Will digital cameras ever acquire the butch glamour of the classic mechanical bullet-stoppers of the 35mm era? Common sense says ‘I suppose so’ but I can’t see it myself. Digital cameras are as feathers next to these old copper-alloy lovelies. It’s like comparing one of those crappy nylon and tin sliding door commuter trains to Mallard. Speaking of copper-alloy lovelies, you’ll probably be wanting this one for your collection.
The disbursal of the Steve Bowbrick Media Technology
Museum Cemetery continues apace. Charming but obsolete gadgets like this 1980s Sony portable shortwave receiver and this terrific battleship-grade piece of German optical engineering are going under the hammer over at eBay as we speak. We’re having a bit of a domestic over whether I should unload the Newtons, one of which, the largest and least useful PDA ever made, the Apple eMate, would probably fetch a few quid as an oddity. Juliet thinks I should keep them. I’ve just spent a fortnight adjusting to the grief their departure will cause so I want to get it over with. Watch this space retro-gadget fans.
Listen you slippery media smartarse, you trendy, ipod-shuffling, probably-up-in Edinburgh for the TV Festival (“Easyjet? Don’t make me laugh. You get a proper breakfast on BA…”), doing a bit of development work for Living TV, got a bid in for some lottery money, your stupid blog’s on Richard & Judy and your paralysingly boring video diary will probably win a Golden Bear. Do me a favour. Don’t let me sell this very cool old 8mm cine camera for A QUID to someone called davidarsenal (11) who’s probably slurping a vanilla latte while listening to Joss Stone on the terrace even as I write…
Japanese business seems to have a better memory than the rest of capitalism (the oldest firm in the world is, after all, Japanese). Canon’s camera museum is a thing of beauty. An archive like this must do immeasurable good for a consumer tech brand like Canon in the connected era. Of course you’ll probably want to buy this amazing 42 year-old Canon 8mm cine camera once you’ve read all about it.
So I’m unloading a few bits of old junk on eBay. One item is a spare battery for a defunct Powerbook and I get an enquiry from an Australian buyer: how much to ship the thing to Oz? I guess this illustrates the bizarre, nicely Gibsonian nature of the eBay economy. How can it possibly be economic for me to package and ship a used battery to the other side of the planet? Amazingly, it is. For the buyer it’ll be cheaper than getting a new one from a local supplier and, of course, buying something from an eBay seller with a good feedback rating (even one on the other side of the planet) is safer than buying it from somebody you found in the Yellow Pages.
So, item by item, eBayers are reordering the bottom end of the global marketplace – trading, building relationships, growing businesses, ignoring national borders (and, while they’re at it, bypassing national tax regimes).
This kind of casual globalisation may be cool but it’s hardly green. Single items, shipped by environmentally costly means (jet planes, mostly) with no regard for economies of scale or for negative externalities like damage to the environment or even for basic economics: eBay sellers usually aren’t counting the cost of their own time in listing and shipping goods, for instance – this is hobby capitalism. It might also go some way to explaining why the fastest growing airlines in the world are the ones with no windows.
So, eBay is an out-of-control environmental catastrophe and the bigger it gets the worse it gets, on a more-or-less linear scale (no economies of scale here, remember). Here’s the plan, then: eBay sellers sign up to add a ‘Carbon Neutral Trader’ button to their listings. eBay takes an extra tuppence in the pound (including some profit – this needs to be a real business) from your transaction and uses it to plant trees. Of course, there are computers involved, so there’s nothing to stop this being really quite sophisticated: sellers will opt in or out of the scheme transaction-by-transaction and the carbon deduction for each transaction will vary based on distance and shipping method: an inland postal delivery will be cheap, a round-the-world jet flight expensive, a personal pick-up free.
Buyers will participate too: just as you can now filter search results for listings from sellers who accept Paypal or who live in your area, you’ll be able to search solely for carbon neutral sellers. Your ‘carbon score’ will be listed alongside your feedback rating (I can see a little ‘magic tree’ symbol). The pressure to build your carbon score will grow as the scheme grows. The colour of your magic tree will change as you plant more trees. Super Sellers will pay for hundreds or thousands of trees. eBay will plant millions and, at the firm’s current rate of growth, the ‘eBay forest’ will probably save the planet.
Somebody out there needs five – count them! – five lovely Apple printers (4 Stylewriter inkjets and a twenty year-old Imagewriter dot-matrix). I think you should probably buy these just to make some sort of art installation (are you listening Ivan?). With these printers, an old Mac (or a new Mac and an adapter) and OS X.3 you’ve got yourself a nifty networked fax server (five nifty networked fax servers, in fact). You could write a script to print a grab from your webcam every five minutes or use them to print badges for your speed dating thing. Come on, you’ll think of something.