>> 27 Sep 2004

High-Tech Uselessness

I am just about old enough to remember a time when houses were not festooned with every labour-saving gadget under the sun. When I was growing up in the '70's and '80's, the cost of many household items was prohibitively expensive. Does anyone, for example, remember seeing the first video recorders on sale around 1980? They were mainly in Betamax format, around £700 to buy and weighing in slightly less than an Austin Princess.

These days, houses are literally cluttered with high-tech, lightweight, gadgets of all descriptions. We have computers, DVD's, TV's by the hundred-load, Dyson vacuum cleaners, mobile phones, CD players, digital surround sound and satellite dishes (and that lot just covers the goodies owned by people on supplementary benefit!). Our kitchens are also cluttered with items which auntie Mable or cousin Cyril decided to purchase for a Christmas present at junctures when the Yuletide intoxication of alcohol was exercising its most deleterious effects on the human mind.

I thought I was the only one who owned electric equipment unopened since the day of purchase. Not so! Today's Daily Mail carries an article dealing with the multitude of items tucked away in darkened cupboards, never to be used by their owners. They include breadmakers, sandwich toasters and fondue sets. Why anyone will all mental faculties intact would want to purchase - or own - a breadmaker is beyond me. It takes bloody hours to bake bread. Who has time to participate in such activities in these fast living times? And fondue sets!! That's stamp collectors having an hour off, isn't it.

Fondue was all the rage twenty or so years ago. I remember being invited to a fondue dinner with my parents circa 1983. It was hosted by a work colleague of my mother's who lived in Croydon. All I remember (I was only ten years old at the time) was this great cauldron filled with bubbling hot cheese, which went absolutely berserk when the host decided to thrust a skewer of bread into the molten mess. As the heat underneath this cauldron (correctly known as a 'caquelon') intensified, great globules of boiling cheese started flying across the table like mini surface-to-air missiles. By the time everyone went home, you'd have thought they had spent the last few hours on a sun lounger in the Sahara Desert.

Why do we buy implements we have absolutely no intention of ever using? Is it about keeping up with those around us in this sad, materialistic age? I think I'll make a promise to clear out the clutter in the New Year. In the meantime I'm off to make myself a toasted sandwich. Good heath!!


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