Novelty Necessity or No Big Deal

imageI was sitting at a bar last Saturday and a friend of mine asked me if I had ever seen a 3D TV. I haven’t, other than the ones on display in Sears. I saw those, but I was actually there to buy socks. Anyway, he started to explain that this client of his had one and he let my friend watch part of a movie to see what it was like. My friend described donning the special glasses, navigating to the 3D channel on the remote and flicking the 3D switch on the glasses.

Boom, it was like you were in the movie” my friend exclaimed. So I asked him: “are you going to get one?” “No” he said, “who needs that?

3D TV is in the novelty stage. That’s where people who have the latest and greatest gadgets scarf things up regardless of cost. These people are “Early adopters” according to the Technology adoption lifecycle. 3D TV may never make it to the stage of being an ‘early majority,’ lots of people may consider it too much work to own one. You have to wear glasses, keep the glasses charged, buy the 3D channels, etc. Others just aren’t that impressed with television. The guys who study this stuff would call those people Laggards, but I think ‘laggards’ can only be applied to technology that is generally considered to be a necessity. If I don’t want a 3D TV, I’m not a laggard.

Those of us who work in the world of high-tech computer stuff think of Geoffrey Moore when we hear the term early adopter. I heard Mr. Moore speak once, and he explained how it’s sometimes hard to “move the market” from the early adopters to an early majority. That problem is the basis for his book “Crossing the Chasm.” But, it turns out that the technology adoption work started way before computer technology was looking for adopters or majorities. This body of work started in the late 1950’s at Iowa State University and it was focused on the adoption of hybrid seed corn by farmers – who knew? OK, I’m sure my brother knew. He attended ISU, he taught history in Ames, IA and he generally knows stuff like this.

If I were to try and explain “Crossing the Chasm” to him, he would probably say “that sounds like some work they did here back in the 50’s” and then I would sigh and quietly admonish myself for not paying enough attention to history.

Depending on the technology, I move between the early and late majority groups. I was an early adopter of personal computer technology when my job required it and my employer was paying for it. By the mid 1990’s, we pulled back to the safer, cheaper, early majority because we no longer needed the latest and greatest thing. The thing we had was still good enough when those new things were hitting the shelves. As for TVs, I doubt we will ever have a 3D TV in our house. First off, my wife is blind in one eye so the whole 3D thing really doesn’t work for her. Second, I’m one of the laggards who isn’t all that impressed with TV programs today. Oddly enough, we probably won’t ever adopt hybrid corn either. My wife prefers to grow heirloom varieties in her vegetable garden.image

My wife had a shot at being an early adopter of Cell Phones though. I bought her a bag-phone back in 1989. I wanted her to have it because there were no pay phones on the route she drove taking our daughter to school. Still, she wasn’t yacking up a storm at 15¢ a minute. The phone was a necessity, but only during emergencies. I didn’t buy a cell phone for many years after she had one, but when cell phones became Smart Phones, I zoomed passed her on the adoption curve.

imageI have a theory that all this talk about patterns of adoption, who leaps and who lags blurs a critical element related to technology. Technology adoption (as judged by sales) spikes artificially in some cases because you have to have more than one of a particular technology. Computers have reached that point (it’s virtually impossible to fix a PC without having a 2nd PC handy), and apparently, so has Internet access.

Last week, when I was trying to restore my Internet access, both service providers (COX and AT&T) assumed that I had Internet access. When I called COX for technical support with my Internet access, they suggested I try the support forum on their website. When I called AT&T for help with my Air Card, they directed me to their website to download new drivers. When I said: “my other Internet connection is also broken” both service reps suggested that I fix that one and then call them back. Actually, I guess that’s not too different than corn. I don’t think you can grow hybrid corn from hybrid corn; you need other corn to create hybrid seed corn.

Perhaps someday we’ll get to the point where, in order to fix your 3D TV you’ll need to put on the glasses and tune a 2nd 3D TV to a special station where an actor will demonstrate the required steps. If we reach that point 3D TV will have become a necessity, but seriously, who needs that?


  1. Pictures – I was there for socks, but we do like buying appliances and TVs from Sears. We still have this bag phone, but I can’t find it. This picture is by Trent021 (Wikipedia Commons) and it is shown there as free to use under a Creative Commons license – thanks Trent! The people who really study adoption don’t consider the Necessity/No-big-Deal possibilities so I drew this myself. I think you could have guessed that.


