Take Caution with New Technology

When I was in high school I needed a method of backing up data. Standard 3.5″ floppy disks were too small. This was around the time that zip drives were becoming popular. I bought a Sony HiFD thinking I was being clever because it was backwards compatible with 3.5″ disks. It never worked correctly. Within a year or so, it vanished; everyone was using zip drives.

Since then I’ve decided I don’t want to be an early adopter. Don’t get me wrong — I love technology. I just don’t want to be the one to suffer through all the bugs and failures. I usually prefer to buy the previous generation of technology. That way I know it’s at least somewhat stable.

A few years ago I was bitten by a similar problem. I replaced my thermostat with a programmable ritetemp. It only cost $50-$60, and it was almost entirely electronic except for a few buttons. I wasn’t really worried about it failing. Due to problems with my heat pump the programmable features were never used after the first month following installation.

For the most part it worked for about two years, although all the features confused some of my roommates. Then it failed. Actually, it appears to me like it’s still working, but the HVAC guy who replaced it said it was the cause of the heat not turning on. I estimate the installation, diagnosis and re-installation, plus the two devices cost about $500. And I got absolutely nothing for that $500 except another (non-programmable) digital thermostat that might fail. The old one had probably been there since the house was built in the 1980s. The cost of the device was no big deal. The problem was the labor.

If you’re going to install new technology (or even old technology) in your house or your car, you have to consider not only what the cost of installation is, but what it will cost to get it replaced if it fails. If it’s not broke, don’t fix it. So often, it’s true!

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