Monday, August 4, 2008

Who "needs" an iPhone?

OK. The iPhone is cool. I'll admit it.

What I don't understand is why people seem to think that they "need" one.

I was at the big mall at King of Prussia, PA a couple of weeks ago when the new iPhone came out. They have an Apple store there. And outside the Apple store, past two or three more storefronts, behind a roped line, were people. Lots of them. Waiting to pay full introductory price for an iPhone.

Remember those pictures of people waiting in line for toilet paper in the bad ol' days of the USSR?

I betcha that two-thirds of those people waiting to plunk down their credit cards were already up to their eyeballs in debt. I bet a good number of them had to cancel their existing cellphone contract (and pay the ETF) to switch to AT&T. I bet a decent chunk of them are gadget freaks that just like to buy the latest toys.

I like gadgets. I have a fair number of them. Laptop (provided by the company), Blackberry (ditto), Palm Pilot (which I don't use so much since I got the blackberry), some ham radio equipment, a Slingbox, an XM Radio in the truck, hell, every light switch I have in my home could be considered a gadget, since I can control them all online.

But I don't need any of them. But yet I do. I spent two-thirds of my life without a cellphone. I grew up without cable or internet (which I now spend $160 a month on combined). Hell, I was in my early teens when my parents bought a microwave and a VCR. I was 16 when my dad bought us a computer (a Packard Bell 386, 16 MHz of blazing speed, and a 40 MB hard drive (to you teenagers out there used to Gigabytes, the MB stands for Megabyte. One MB = 1/1000 of a GB.) My computer at home is about 1300 times as fast, and has almost 600 GB of hard drive space. That is almost 15 thousand times more storage than I had back then. I remember having to actually delete files to gain hard drive space (imagine that). I have an additional 300 GB on a networked hard drive as well. And I actually had to just check my computer to find out how big my hard drives are. I honestly didn't know, and I had that computer for over a year now. Back in my teens, that 40 MB number, and how much space I had left after installing Leisure Suit Larry and a pirated copy of AutoCAD 10 that I brought home one floppy disk at a time from my high school (sorry AutoDesk, the statute of limitations is up on that one).

Our definition of the word need sure has changed, hasn't it? I mean, I now need a cellphone. I now need high speed internet. I now need cable TV. But do you truly need those when you can't afford your basic needs like food, shelter, and transportation? Or, even worse, when you bought too much house, too expensive of a car, and go out to eat every night and put it on your credit card?

My wife and I are blessed that we can afford what we have with no debt other than a mortgage that we can afford. And that we can afford the good things like cellphones, cable TV, internet, and decent cars. But we never lose sight of the basic needs, and we make sure that, if the worst happened, we could meet the basic needs.

I don't know how the hell this post got so long. I was just going to talk about the sheep waiting in line for an iPhone. Which I don't need.

Because, I don't buy anything because of the hype. I buy things because I need them.

However I end up defining need at the time.

Goodbye, my friend

Last week my good friend and co-worker Dave Jarchow was killed in a freak accident. He was riding his recumbent bicycle on a Michigan trail and pulled out in front of a pickup truck. He died at the scene.

You could not have asked for a nicer friend and a more patient coworker. I have known him for going on 11 years and have learned much from him. I never really met his family but I share deeply in their grief.

I also pray for the young 19 year old lady who was at the wheel of the pickup truck. This accident was not her fault. Witnesses have said that she tried to avoid the accident and that there was no way to have known that he was there until it was too late. I hope that she will come to realize that these things happen. We all need to die someday and we are not in charge of when it happens, and when God decides to call one of us home, sometimes it needs to involve the use of another human being who just happens to be there at the time. I know that that is an unusual way of thinking about it. But isn't that just what a fatal accident really is?

Goodbye Dave. Rest in peace and rest assured that your presence on Earth will be a lasting one.