Bits and Bobs · Opinions

Late Adopter

Although I’m pretty aware of new technology and products, and I do try to maintain that awareness, I’m not at all an early adopter.

I’ve found I have a pattern. Most of the time I learn about new things but actively resist engaging with them. I grumble about them for various minor offences, and then perhaps forget about them. Five years or so later, if they still exist, I finally get into them and discover that they were after all pretty good.

There are examples from lots of different spheres. New technology is the most obvious.

I was invited to Twitter by @clagnut around the end of 2006. I thought “why on earth would I want to use that?” and ignored it. I ignored it even when my wife invited me again early in 2008. Then finally, in May 2012—now that the interest in Twitter as a new thing has totally gone—I signed up and started using it. It’s pleasant to use. It’s undemanding. I quite like it.

I was fascinated by the iPhone when it first appeared. I could see that it was a neat device, but really, who would want to carry such a big thing with such terrible battery life? The last phone I had with such awful battery life was a Mitsubishi MT-20, which I lost in a hayloft during a good party in 1997. I couldn’t locate it the next day because the battery was dead.

So until the start of 2012 I held out with a Nokia 6303 (small, tactile, can stretch to a fortnight on one charge) before a change of mobile network forced a change of phone. Now I have a Nokia 700, which is a pretty good touchscreen phone (the most beautiful hardware with the most ordinary operating system) that at least fits in any pocket.

It works in other fields as well. In films, I’ve lost count of the number of good things I’ve actively avoided seeing at the cinema because they were too trendy, and have only learned the merits of later.

The principle even seems to have worked with books, and old ones. I’ve recently finished the two Berlin books of Christopher Isherwood, from the 1930s: a novel, “Mr Norris Changes Trains”, and a collection of sketches, “Goodbye to Berlin”. They’re really, wonderfully good. But I never bothered to read them when I lived as a student in Berlin in 1992, because other people were talking about them as settings for their own Berlin idea, and that was just too obvious.

It probably works out both ways. My ego won’t let me participate, and I miss out on things that I only later realise were worthwhile. But I also miss out on things that aren’t so great, or that I really didn’t need. Even if I do discover the wonders of the iPad later, I won’t ever regret that I didn’t buy the iPad 1 or 2. And I’ll never feel bad for having steered clear of Avatar or Jurassic Park at the pictures.