hg: Devices

I’ve been on a mission to reduce my devices.

Phones, computers, tablets, eReaders, smartwatches, cameras, TVs, fridges that do your online food shop for you. It’s all too much.

The boffins behind companies like Apple and Google would have us believe we need all these things just to make it through the day. Obviously we don’t.

I want to get back to the bare necessities.

What do I actually need my devices for? Access to the web for email, browsing, blogs et cetera. Making phone calls and sending texts. Editing and storing documents. Taking and storing photographs. Listening to music. And maintaining this website.

These are the core actions I want to perform. Everything else is fluff.

Now that I’ve simplified my needs to this point, it’s clear I only need a few basic gadgets.

So out go the Kindle, iPod Shuffle, and shared iPad. The hulking record player and hi-fi departed three years ago, as did my smartphone. I’m also leading a controversial campaign to ditch the TV and Chromecast.

What would remain are the things I truly need: my trusty flip-phone, a laptop, the iPod and speakers, and a decent camera.

I’ve considered stripping back further. I don’t really need to take photos, and my laptop could take sole responsibility for music. I could even go full minimalist and ditch everything except the laptop, just for the hell of it.

But minimalism isn’t about decluttering just for that initial thrill. It’s about having what you deem necessary and no more, so I cleared out the devices that felt superfluous.

I prefer books to an eReader. iPod Shuffles are too random. iPads are just laptops with missing limbs. Smartphones are too clever for their own good. TVs are redundant and the Chromecast too temperamental.

Rather than adding something useful to my life, these devices only brought headaches, both literal and figurative. I suppose that’s the crux of my desire to have fewer devices - it helps me to spend less time absorbed in the digital world.

Devices I didn’t explicitly need just felt like another drain on my time, mental bandwidth, and money. They were another way to consume and be passive. Another way to watch shite on YouTube. With less, I consume less. I have fewer portholes to the internet and the overwhelming yet addictive data it provides.

Some other benefits come to mind.

Gadgets need to be charged, synced, configured, backed up, and just generally fiddled with. Ditch a device and that all goes away.

You also can’t lose a thousand pounds worth of iPhone if you don’t have one. Not to mention the personal data they contain. It’s cheaper and safer to own less.

It’s good for the planet too. Devices like laptops and phones have a surprisingly high carbon footprint and require rare metals to be mined under perilous conditions. Plus all the data being flung around the world, made possible by giant data centres, is becoming a serious contributor to emissions.

When it comes to technology, as with most things, less is best.

I’ll end with a pleasing system I’ve developed: Sell unwanted gadgets on eBay and use the profits to buy second-hand books for about two quid a pop. The money lies dormant in a Paypal account, so it can’t be squandered on rent or food, and provides an endless supply of reading material. Perfect.