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by L. G. William Chapman, B.A., LL.B.

 Once you are bitten by the technology bug there are seemingly endless possibilities to feed the disease which is the fruit of the sting. The only governor of the ensuing wild gyrations is the knowledge that, apart from the capital cost of the product, there are always associated "connection" costs which, while seldom overwhelming, are nonetheless one more in the rising pile of automatic deductions from one’s long-suffering bank account. It makes you stop to think, "Do I really need this?"

Competing with the economics of the indulgence is the innate sense of competition which so many of the A-type personalities who are attracted to these devices secretly or unwittingly harbour. After all its gratification is more than just having a "cool" product. If we are to believe the media hype and even intelligent marketing of specialist magazine and newspaper reviews, these devices help us to work better and smarter, words which are a drug to the aggressive entrepreneur. Combine this conviction to modernity with the paranoia of being left behind, and you have all the ingredients required for a Saturday morning rush to the nearest Apple store to gratify the urge!

Have you been to an Apple store lately? It’s like visiting a lunar living room. Sparseness, plastic and chrome just about sum it up. There is absolutely nothing superfluous to the dedicated purpose of computers and gadgets. You do not risk losing the least bit of attention to the subject. There is nothing else to preoccupy you. Compare it to giving a dog a dish of food in an empty room. What’s not to like! The only reluctance I have about the place is that it is so decidedly adolescent that I almost feel as though I were a trespasser, or even worse, a criminal in a forbidden world of white-washed youth, although I accept that it is one of the failings of the baby-boomers that we are unwilling to relinquish our hold on the formative years.

Inevitably, however, the debate comes back to the fundamental question of whether I need to cart yet another piece of luggage about my person, as fashionable as it may make one feel to have a lap-top or other device slung over one’s shoulder (assuming of course that your knees haven’t become too weak to carry the added weight). Pointed deliberations about the essential need of these devices are like cold water on the heated acts of a frantic stock broker. The task, however, is not an easy one, given that it is so effortless to rationalize the expenditure of another $700 these days, a small price to preserve one’s place in the perpetual line-up to technology heaven. The devices further represent the puerile attraction we’re all so reluctant to admit, and to abandon involving the toy element.

Most of us have by now exhausted our original fascination with automobiles, ski-doo’s, sea-doo’s, ATVs and lawn tractors. Computer toys have the advantage of being not only highly personal (we don’t have to share them with the kids) but also highly portable (we can take them like a Teddy bear wherever we go). Yet one still must ask, "Do I really need this?" The question is almost indelicate, like asking Elizabeth Taylor whether she really needs another ring. Rubbish! It’s not about need at all! And who at our age needs to be told what to do!

So much of growing older is about defining one’s limits, not necessarily in a restrictive way, but in the manner of characterization. How do we see ourselves? And how do we want others to see us? Computers and gadgets help us define ourselves by enabling us to jump with both feet into the world of technology, easily bandying about the words PDF and USB as though they were second nature to us; or, we can recoil from the consumer gluttony sponsored by the latest commercial fiends, trading under the names of Microsoft, Apple, Rogers and Telus. We are able to get a grip on what really matters and snap our fingers at this popular madness.

And yet I’d really like an iPad.