Bleeding-Edgers, Early Adopters and Normal People: the great divide(s)

So I’m riding down the road with a friend of mine. We’re scouting out places on the upcoming century ride*, and my trusty Garmin GPS whatzit is keeping up with our whereabouts, and guiding us to a point on the route I had previously marked so we could return and mark a road hazard.

She is expressing some – bumfuzzilment, I think would be the proper word – about this gadget, and how it works. It’s not that she doubts the value of the thing – we’re in the middle of nowhere, and using it to get to a destination in the shortest time, after all. And she has indicated she wants one in her next car. Perhaps the bumfuzzilment isn’t about the gadget. I suspect, based on our conversations about this and other things, that she considers my willingness to suction-cup this thing to my windshield to be one of my eccentricities, of which I suspect she has a short list. We won’t enumerate those eccentricities here – if she wants to she can get her own web page.

I have always fought the idea that I’m an early adopter, but the multitude of scenes like the above in my life indicate that perhaps I am. I resist the idea that I’m an early adopter because I don’t wait in lines for things like iPhones, and I don’t buy GPS navigation systems when they’re $600 or $700 – I wait until they’re more like $300. But as my occasional contacts with normal people like my friend indicate, I’m still an early adopter all right, I’m just not quite out on the bleeding edge like some others I know.

You know the ones I mean. They’re the ones who ran out and got Vista before the first service pack came out (coming soon, I hear!), and Betamaxes, and HDTVs back when there were no HDTV broadcasts, and so on kodu.ut.ee. In short, they buy things before anyone’s sure they’re going to work. I forget exactly how my marketing textbooks broke these categories up, and they’ve probably put a new label on people like this since then anyway, but I call them Bleeding-Edgers, because they get cut a lot.

I think I adopt things when they get to where they’re proven, they work, and they’re a good value. I just got an .mp3 player last week, fer cryin’ out loud, and that’s another thing – I only buy stuff when I find I need it, er, when I can make a good case for it, uh – okay, so I do buy a fair number of gadgets, but I don’t feel any sense of obligation to go try everything out, and I feel that I get technology when it serves my interests, not because I have to keep up with everybody.

So – the Bleeding-Edgers get stuff because they’re so excited by it they can’t wait to find out if it works, and Early Adopters like myself get stuff once they’re sure it works and it gets kind of cheap. Naturally, the only group I can’t figure out is the Normal People. Okay, I may have waited so long on the .mp3 player that even the normal people have them, but the GPS unit still gets some looks and comments. Of course, I get comments from some people I know when I send them a .pdf file, so perhaps the only thing I’m figuring out here is that some people’s idea of “normal” is dialed back a lot further than others.

*bicyclist-speak for a hundred mile bike ride. I’m one of the coordinators of one my bike club is doing next week.

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