If I had a nickel for every product announcement crossing my screen that started off with the accolades, “Miniature”, “Ultra-Miniature”, “Most Miniature”, “World’s smallest”, “Industry’s Tiniest”, and/or “Market’s most microscopic”, I’d have enough metal to build a fleet of aircraft carriers and a little left over to buy some domestic Locatelli Romano cheese. It’s no great shakes that the electronics industry wants to make everything as small as inhumanely possible; a trend that’s literally been going on since the 1950’s when the first transistor radios became portable and affordable.
The upside of this trend and its much heralded achievements is that we can squeeze more functions into smaller quarters. Yes folks we’ve reached the pinnacle, the apex if you will. Dare I say it, we can in fact squeeze 10 lbs. of bologna into a 10 oz. bag, and sell it! But every silver lining has its cloud. The downside is that all of these compact, miniature, slimmer products are making their users huge, downright humongous! And not for the reason you may be thinking. We’ve all heard the reports about the dangers of obesity resulting from a sedentary lifestyle caused by too much time spent in front of computers, iPads, TVs, and looking at cell phone screens. But this is not the type of largess this article targets. Let me explain via some observations.
One afternoon on a walk home from the subway, I happened to be passing the local public grammar school. Taking up one full-length city block’s worth of space was a group of about 12 third graders, each pulling a rolling suitcase, the kind most business travelers and airline attendants pull around on a regular basis. Each rolling carrier was noticeably larger than the student pulling it. After a bit of maneuvering, I managed to get up to the leader of the herd, i.e., their teacher. I asked said leader if the class was either going on or returning from some field trip to, perhaps, some other galaxy. The leader said no, this was just what the students carried every day to and from classes.
What, I asked, could these wee people be carrying on a daily basis that takes up more space than they do? I was informed that each student must bring to class a laptop PC, a cell phone, e-reader for some of the class material, a tablet/iPad or netbook if they have one, toothbrush and toothpaste, bottled water, plus all books for all classes. It’s good to know there is some learning material in there (books). I’d hate to see the sidewalks blocked unnecessarily by over-burdened seven-year olds.
That’s an example of how a large quantity of tech products can make one huge, however just a cell or smart phone or mp3 player can do just as much damage. How? Just watch the text-message addicted absorbed in a texting frenzy. The arms and elbows in some cases get so far extended that one person can actually take up the space of three. Witness the cell-phone gamer sitting next to you on a plane, train, or bus, flailing his or her torso to and fro, arms akimbo, twisting wildly to do whatever it is the game commands them to do. Or notice the person with the MP3 player whose music, or at least the cymbal portion invades your space for the duration of your journey. How about when MP3 person finds it necessary to dance in the seated position, emulate the drummer or entire percussion section of the recorded sound patterns, a.k.a., media, sing/rap along out loud, usually at the top of his or her lungs, or all three; again taking up more space, literally and figuratively.
Here’s yet another observation. An acquaintance recently informed me about how wonderful life is since he quit smoking. Not because he felt better, or because he no longer stinks up his and other people’s places anymore, or for the savings in tobacco and healthcare expenditures. He feels great because there’s less for him to carry around, i.e., several packs of cigarettes, a lighter, and matches in case the lighter fails, plus the bat for use upon those persons who wave their hands in his face for smoking. Funny how all these big computer companies never figured out how to integrate a cigarette lighter into their designs, but I digress.
This same acquaintance, however is one of those typical adults you see walking around everywhere with a knapsack on his back. The guy has never been camping in his life, hates the thought of the “great outdoors”, and has no intention of ever going camping in his smoke-free life. Yet, there he is going to work every day on the crowded New York subways with a huge pack on his back, taking up three times the space he normally would without the cargo.
Like the aforementioned school children, he carries a laptop computer, tablet computer, smart phone, mp3 player with video capabilities (HDTV as well, I think), e-reader, and what looks like just about everything else he owns. And he is not alone! Approximately one half of NYC commuters carry huge knapsacks daily.
Obviously, this is not a complaint or even a mild criticism, although I’m not happy when techno-absorbed giants plow into me several times a day because they’re incognizant of anyone but themselves. No, I think all this miniaturization is quite cool and, in the long term, serves a higher function. For example, since most jobs and careers are paying sub-standard wages these days, a lot of people need to work two or three jobs and/or careers to get by. Since they are rarely home, being able to carry and have everything they own when needed, in an efficient and compact manner makes it easier to negotiate the multiple commutes. And, obviously, should one lose any or all of those jobs and/or careers, having everything one owns handy will make the migration to street life easier. What do you think?