Gadget Lust Vs. Good Enough

Next week at the WWDC Apple Developer's Conference, Steve Jobs will stride on stage and inspire gadget lust the world over with the latest iPhone. Within a few weeks it will hit the streets, and geeks will line up around city blocks to replace their year-old iPhone 3GS's with the latest iteration.

I'm no stranger to gadget lust, but as I consider my perfectly-working year-old iPhone, I recognize that things are getting out of hand. When last year's blazing tech becomes today's e-waste, rendered obsolete by an ever-shortening hype cycle, when will we ever have enough? I've written previously about community efforts to reduce e-waste, such as the unconsumption movement and Santa Cruz's Computer Kitchen. But good intentions only go so far. How do we gadget addicts quell the craving?

First off: we rediscover the value in the devices we already have. Last year's iPhone won't have all of the features of the latest model, or the sleekest modernist design, but will run the new version of the iPhone operating system just fine. This message is echoed by Last Year's Model, an online support group for techies weaning themselves off of gadget lust. The site encourages geeks to declare their commitment to getting a full run of use out of their gadgets on Twitter, Facebook and Myspace, and offers a number of excellent reasons other users have chosen to hang on to the good-enough gadgets they already own, including "I haven't yet figured out all the things my old iPod can do" and "to save the planet through consuming less."

If you just can't stop itching for a new gadget, it's never been easier to trade what you have for something slightly-used. Ebay and Craigslist are the obvious options here, while new services like Gazelle and Nextworth make it incredibly simply to buy, sell, or recycle used gadgets. This post at Yahoo! Green details a number of similar services. The most shareable option is to go through a service such as your local Freecycle group, and trade unwanted and used gadgets with members of your own community. What's outdated to your neighbor down the street may be brand-new tech to you, and vice versa.

And if that still doesn't do the trick, it may be time to pull yourself away from Twitter and Gizmodo and get some perspective. Take a walk, hit the public library and borrow a book and a DVD. Find a yard sale and remember how quickly the newest tech becomes discarded detritus piled on a driveway. Consider how short the trip is from driveway to the landfill. As geeks, it's incredibly easy to get seduced by gadget lust, as our obsessions are stoked by the endless, breathless Internet hype cycle. But as long as they operate, the gadgets already in our pockets and in our communities are good enough.

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