a tale of two photos

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timehop-1

A study in contrasts

The thing that I should find most fascinating in this photo should be the technology itself.

But no. There’s so much more 1.

We need to start somewhere, so…

  • 10 years ago: 3 laptops. 4 Nokia phones (an N70, a 6670, a 6680, a 3310?). 3 portable MP3 players (my iRiver, 2 Creative Jukeboxes). A ~100 GB portable drive and (of course) a watch-with-USB-storage device.
  • Now: 3 laptops (2 Airs and a Pro). 3 iPhones (2 of the iPhone6, 1 6s). 2 tablets (1 Mini, 1 Air). A nearly invisible 32 GB USB storage. And a Nexus 4.

The 2005 smorgasboard of devices (MP3 players, phones, laptops, external storage) seemed to be the only way to complete a picture of computing. As in, each and every one of those devices had to continue being around us for years to come.

Right?

Not quite. Today, storage is largely ignored, only remembered when you run out of  cloud storage or something has not synced to where it should be. Expanding/external storage? Not truly a “thing” anymore, again not really something people consider. Portable MP3 players of course went the way of the dodo thanks to the smartphone, though in all honestly, we did see that coming. Even back then our primary cameras and music players were slowly moving to what Nokia shipped on their phones (making this experience for me all the more weird, a year or so later). Laptops do live on, but everyone seems to be in agreement that some sort of tablet-hybrid thingy will replace them in the next 5-10 years (Surface Pro or iPad Pro, anyone?)

The 2005 brands. Laptops: an Alienware, an IBM, a Toshiba. But phones? All Nokia. And probably rightfully so, most of those phones represented the pinnacle of how smart you could make a featurephone-style device 2.

And now? There is 1 manufacturer behind (almost) every device on the table: Apple.

The 2005 weird device is probably that watch. I could just say we were way ahead of the curve in terms of pushing the limits of what watches (or as they are termed now, ‘wearables’) could do, literally a decade before wearables went mainstream. But really. We just thought a watch from which a USB cable could be extended out so you have “wearable” storage was cool.

Now? The odd one out (but by no means the weird one) is that Nexus 4. I finally gave up midway through eking out its 3rd year, and with that started the slippery slope of Apple-ifying my technology existence. And as typically happens with current technology, the device performance itself hadn’t super suffered over 2 years of OS updates. The battery, of course, had.

The 2005 philosophy underlying all that technology seems to be storage, storage, storage. Those portable players were the shitz – it was so important to be able to carry it all with you. And, a more subtle point, design. For us, at that point.. design was about the specs. Everything else seemed secondary, coz you could make things work as you wanted them to.

And now. Raw specs and “cool” technology have been replaced by practical considerations: Does it work well? Will it last? Whats the battery like? Is it made well? Is it made in a way that ensures I will use it? 3

But very seriously.. the thing that most jumped out at me when I assembled those photos together? The people in common between them. My erstwhile partner-in-crime, Prasanna, and of course, myself. It’s pretty widely accepted that 10 years is an eon in technology. For 2 of us, this past decade has so been much more. We were kids, really, back in 2005. Barely finished our Masters’ in the UK. We were months away from deciding and launching severeanomaly.org. Living it up online. The arguments and debates we used to have about technology (at least what I can remember of those conversations) seem quaint, almost naive when I think about them. I could talk about how our lives themselves have changed, but there’s too much to list in the space I’ve allotted.

Interestingly though, we still debate such things today. Guess we never learn.

Back to that study in contrasts. Have to wonder if it will be just 3 devices in another 10 years 4.

Written in collaboration with Prasanna, of course. Who does not have a blog anymore. A story for another day.


  1. Yes, the photo on top is mislabeled. Not sure why. 
  2. Back then, Nokia seemed infallible (the N82 will probably always be one of Prasanna’s top devices ever). Today, there is literally no real technology brand associated with the name Nokia. The other big brand from those times: Motorola. Per the latest, we’ll be lucky to see the name ‘Moto’ on devices made by the parent company. 
  3. And, based on our choice.. it appears we believe Apple is the best company in all of those aspects. Latent Mac-tardism, ahoy! (With special acknowledgement of Prasanna, who was previously renowned for his hatred of all things Apple. But then I did say our lives have changed) 
  4. Maybe more though. Kids will want their own [insert future crazy ass technology here], and those will probably join ours on that table? 

the death of old technology, that in reality never dies

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The first gadget I ever bought turned 10 years old last year.

The first laptop I ever bought would have turned 10 years old this year.

