I like gadgets, but I don’t always like being connected to the internet. This brings me to my latest quirky obsession, PEDS, or privacy enhancing devices. Perhaps I’ll call them iPEDs. Internet-free Privacy Enhancing Devices. Who needs an iPad when you can have an iPED?
My newest iPED is an inexpensive MP3 player. I plug it into my computer, download whatever audiobooks and music I want into it, and then I can walk about town with all my music, but no internet connection. It’s great! But you might be wondering: Why bother with an iPED for music? Isn’t Spotify more convenient?
As I mentioned before, I have a hard time feeling alone when my phone is powered on and near my body. Thus there are times when I like to leave my phone off and put away. I want portable music without the rest of the baggage that my smartphone delivers.
No third party is keeping track of what I listen to and when. In this age of surveillance capitalism, I find the mere act of being unobserved to be a significant perk.
I can fill my MP3 player with music and audiobooks that I own. This means my stuff can’t be taken away if some service provider’s licensing agreement changes, and it also encourages me to simply buy what I want, thus directly supporting authors and musicians I enjoy. It supports high quality audio files like FLAC if I want to get fancy.
My MP3 player is small, the battery lasts forever, and it easily clips to my pocket. So lightweight! And it has a standard headphone jack, like God intended.
Technically, my wristwatch is an iPED. I’ve only worn a watch for the last four years or so, but I like the fact that I can check the time without plugging into the interwebs. It’s so simple. My watch needs a new battery every few years, at a cost of about four bucks. P’s watch is even better. It charges itself with the motion of his arm swing!
Any old-fashioned alarm clock could be an iPED. (Although it’s difficult to find one that’s well-built, these days.) Ditto my Blueray/DVD player. I picked it up for ten bucks at a second hand store, and instead of chasing my favorite TV shows (Buffy the Vampire Slayer, for example) from streaming service to streaming service, I can buy them, often cheaply, and have them on hand for our annual rewatch, no subscription service needed. No ads. No algorithms. No profiles being built about my watching habits, to be bought or sold. I’m not such a purist that I’ll swear off Netflix, but I admit, I feel good about accumulating physical media. I wish I hadn’t dumped my old collection when we downsized, but hindsight is 20/20.
The iPED I’m lusting over at the moment is the upcoming 4G Rotary Cell Phone from Sky’s Edge. Technically, as the phone will have a SIM card, you can argue that it’s not internet free. But the phone (in addition to having a quirky & fun design) does nothing but make and receive calls. There will be no bluetooth. No apps. No web browser. No texts! Just a phone. Would purchasing a second phone be an indulgence? Yes. But I’m kind of in love with the idea of being able to take JUST A PHONE with me when I go out for my walks. In this time of hyperconnectedness and hidden data packets flying around, I totally want to have JUST A PHONE.
In fact, should the rotary phone be as much fun as I expect, I may move to a two-device solution. I’ll downgrade my smartphone to the cheapest plan possible, forward calls to my dumbphone, and hang onto the smartphone as an “internet-connected tablet” for those moments when I need something like a web browser or directions. I expect most people would find this split between phone and tablet overly cumbersome, but I’m curious enough to try it out.
If you think I’m weird; I don’t mind! To each their own. I truly enjoy one-off devices, and I consider a lack of third-party monitoring to be a significant perk. For me, an iPED gives me both things, and that makes me a happy hermit.
PS: If you have any iPEDs in your life that you enjoy, I’d love to hear.