovery Guidelines

Here are some guidelines that I attempt to apply (with some backsliding, because I am after all in recovery): 

1)      Focused purchasing beats the heck out of shotgun spending. Buying only what you need, when you really need it, makes limited dollars go much further.

2)      Learn to use what you already have before you decide to replace it. How can you know where your equipment needs upgrading, if you don’t really know what it can do?

3)      Realistically assess your needs. Include your near and mid-term goals. Forget long-term for now; technology evolves too quickly to successfully plan more than 3 years ahead. Who knew five years ago that I REALLY NEED an iPad-mini Retina model? (especially since the original iPad version 1 is only 3 years old).

4)      Give priority to gaps or weaknesses in your current capabilities, rather than minor or incremental performance improvements. In other words, ask “What can’t I do now, that I would like to be able to do?” instead of, “Which gadget should I buy, that will let me do XYZ 12.3% faster than I my current system does?”

Which leads us last of all to, 

5)      Aim for 80 to 90 percent of the current state-of-the-art performance. Unless you are already on the bleeding edge, pushing your current system to its limits, you will never notice the difference. And, in my experience, performance in this target range generally costs about half what a state-of-the-art system will set you back.

 Closing

Based on the above guidelines, construct a reasonable budget and stick to it. This is your best protection from impulse buying. Remember, if it isn’t in your acquisition plan, regardless of how neat and sexy it is, don’t buy it. If you feel yourself slipping, call someone (just not someone with a worse problem than yourself or you’ll both end up with a hole in your credit card).

Remember, there is hope for the gear-aholic. With loving support from family and friends, and adherence to the principles I have shared here, you can recover and get control of your gadget buying addiction. You don’t have to live with your private shame any longer!

Now, if you will excuse me, I have to go and work on my spreadsheet for that fancy new DSLR I want to buy . . . . .  ;~P

 

26 Comments: 

  1. chscag's Avatar
    Great blog Mike. I couldn't stop reading and laughing at the same time. It was almost like looking into a mirror!
  2. harryb2448's Avatar
    You guys are an Apple Shareholder's dream come true. Keep up the good work!
  3. Checco's Avatar
    brilliant! I'm there too...engineer thing for sure. My latest one was a car!
  4. Raz0rEdge's Avatar
    While I'm not as, uh, diligent (yeah, that's the word ) about creating a spreadsheet to track the pros and cons of my purchase, but I do do a lot of research and read reviews from all sorts of places to ensure that I'm getting the right and valid information..

    Thought research, I've found that I find newer/better things than what I had initially though to purchase and also learn a bit about a few things..so a win-win in my books..

    The amount of research I do is obviously affected by the price of the thing..

    Unlike Mike though, once I reach the end of my research, I make the go or no-go call and then it's fire and forget (as far as my credit card is concerned)..
  5. osxx's Avatar
    I am guilty just love tech which there is no cure only remission do to budget constraints.
  6. nickyr's Avatar
    at the risk of being sexist, Compulsive Upgrading Disorder is primarily a male related condition - yes?
  7. Raz0rEdge's Avatar
    Perhaps when it comes to tech gear, but in your more open statement, I'd say both sexes can succumb to it..
  8. harryb2448's Avatar


    Probably but do not bring sewing machines into this argument!
  9. osxx's Avatar
    I would say it infects both parties just different tech between the two.
  10. GrannySueSnaps's Avatar
    "at the risk of being sexist, Compulsive Upgrading Disorder is primarily a male related condition - yes?"

    My husband would totally disagree with you on that. He can barely open his messages and I don't think he has ever sent one. I however, have enough gadgets to open my own store. I have at least 6 different earpieces, an iPad, iPhone, MacBook Pro, Kindle, Windows laptop, Windows PC, a couple dozen backup batteries, mifi and I could go on and on. I was even one of the lucky ones who got the Typo for iPhone before RIM's lawsuit against Ryan Seacrest was filed.
  11. pm-r's Avatar
    Thanks for the recent post, otherwise I would probably have missed the delightful blog article.

