Sunday 25 Sep 2016

Feeding the Gadgets
Matt Seinberg

About 20 years ago, I bought a Nintendo Entertainment System, with the Sports Package. At that time, it was almost state of the art, consumers. I enjoyed playing the volleyball and soccer games that came with it, but soon tired of both. I went shopping for more games and had sticker shock.

Now, we all discover the demon of buying anything electronic that requires feeding. We have to buy games, CDs or other type of music to feed our needs. Although the system itself may not be that expensive, the software is oh-so expensive.

A new Nintendo Wii game system costs $199.99. This usually includes one or two games, which are often not your choice. Most new games cost around $50 per each. Four games will cost you the same as buying the system. As I said, it's an expensive habit to feed.

Do you remember buying your first CD player in the 1980s, paying $10-to-$15 for each? I always wondered why this little round disc costs so much money. The raw materials, the metal and time to make it, are not expensive.

The high price results from what is on that little piece of metal. The artists, writers and producers share royalties; the factory workers and robots, which pack and load boxes of the CDs, cost money; the distributors claim a slice of the pie; of course, you can't forget the marketing and production costs the record labels incur and allows them another nice slice of the pie.

Does it work the same way for video games? All the major game players, from Nintendo, Sony and Microsoft, are DVD based; raw materials contribute little to the price tag. No, similar to CDs, it's authors, programmers and testers that rack up the cost.

Three years ago, I bought the Nintendo Wii system as a surprise for my daughters, Michelle and Melissa. O course, I fully intended to use it, too. I bought it May to make sure I would have it as surprise in December. I hid it, well enough, hoping no one could find it. I won't give up my hiding space, since the family reads this column.

The look of joy and surprise made it all worthwhile. I bought some extra games, which I thought we would all like; some were hits, some were misses. Since then, if there is a game I think they will enjoy, I'll try to buy it used and save much money.

I have one game that we still play and enjoy, Tony Hawk's "Downhill Challenge." It's a cool skateboard game, which takes you all over the world to either race against three other players or against the game itself. The girls and I have gotten good at it, but don't play it as much as we once did.

That's the problem with the software. If we buy a new CD, we may listen to it in the car a few times before putting it back in the jewel case and filing it with the rest of the CDs. We may even load certain songs on our MP3 player. Still, the software itself is out of sight and out of mind.

The cost of caring and feeding our electronic devices can pile up. A single music download will cost $1.00-to-$1.29; a full "album" may be $10-to-$15. With a download, we don't even get all the liner notes, well sometimes, if we pay extra.

Do you remember liner notes, how cool. The back of a vinyl album cover, made of biodegradable cardboard, always had liner notes. It was a big deal to write liner notes and always interesting to read. Ah, those were the good days.

Now, we download the newest song or album from our favourite artist. We hope we like it so much we go searching for older stuff. We rummage through our old cassettes or vinyl records, but decide to download those as well.

I'm lucky that I can convert cassettes or vinyl to digital form, but most people have no clue on how to do that. Heck, I'm sure most people don't even own a cassette player or turntable anymore. I'll mention eight track tapes as well; how stupid was that, bulky, hard to store, tape broke and you had to re-buy.

Owning an electronic device is like owning a pet. You have to care for it, take care of it so it works properly and keep feeding it. If you're really into fashion, you can dress it up as well. I mean both your device and pet. Just remember, keep them dry, cuddle up with them, and your love and investment will be returned many times over.

Matt Seinberg lives on Long Island, a few minutes east of New York City. He looks at everything around him and notices much. Somewhat less cynical than dyed in the wool New Yorkers, Seinberg believes those who don't see what he does like reading about what he sees and what it means to him. Seinberg columns revel in the silly little things of life and laughter as well as much well-directed anger at inept, foolish public officials. Mostly, Seinberg writes for those who laugh easily at their own foibles as well as those of others.

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