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Technological wealth

I have always considered myself a technology freak. I’ve always thought of myself as the guy who wanted the latest and greatest computer, the mobile phone with all the features, the smallest-sized but largest capcity MP3 player, the very best digital camera… the list just goes on.

To some extent, I’m still there. I whistled with the rest of the Apple fanatics when the 17-inch Intel Macbook Pro was released. I ogle at mobile phones that have five megapixel cameras and can control powerpoint slideshows from across the room. You can hear me ooh-aahing while reading the reviews of the latest digital SLR camera from Canon. But in many ways, my heart isn’t in it. I am – and the “me” two years ago would have balked at myself saying this – technologically satiated. There. Blasphemy committed. But for the life of me, I can’t think of anything that I really want. I’ve been trying to think of why.

In terms of computers, it’s quite clear what happened. Linux, first, and then Mac OS X. It’s quite clear to me – Windows makes your comp seem slower and slower with time. Greatly increasing that itch to upgrade. I’ve had my Powerbook for nearly 15 months now. And I certainly have an excuse to have the upgrade itch – the new Intel based Macs are two generations ahead of mine. And yet, my Mac to me feels as fast as it did on the day it arrived – and I haven’t reformatted my disk even once. I leave it on for weeks at a time, only restarting when Apple releases OS updates which require a restart. The last time my laptop was off for more than ten minutes was on the flight back from US, on New Year’s Day. The story with Linux is similar. I have an old Sempron desktop at home, and running Linux on it seems just the same as running it on the shiny new dual-core server in the lab. Sure the server boots up faster and runs scientific code faster. But there’s no difference in the responsiveness of the system or the speed of Firefox. There’s simply very little need to upgrade a computer which can connect to the net, burn DVDs, play movies and songs, download photos from a camera, check e-mail, surf the web and run your favourite text editor or word processor. Gaming still requires incremental upgrades but the only game I’m remotely interested in these days is Diablo which used to run fine on the first computer I ever bought way back in 1999.

As far as gadgets are concerned, I’ve started to use them more than admire them. And thus I’ve figured out I couldn’t care less for more than half the fancy features that come with phones or PDAs. This was a concept that a friend of mine told me about a long time ago – buy only what you need, when you need. That time of course, I never believed him. But now, my most fervent wish about a mobile phone is that the one I have lasts me forever and a day.

The upshot of all this is that I’ve realised the wisdom in the old saying – “wealth is defined not by what you have but what you can do without”. Seriously – nothing can make you feel poorer than wanting the most expensive stuff out on the market. And nothing like having all the technology you need, without wanting more.