This week, columnist John Griff wonders where our love of the latest gadgets comes from...
What is the basis of our love affair with gadgetry? What is a gadget? And what’s the latest gadget that you’ve equipped yourself with?
That love affair is a very real one.
As human beings at the forefront of technological change, our desire to see “the next big thing” drives innovation ever harder, ever faster.
When I worked for a bank I was told that it took a generation to get people to use cheques.
When the first cash card came out it took 10 years to be accepted.
The very first credit cards were accepted within about five years and the onset of online banking was almost instantaneous.
When you now add in contactless payment or even payment using your phone or watch, you can see how quickly things develop.
My father was a great one for gadgets. When I was at school I recall him bringing home his first ever LED calculator.
Then, it had cost him a comparative king’s ransom. An engineer, he was fascinated by gadgets – these days I carry around the kind of calculating power on my phone that would have seemed utterly impossible just a couple of generations ago.
Cost is, perhaps, the most significant factor in our acquisition of gadgets.
Over the years, component costs have fallen dramatically and with us being inseparable from our phones, the software is perhaps more important than the slab of electronics from which it operates.
We live in technological times, but at what social cost? Gadgets are devices of desire, the origins of envy or possibly the kinds of thing that society fights over.
Is a nuclear weapon a gadget? Is a car? Or are both merely the inventions of mankind and a measure by which others respect the owners of them?
The most recent gadget that’s come my way is a set of bluetooth earpieces.
Blatantly modelled on the product of a certain and massively powerful corporate organisation (you know the one), I bought them online in order to test a theory as much as anything else.
Some years ago I helped to crowdfund a company wanting to develop the idea of earpieces without wires – to me it seemed like a great idea.
At a cost of £250, months later I received my own set and was impressed by their sound, function and weight.
A month ago I bought my latest set. Had I bought them from the phone manufacturer producing them, I would’ve paid well over £100 – a notable price drop. Here, my new purchase cost me just £8 and with the same functionality.
This drop in cost - 97 per cent - from something that was a real economic stretch to something little more than pocket money priced I found impressive, particularly because the actual performance of the earpieces was nigh on identical. Progress.
If it’s not the mobile phone, what is the greatest gadget ever invented? It is, of course, an entirely individual selection but I would venture to suggest that the dishwasher ought to be there somewhere near the top of the list.
The one we have at home broke down last week and its absence from our domesticity was felt immediately.
Mercifully the guy who came to fix it and restore harmony was both knowledgeable and affable, and he soon resurrected what is actually quite an ancient piece of technology.
Perhaps that is the point of gadgets. Labour saving, unobtrusive, life enhancing. And accessible.
The government is apparently looking at a technological solution to the Irish backstop issue with regard to Brexit.
I wonder what kind of gadgetry they have in mind…