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Chairs vs chairs.

Think back, in your mind, to the last chair you sat on. I’m going somewhere with this analogy, I promise you, but for now, just think of the last chair you sat on. Perhaps you’re sitting in one right now. (Little computer joke.) I believe in the Zuckerberg Character philosophy that “a guy who builds a nice chair doesn’t owe money to everyone who has ever built a chair”. Chairs are sort of basic, mechanical objects, aren’t they. Enough legs to make balance a certainty; a back if you want your sitter to rest their back on the back of your chair. A seat, preferably, or you have legs jammed up your goolies. And it’s never good to have chairlegs jammed up your goolies no matter how restful your back is on your chair back. But the last chair you sat on is sort of a basic, mechanical thing, right? You can break it down to legs, seat and back. That’s all you need in a chair for it to be called a chair. And you evaluate its quality as a chair by how long it lasts as a chair and how comfortable you are in that chair.

So why do we let manufacturers tell us that other basic mechanical things are so much more complex and difficult just because they’re newer? With a number of things, there’s only really one metric of quality: it works or it doesn’t. Binary. Does it do the job it’s supposed to? I’m not talking about things like guitars with varying sounds or monitors with varying contrast ratios or engines with varying strengths and stuff. I’m talking about things like chairs. Tables. Music stands. Canvas bags. Knives of varying purposes. Do these things do the things they’re supposed to do? And thus, you can judge them. And you’ll notice these are all old things–things we’ve had around for years. But what if I was to tell you there was another thing, a new thing, that’s come along in the last twenty years that has a pretty much binary quality but you’ve been convinced is a matter of highly differing qualities and standards?

It’s cables.

Think about a cable the way you thought about a chair earlier. Think of the things that go into a cable. It’s not much. Every electrical cable needs a conducting wire for every signal that needs conducting. It needs insulation for the cables from the outside world so they don’t break or electrocute you. But what else? Yeah, it needs to connectors at the end, suited for whatever task they’re supposed to be serving. But seriously, what else? What is there in any cable that justifies a $190 pricetag on a cable? If it carries sufficient bandwidth, then what separates the $2.75 cable on Amazon from the one at Future Shop that they wanted me to pay $35 for? The answer is maddeningly simple and if you’ve bought in, kind of hard to admit.

The same as a difference between a plain wood chair that costs $30 and an expensive wood chair that costs $500. You park your ass on it. If it supports your ass, it was worth the price of the cheaper chair. If you value it for the pricetag on it, you need to reassess your priorities in life. Or, if you’ve somehow managed to convince yourself it works better than the cheaper one despite still having the binary quality inherent in itself, then you should step back and re-evaluate the performance of the machine.

The people who make cables like the ludicrously expensive HDMI cables found everywhere and the ludicrously expensive audio cables with no added features like durable insulation or durable connectors are pricing these things way up in order to make you pay dollars for something that costs cents. I assure you, no HDMI cable in the world was manufactured for the price you pay for it, not even the three dollar one. No cable in the world costs $40 to make, because if it did, that cable wouldn’t be made. The company making it would see that they were bleeding money into these cables that people were buying at the cost of manufacture and would stop manufacturing them.

Do the world a favour. When you see something that has a binary quality like chairs or cables being marked up in the marketplace, cry out. Cry out publicly. Make the world stop buying.

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