I just got rid of them both this past week (!). Incidental to this decision was the fact that they still turn on. Whether they could be classed as working is a separate question. Most of their components appeared to be in working order. They function as well as 10-year-old gadgets are wont to. They are slow. Were they ready for “death”?

The laptop, an Alienware m5500, saw the worst of it, but was also pretty damn resilient. It could only be afforded through a whole Christmas season of part-time work. And dat config. An Intel® Pentium® M 740 1.73GHz. Dual graphics cards you could switch between: an integrated Intel card and a 128MB NVidia® GeForce™ Go MXM 6600. A beautiful 1680 x 1050 display. A kingly 512MB Dual Channel DDR2 RAM (eventually upgraded to 1.25 GB) and a 60GB HDD. Good times.

I used it for 3-ish years, until I broke the screen in an accident that still gives me nightmares 1. Once repaired, my sister used it for another 3 years, maybe. Since the HP I bought as a replacement turned out to be the kind of monstrosity that only HP can make, I went back to the Alienware (very happily, I must add). A temporary desktop until I eventually built my powerhouse machine (for the time). 2

All that remained of the Alienware

All that remained of the Alienware

Oh, and the Alienware worked great for most of its life 3. Over time, I removed the screen (it died again, through no fault of mine). Replaced the hard drive. Made the DVD drive into an external device. Come to think of it, I recall using that DVD writer heavily in the UK.. burning collection after collection on disc. Backups were also disc based. 4 I tried resuscitating it a couple of times in the past few years as a media server, but its aging processor and fan couldn’t really handle it 5. ‘Twas with a heavy heart that I let it go now, after all this time.

The gadget was an iriver H140. iriver was one of those niche technology companies that has disappeared today – but way back when, they had some of the most full-featured products out there. Point of pride: First gadget I literally bought with my own hard-earned money. December 2004, on Tottenham Court Road, 5 days after I got my first paycheck. For a long long time it functioned as my only music player 6. It was the also only way I could transport data around – I loved the fact that it just showed up as an external drive in Windows 7. Almost 5 years after I got it, I moved to music playback on the phone. The H140 then became the driving music collection, where it basically “lived” in my car. A gigantic shuffle of Western, classical, desi, rock, pop, what have you played from it when I drove.

Clockwise: leather cover, remote, charger, an awesome player

Clockwise: leather cover, remote, charger, an awesome player

I switched out the firmware (“OS”) on the player about 2 years in to the Rockbox project, which added a lot of functionality to it. Probably my first real device hack/root 8.

The arrival of a smartphone (and some ominous clicks from the H140 hard drive) took the player out of the car and into a drawer. Where it has resided for most of the past few years. I never tried to figure out a use for it, especially with the rise of streaming services.. but again, hard to let go given its provenance.

How many devices I have bought in the last 5 years have actually survived the way these 2 devices seemingly did? My 4-year-old Nexus S can no longer have a regular Android ROM installed on it – its internal memory is too small for such limitations 9. Seeing as apps apparently get built against next years hardware, 2015 apps are barely functional on it. A now 3-year old X230T has never had great build quality, even though it was a good buy at the time. Probably have to switch it out this year, though in theory it’s hardware is humming along fine. The Nexus 4 (which replaced the S) is limping along into its 3rd year 10.

The Alienware and the iriver had to go: old electronics do not age well. That said, I’d like to believe they hung on as long as they did because of what they signified. Because every time I picked them up I could feel the blood, sweat, and tears that went into obtaining them.

The first possessions of a younger me, possessions I could call truly my own.

The screen simply says 'Thank you for using'


  1. It was also the subject of one of the first times irony bit me with regards to laptops. Funnily enough a very similar situation occurred with its successor HP. 
  2. Said powerhouse machine is still humming along fine as a cloud backup machine. Careful component selection, I tell you.. 
  3. Incidentally, I don’t think the Alienware ever saw anything but Windows XP. I tried Ubuntu, but was able to hack it into outputting 1080i in Windows and not any flavor of Linux. 
  4. Said collection was recently dumped too. And I still rue the day I quit on disc-based backups.. all that data I lost was partially recovered from those very discs. Funny how backups work. 
  5. In fact, I distinctly remember that I bought and took possession of this machine Dec 2005/Jan 2006. A few months into 2006, Intel announced the move to 64-bit and multi-core processors.. leaving me with completely obsoleted technology :/ 
  6. I very briefly considered an iPod. Price and iTunes conspired against it. But I have to wonder if my entire computing timeline would have taken a very different route based on that decision. 
  7. Remember, 2004/5? No Dropbox. Gmail offered a then-gigantic 1 GB of email storage. 
  8. Which translated to a crazy amount of ROMing/rooting and mucking about on the Nexus S and to some extent on the Nexus 4. 
  9. (Slimroms.net)[http://slimroms.net] zindabad. 
  10. I wrote this paragraph and thought at the end of it – man, I’m using a lot of old tech. 

twit twit tweeet

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I’ve jumped in headfirst. Tweeting. Left, right and center. Yessirree Bob. Yada yada yada. Srsly.