  2. I’ll wait for prices to come down and like you said, TV programming these days is nothing to jump up and down about – so why bother? That way, I won’t even have to worry about getting the darn thing fixed.:)


    1. I love your comments Bob! I do still shop at Sears. I love Sears but then, I’m a laggard. When I think of your car phone, I picture Joe Manix. I think Peggy would have been calling. Did you have to go through an operator to use that?


  3. I don’t want a 3D television. I didn’t even want the HD television. For several weeks after we bought the HD television, I felt my vision was tripping me out. Then I played a video game on this giant HD sucker and got scared! I am so not trendy and cool. I prefer my reality seems larger than life, and my televisions NOT.
    I too, have had the experience of it being suggested that I check the online help site while my internet is down.
    Don’t even get me started on the corn! LOL


    1. Haha. I have an HD TV but I often watch the non-HD channels because some of the stuff I like isn’t in the HD line up and they are offset by 1,000 channel numbers. Thanks for the comment.


  4. Well, you can call me the ultimate early adopter – generally. However, we have recently broken a 4 year record of “not having a TV”. I was persuaded by “she who must be obeyed” – SWMBO from now on – that we should go back to having one. We bought a Samsung TV at what we thought was a really good price. When we got it home, we found that we had bought a 3D TV. Keen to try it, we bought a 3D Blueray (see the pounds adding up now!) and a copy of the new Star Trek movie in 3D. because SWMBO had seen this in the cinema in 3D! (funny how, when I want something… but when she…). In fact it was good fun but not essential viewing – 3D that is. That is it for now. We have Gravity in 3D on order but I can’t see us doing anything more along those lines. We both like to do stuff while we watch TV so the glasses stop that. Also, we have found since getting a TV recently that we only watch reruns of our favourite programs and that modern TV su***.


    1. “she who must be obeyed” – SWMBO – I’ve used that term ever since you introduced it to us. I didn’t even think about wanting to do something else while watching. Thanks.


  5. When I had my own Banking Front Office software company back in the late 1980s, I was the originating programmer so, in the early days, I was the one that ran out to the bank customer when there was a problem. For a time I had a pager (remember those?) but then, one day when shopping in Harrods, I saw some really compact mobile phones (I think that their dimensions were something like 9″ x 3.5″ x 0.75″ so bricks really). I spoke to my co-director and we decided to get a couple along with hands-free for the cars. Total cost? £4,500 – $7,500. Flaky? Of course. One over on everyone else? My YES! Good value for money? Probably. After we closed the company in 1992 I didn’t get another mobile for about 5 years and then in 2001 gave it to my daughter. I got my next mobile in 2013. Does that still make me an early adopter? Not sure.


  6. I smiled when I read your post because my home is divided between the high tech guys and the not so high tech little me. The reason we came to the US is because of the French reluctance to move on with new technologies. When we were new in California my husband dragged me to Fry’s electronics. I admired the Western decor while he got lost in the aisles and his dreams. Despite my ignorance, I got an email adress very early and we had our own domain as early, which turned to a great thing when I created my website.
    We didn’t have a TV in France because there were only three channels and we were just too busy. We bought one when we arrived in the States, hoping it would help us to improve our English. If it were that easy! Plus I agree that the quality of the programs is not so great. So a 3 D TV set is not for me. I’d rather go to the movies.
    So I guess I’m a late adopter but I admire the work behind the technologies that keep showing up.


  7. Thanks, I always like bringing smiles to people. My wife is a late adopter. But she agreed when we added a domain as a way to prevent having to tell everyone what our “new” address was, every time our Internet provider changed the domain we could use.


  8. I love that last image. Lol all too true. Even my husband and myself, who have fought valiantly against technological monarchy in our home, each have a laptop, each an iPad, and iPhones, although not in the least the most upgraded versions. I simply refuse to be Apple’s “bitch”. :/ it is difficult to fathom being disconnected but we could do it and have, when we were in Costa Rica, in bits and pieces. Great post.


  9. LOL, Justin, My bestie and I had a rather interesting discussion about the content of this post… lol HE IS an ‘“Early Adopter” – he knows just about everything about anything new that is coming out in technology, particularly with reference to the accessibility features as he is completely blind in one eye and mostly blind in the other…

    Admittedly, I did enable the behaviour by getting him an Apple TV 3 (which I have subsequently also fallen in love with) … We have 3 Televisions LCD and 2 plasmas that are over 50cms in our house.

    No 3D’s will make their way through the door (in the next 5 years).. *Coughs Coughs*


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