    Who me so afflicted...??? Noooo, not quite...
  12. cradom's Avatar
    For those who don't know, all the articles can be found here:
  13. lclev's Avatar
    Nope, a girl can have the "condition" too! I don't do the spreadsheets but I do make copious notes, read volumes of information, and spend hours researching.

    I am the queen of upgrading. Just added a new Gigabyte Nvidia GeForce GTX770 video card (4GB) to my Windows video editor. Figured it might improve render times in Adobe After Effects. My previous card was pretty beefy but the new one has so many more CUDA cores and is faster and cooler! I also added a new SSD and more memory.... yup upgrade queen that's me.

    Lisa
  14. lclev's Avatar
    We have that in common. My husband makes me retrieve his email and type replies. I am the geek in the house.

    Lisa
  15. GrannySueSnaps's Avatar
    Sounds like we have a lot in common!
  16. pm-r's Avatar

    What a caring, patient and tolerant loving wife!!

    But maybe it's time to setup Automator, voice commands and dictation etc. for him...???

    Or does he do all the cooking, house cleaning, laundry washing etc. in return?????
  17. GrannySueSnaps's Avatar
    I freely admit my husband does the housework and cooking as well as drive me everywhere since i don't drive any more. i kept getting lost.
  18. lclev's Avatar
    Right....with his Tennessee accent littered with colorful language that would be a hoot! He can't use nuance on his phone but it works fine for me.

    As to the housework...I WISH! He did take apart my washer once because it was ticking...it was a timer running. Cost $59 for the repairman to fix it. Then there was the sweeper he blew up when he swept up a primer (reloaders will know what that is) and then the time he set the stove on fire trying to fry sausages....I think they were all deliberate so he could get out of helping. Just a theory.

    Lisa
  19. pm-r's Avatar

    Well I love to here those with southern accents talk and we had one as a neighbour for a few years.Sometimes I didn't quite understand what he was saying but I blamed my aging hearing loss.

    The helping husband reminded me of this gif but I don't know if it will work or if I can even post it here, but I'll try.

    Bummer:
    "whymendontvacuum.gif:
    Your file of 1.47 MB bytes exceeds the forum's limit of 1.00 MB for this filetype."

    Oh well.

    Edit:
    Try this:
    http://sbynews.blogspot.ca/2014/05/t...nt-vacuum.html
  20. GrannySueSnaps's Avatar
    @Lisa That is hilarious! Of course I can probably understand him better than most as I was born in TN.. I know what ya'll means and I lived around the holler while attending a one room schoolhouse. What parts is he from, Notice it isn't part! :

    My husband is an Alabama boy who learned how to cook, clean and do anything except work electronics. He can't understand why his battery on the laptop is dead when he only uses it twice a year.
  21. lclev's Avatar
    His family was from Clevenger, TN, which is east of Knoxville. None of his relatives live there anymore. Most moved "up north". Kept the accents, ability to hunt, and love of the out doors. His mother taught me to cook anything they shot and brought home.

    Lisa
  22. GrannySueSnaps's Avatar
    I'm from Baxter which is near Cookville. Only have a few cousins left there but we go camping nearby and I fish where my grandfather took me fishing when I was a little girl. I'm not a talented cook like you.
  23. Slydude's Avatar
    This of course tells me two things:
    1. You can cook (and possibly clean) a dizzying array of woodland creatures.
    2. If necessary, your diet is not limited to what can be purchased at the local supermarket.
  24. RadDave's Avatar
    Hi GrannySue - what a MAN you are! My wife is quite tech savvy and was on a committee w/ a local branch of a national group - the leader (a male) refused to do email - his wife had to read and respond to the messages sent to him by my spouse - quite irritating - SO, I think that his so-called 'affliction' is unrelated to the sexes (although males seem to be more affected, IMHO) - Dave
  25. lclev's Avatar
    No I am not limited. I do not have to clean any game because my husband or sons will, but I can cook it. (I can clean it but, hey, if they want to that is fine by me!)

    Lisa
  26. chscag's Avatar
    LOL, it's pretty tough catching and cleaning those gators and then get them in the cooking pot. Only those certain Cajun fellows who shall remain un-named know how to that!
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