Back on December 29th I came up with a new year's resolution that generated much mirth and hilarity among those who know me: that, subject to certain exceptions (click that link), I would buy no computers during 2010. There was, of course, a loophole for the iPad, because it was obvious that it was coming and equally obvious that if I didn't allow myself an indulgence I'd fail at the first hurdle. There was also a loophole for a replacement mobile phone once my contract expired. And loopholes for replacing kit that goes up in smoke, and for helping out family and friends.
How am I doing, as of the halfway point?
Pretty well, as it happens.
If you looked back at that older entry you'll notice some loopholes. I've exercised them — it was glaringly obvious, for example, that the iPad would blow a hole through a no-new-computers resolution, so I left myself room to not fail at everything else as a result. And I'm upgrading my two-plus year old phone next month, some time after it came out of contract. But the other stuff is pretty much on track. I upgraded my wife's desktop with a couple of bigger hard drives and a larger monitor, and swiped her 5 year old 20" panel for my own desk. I've had to buy some other hard drives as well, notably for my desktop machine (which ate its OCZ SSD twenty four hours before we flew out to Boston). But I've managed, much to my surprise, to go through six months without buying any new computers ...
Unless you consider the edge cases. Consider the Livescribe pen. It's a pen! With the ability to capture anything you scribble on Livescribe paper, and also to record an audio track. But wait, there's more! It's a pen that runs java applications and can do stuff with a speaker and a small OLED display — tap on a pre-printed calculator grid and it shows you the results, for example.
I originally resolved to stop buying new computers in order to put the brakes on a developing bad habit of acquiring machines that duplicated existing functionality. Something radically different from my existing working kit, like the Livescribe pen or the iPad, seemed to fit the exception clause, which is why I felt able to buy one without breaking the resolution. (The "no duplication" thing does, however, effectively forbid me from acquiring another Livescribe pen, or an Android tablet, or similar.)
But the iPad seems to have broken the 30-year death-grip of the window/mouse/icon/pointer paradigm of graphical interaction of the public conception of how we interact with computing devices. And I'm now wondering how far this goes. Is a PogoPlug a computer, within my original ad-hoc definition (it's something with an interactive user interface and the ability to load and run programs at a user's command)? What about a MiFi wireless router, if it can take a micro-SD card and act as a file server? If I (this is admittedly unlikely) buy a new car this year, at what point do the in-car electronics count?
At the end of the day, I haven't bought any laptop or desktop computers for myself, or any PDAs, except for the (one-only) iPad and the (forthcoming) phone. I'm not even going to weasel out of the resolution by upgrading the server this blog runs on (which is leased, so technically I wouldn't be buying a new one) ... but there's definitely more to this than meets the eye!
Meanwhile? One piece of advice — if you're going to attempt a new year's resolution, give yourself permission to climb back on the wagon if you falter briefly. That way, you can try and work on a new behaviour pattern without cracking up at the first obstacle. Hopefully this one is going to stick.