Tuesday, March 21, 2006

Who wants to be an early adopter anyway...

Who wants to be an early adopter? Being a late adopter is so much better anyway. When you take a basic marketing course you learn all about how people will adopt a new product or technology. There are those who are early adopters, people who need and want to have the latest thing no matter what stage of development it is in and will pay a high price for it either in cash or in dealing with glitches that come along with being the first to use a certain product. Then, on the other end of the spectrum are the late adopters. Those who have waited to make sure all the little nuances are worked out before they go out and begin using a product or service. It must be safe to use and probably either well ingrained or passé. These are the people who you find surprised and excited at the items they buy in a dollar store, which is usually by then a good sign that a product has run its course.

When you think of geeks and nerds and science fiction aficionados you might think that for the most part they are a group of early adopters when it comes to technology. When digital watches came out the early adopters were the science geeks and nerds in your school or office. Remember those guys who wore big honking black squares on their wrists. The ones that blinded pilots with the time of day as they flew overhead. Yes, they were the early adopters of that technology. Sometimes, like with those digital watches, the fad doesn’t really catch on. It’s just too geeky. Look around you. How many people over the age of twenty wear digital watches nowadays. Unless you happen to work at Brookhaven Lab, probably not many.

Ok, now take cell phones. In the old days--and by old days I mean the 1980s--we called them car phones. That’s because they were so big and had to be hardwired into a car to work. Talking on one was the equivalent to picking up and entire phone booth and sticking that to the side of your head. “Hello? Can you hear me?! Yes. I’m on the car phone.” Eventually they were able to streamline the technology and now we have Star Trek communicator sized phones, flip phones, if you will, or Razor phones. The phones went from carbine steel monstrosities to card sized slivers of plastic that has more computer memory than the original moon lander.

Think about that. They navigated three men millions of miles to the moon and back on less computing power than your cell phone. And I bitch because I can’t fit all my stolen music onto my iPod. I’ve downloaded more illegal music than all the memory it took to navigate all the moon rockets NASA ever sent to space. I carry more power to compute in my pocket than Neil Armstrong had at his disposal in an entire space ship. Talk about an early adopter! See that’s the point. If you are a true early adopter like, say, NASA, you’ll take your chances with slide rules and room sized computers sending a man to the moon. Me, I’m not quite comfortable with international flights, much less interplanetary.
When you watch a science fiction movie, and they’re all running around with their flying cars and laser beam guns you are watching all the late adopters. Everything seems to work as expected. They have the same reliability in hyperspace travel that I have on the Long Island Rail Road, spotty yet effective. When you go into a transporter tube, it sucks you up and you end up exactly where you expect to go. Your gene splicing will transform you into some other level of humanity every time and your robots never complain about needing hydraulic oil changes. That’s because all the kinks have been worked out by the time the writer gets to the story.

What fun would it be if we read a story where the protagonist has to deal with the constant worry that his beta tested laser gun won’t fire at the bad alien? Or that his robot will suddenly get a virus? None. We’d be watching Buck Rogers in his 25th Century version of Jiffy Lube with that little annoying robot he hung out with. Or perhaps Starbuck would be grounded because his Viper needed a new air filter and the right size wasn’t in yet. What fun would it be if Takin order the destruction of Alderan and his computer screen said he need to hit CTRL-ALT-DETE to continue. None, I tell you. That’s why, despite the fact that everyone who reads SciFi thinks they are reading about the early adopters, the pioneers of technology, they are severely incorrect. Severely incorrect. What they are reading about are people just like us, living with, for the most part, reliable technology that just happens to be 500 or 1000 years in the future.

Otherwise it’d be the equivalent of plunking down ten bucks to watch or read a job training manual. You know the one they show at all those jobs that tell you what could go wrong putting you arm in the industrial mixing machine and how to avoid loosing it.


The Phoenix said...

Good point. I think that's why it was fun to watch Han Solo get so pissed off when the Falcon wouldn't start, or the hyperdrive was on the blink.

You never see mechanical and technical problems in sci-fi.

As for me - I consider myself a wannabe technie early adopter. I love just reading about the latest gizmo, or watching someone that just spent half his savings on some new gadget.

ObilonKenobi said...

Yes. That was th genius of George Lucas' Star Wars. It was the used universe he created. It was differnt than anything else at the time. previously everything was shiny and new.

I'm a wannabe early adopter too. I read about it, want it but I don't take the plunge myself.

I was shocked to hear people have been blogging for years!

:P fuzzbox said...

Sometimes high tech stuff can just be weird. I saw an item that really made me wonder the other day. Someone rigged up a high tech laser sight on a slingshot. Sometimes you just have to say Why?

ObilonKenobi said...

I bet it was a high tech slingshot.