There are people in the world who are perfectly content with what they have and don’t ever wish for anything more. I am not one of those people. No matter what shiny new gadget I get, there’s always something else out there that makes me think, “Gee, I really should save up for one of those.” My gadget obsession is actually a fairly recent thing. I’ve always been fascinated by technology, but I wasn’t really obsessed with it until about 2005 or 2006. Around the time that the 5th generation iPod came out, which was the first one that could play videos. I don’t remember exactly when that was. Anyway, I desperately wanted one of those, but my wife and I were quite poor back then, so there was no way I could afford one.
I ended up getting a Creative Zen Sleek Photo instead, which clearly had one of the worst names ever, but it was actually pretty nice. It cost about $180, which was still pretty expensive for us at the time, but more affordable than the $250 or so that an iPod cost. I remember that I managed to talk my wife into buying me one because I was going to be driving two hours to and from college every day, and I told her it would be safer for me to listen to music on an MP3 player than to have to constantly switch CDs.
I soon decided that I had majorly lucked out by getting a Creative Zen instead of an iPod. Although the Zen wasn’t as nice looking or as capable as a 5th generation iPod, it did have one capability that the iPod lacked, and that was access to subscription music services like Rhapsody or Yahoo! Music Unlimited. As somebody who was both poor and law-abiding, subscription music was wonderful. I couldn’t afford to spend 8-10 dollars on a single album, and there was no way that I was going to use LimeWire or whatever to illegally get music for free. But I could afford 15 bucks a month for Yahoo! Music Unlimited, and that was practically like using LimeWire and just downloading whatever I felt like.
There was one small snag, though. We were still using dial-up internet, and so there was no way that I could download enough music to make paying for Yahoo! Music Unlimited worthwhile. Fortunately, at the end of 2006, my wife and I flew out to visit my parents, who have had broadband since, like, 2001. After spending a week with fast internet, my wife couldn’t stand using dial-up anymore, so we finally decided to sign up for cable internet. Once we had cable, signing up for Yahoo! Music Unlimited seemed like a no-brainer.
Unfortunately, Yahoo! Music Unlimited wasn’t all that it was cracked up to be. The selection was limited in weird ways, and the software that went with it was horribly buggy. So after a few months, I abandoned that and signed up for Urge instead. Urge was a collaboration between Microsoft and MTV to provide an integrated music store within Windows Media Player. It was a pretty nice service, but a few months later, Microsoft abandoned Urge in favor of their own Zune service (more on this later) and MTV sold Urge to Rhapsody. Rhapsody gave Urge subscribers several months to switch over, but I figured there was no reason to wait and jumped over right away. Unfortunately, I never felt that Rhapsody was as good a service as Urge, so I was disappointed that Urge was going away. But I had my eyes on something new and different anyway.
Soon after I bought my Creative Zen Sleek Photo in early fall of 2006, Microsoft released their answer to the iPod, the infamous and ill-fated Zune. The original Zune received fairly mixed reviews, because it was bigger than an iPod, uglier than an iPod, cost the same as an iPod, and offered basically one distinctive feature that the iPod didn’t: the ability to wirelessly transmit songs and pictures from one Zune to another, as long as they were within 30 feet of each other. This was virtually worthless, because the transmitted songs expired once they had been played three times, or after three days, whichever came first. But the Zune also had a rather distinctive look, a very polished and attractive UI, and access to a subscription music service known as Zune Pass.
I was very intrigued by the Zune, but the mixed/negative reviews that it received gave me pause. Every time I played with the demo unit at the local Target, I absolutely loved it. But then I’d read reviews again, and have second thoughts. But I finally realized that if I loved using the Zune, and it had the one feature I couldn’t live without (i.e., subscription service), then there was no reason not to get it.
I have to admit, I’m not entirely sure where I was going with this, but I think you can tell that there always seems to be something else that I want. Part of this is just a natural consequence of the fact that technology companies keep coming out with new versions of their products. But a lot of it comes from simply not being content with what have. There always seems to be one more thing that I need to complete my technology collection. And frankly, a lot of these things have ended up being a disappointment.
But I may be learning my lesson. For the first time in a long time, there really isn’t anything I want. Oh sure, I would love to have a MacBook Air. And I kind of want to get a new Playstation 3 to replace the one I sold. And in a couple of years I will want to replace the iPad I just bought. But I really don’t feel like I need any of those things, and (aside from the iPad), I probably won’t actually get any of them. Am I growing up? Or is an iPad really all that I need? I don’t know, but I’m not going to complain either way.