And now to repeat things I’ve heard before (for eons) but which have dawned on me as actually making a lot of sense.

So yes, this post might be a bit dated for some of you.

At first, I assumed that my approach on Twitter would end up similar to my “stalking” approach on Reader (via Twitter RSS). But Twitter demands interaction in a way that few services do. I now see a hundred limitations in Google Buzz — filtering being the biggest one. My Twitter stream is pretty nicely sorted by default, and clients such as JournoTwit make it even easier to organize what I want to see and how I want to see it. Clients are another big advantage — I access Twitter using 3 different methods, none of which require me to have a tab open for Twitter 24/7. Sharing is a different matter, thanks to bookmarklets sharing to any service is insanely simple. One does feel like syncing shares across services.. but I’m not really sure I want to do it. I think people who see my shares will end up being the same on both. For now, I think I will limit myself to sharing using only Reader while RTing with Twitter. Explicit sharing of the same content on both will be avoided. And finally, the length. Buzz/Reader posts are long, demand a certain amount of attention while reading. Little wonder about the number of unread RSS items in my Reader. By virtue of being insanely short, tweets can be zipped through. I used to wonder how people kept up with more than 50 people on Twitter. Its actually insanely easy.

What do I have to say that has not been said before, though?

Probably not that much, really. Continue reading

notes: tech this, tech that

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For a change, I decided to jot down the thoughts that were coming to me while I waded through month-old Reader items. Warning: It gets pretty long.

[Yes, I actually have a set of Reader items that I ensure I catch up with daily, and another set that I’m sure I will always be behind the curve on reading. What’s the point? Its the only way that I can ensure that I’m somewhat current with what goes on in the world.]

Some background: the launch of Buzz meant I went about adding a bunch of people on Reader/Buzz that I wouldn’t have known of otherwise. Louis Gray, Tyler Romeo, Jesse Stay and a whole host of other active “technologists” came to my attention as a result of Buzz. Given my aforementioned division of current and ancient news, clearly, I’m always going to be behind the curve on the most happening stuff in the internet-verse — even given how I’ve tried to balance out the “breaking news” feeds and the “info” feeds.

Over the last couple of days I realized that as long as I stay somewhat current with my “friends” shared items… I’m just fine for the latest and greatest in the tech-verse. Twitter’s Chirp conference notes – check. iPad notes – check. Latest Gmail features – check. Expectations for iPhone4, FB F8, Google i/o – check. Of course, when I say “friends” I mean the aforementioned list of people… all of whom are probably wonderful but barely know I exist. In fact most of them probably don’t know I exist at all. But their connection on this Google network is probably the best thing ever. I don’t miss out, and I get to stick to my own reading trends. This use of social networking really appeals to me — really defines what I would like from it.

Continue reading

notes: buzzing around

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Google’s latest experiment – Buzz – has been launched to the world recently, with varying degrees of appreciation, hate, irritation and all the reactions that every new social idea is greeted with. Personally, it is a social media outlet/inlet that I can get on board with – seeing as how it integrates nicely into my existing Gmail/Google experience. It has its caveats though.. features/glitches/annoyances that I wish they had ironed out before getting it out the door:

Continue reading

notes: what should be the real plan for the chrome os?

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The world has been talking about the Google Chrome OS. We have people saying ‘next big huge thing‘, and obviously, ‘next big huge steaming pile of crap‘.

Me, personally? I haven’t, and still don’t like the idea of Google having a browser on the market – it reeks too much of a company trying to ensure that they take over every part of the Internet (their proposing SPDY, which will best work in Chrome does not help matters). There have been a series of posts recently dealing with different facets of this particular takeover: the oncoming war, google’s war-winning strategy (+counter-point). The Chrome OS spells the onset of Google really taking the war to the big guys – M$, Apple, – and trying to ensure they have control at the level of OS.

Can it really succeed? Continue reading