Being a gadget reviewer is a job I have desired for my entire adult life. I had visions of a constant stream of free electronics, arriving in glistening piles of shrink-wrapped boxes. Each one containing a moist morsel of creamy electronic caramel, oozing forth with dials, LEDs and acres of piano black plastic.
The reality is more mundane. I do get sent items to review. Most times I ask for them, based on subjects I have selected for the TV show. Sometimes they just turn up. Infrequently I get to keep them (usually I give those away), but most times I sign a loan agreement with a return date. I do have a small, constant pile of boxes organised in a cupboard for re-boxing and returns. I worry frequently about loss or damage to borrowed items.
Then there is the sheer crushing disappointment of unboxing these devices, full of hope (me) and promise (them), and finding them average. Not to mention the hazards of having my personal devices rendered pathetic: the digital camera I can afford, versus the digital cameras I get to test. Looking a gift horse in the mouth? More like being forced to perform dentistry on 10 free racehorses, then having to return the horses to their owners.
I feel like the artisan that ends up managing people to do the work he loves, rather than doing it himself. Instead of saving for, then savouring the devices I lust after, I get to pick them full of holes and never learn to love them.
But there are devices I have loved. Gadgets that I bought with my own toil. Items that I used, rather than tested. Devices that are still with me today, like my mechanical watch; or ones that have been used up, stretched tissue thin by overuse, then discarded, like my old Nokia E70.
And then there are the devices that I hated. Purchased with real money, and discovered at a later date to be unmitigated crap of the lowest order. Often nothing more than a kernel of electronics buried in a putrid flesh of features. The depths of buyers’ remorse, rendered lower by the utter dejection in the knowledge that no, it doesn’t work as advertised.
Purity is an impossible proposition on the internet. Perhaps Bernard was right to question my bias. I don’t believe he was, but I can understand the point of view. Doing my small part to counter this view of biased reviewers, I’m beginning a new column called Things I Love (or Things I Hate, depending on the subject). These will be real things that I own or have owned. Things that I have used for years. Things that I sold with disgust after a few days. Things that I don’t care who makes. Things that make me happy. Things that irritate me.
Keep an eye out for it.