Netbooks: proof the tech industry has gone nuts

The Samsung NC10
The Samsung NC10 - canary in the mine?

The most exciting bit of kit I've played with in ages isn't a cutting edge graphics card, or a multimedia tablet.

It's a netbook - a Samsung NC-10 with a bog standard Atom chip, a bit of RAM and an ancient operating system.

It isn't just a great bit of kit, though. It's the canary in the coalmine, chirping that the tech industry has completely lost touch with reality - and that it's caught us in its Reality Distortion Field.

I can't think of a single thing I do on my MacBook Pro that I can't do on the Samsung. Twitter is hardly processor intensive. Nor is word processing, email, YouTube or looking at pictures on the internet.

Sure, the Mac is capable of video editing, music making and all kinds of goodness, but I don't do any of that. I write, and I fight people online, and I waste time on, and that's about it.

The 17" MacBook Pro is currently £1,949. The Samsung NC-10 is £299. Of course the MacBook Pro is better than a netbook in all kinds of ways, and of course Apple makes cheaper machines. But a MacBook Pro is what I've got, and it's nearly seven times more expensive than the Sammy.

That money won't make me type seven times faster, or make Fark seven times funnier, or make the Daily Mail website seven times more insane. So why buy it? The keyboard? I use a USB keyboard anyway. Screen? I've got mine hooked into a second monitor. Storage? Giant external USB drive.

It's not just computers. My £50 DVD player takes cheap DVDs, upscales them and makes them look great on the flatscreen telly. Why spend God knows how much on Blu-ray and then pay through the nose for Blu-ray discs when I genuinely can't tell the difference from 15 feet away?

Why invest in high-end audio kit when my music's in 192Kbps MP3? Why shell out for an internet-capable mobile phone when I can only get a 3G signal if I climb up a tree covered in tinfoil? Why get a next-gen games console when the problem with so many games is the story and gameplay, not the graphics?

But we still buy them. And that's because the tech industry is just like the fashion industry. It sells you stuff and tells you you'll look like Audrey Hepburn or Brad Pitt; six weeks later it's shouting "You look like your gran!" and telling you to buy something else or kill yourself.

An overpowered laptop is no different to a £1,000 It Bag: it's just more crap that helps fuel credit crunches and contributes to climate change. When we're eating each other for food and having fist-fights with polar bears in the High Street, we're going to regret it.

Then again, have you seen the new Dell Tablet? That's one sweet PC...


Carrie Marshall

Writer, broadcaster, musician and kitchen gadget obsessive Carrie Marshall (Twitter) has been writing about tech since 1998, contributing sage advice and odd opinions to all kinds of magazines and websites as well as writing more than a dozen books. Her memoir, Carrie Kills A Man, is on sale now. She is the singer in Glaswegian rock band HAVR.