Sidebar: Technology

Welcome to one of the lowest-tech new homes you're likely see. About the most sophisticated aspect of it will be the heat pump system, but even this isn't all that special, and it's based on relatively old technology.

My choice to go low-tech is not because I'm a technophobe or a Neo-Luddite; I've actually been a borderline technogeek from my earliest years. I'd always had bleeding-edge audio-visual systems (I was an early adopter of Betamax and MiniDisc), top-drawer digital photographic gear, high-end PCs, and so on. Professionally, I've been involved in desktop publishing, computer animation, audio/video production and post-production, IT systems management, software development, and many others. Plus, I'm generally very science- and technology-oriented.

That said, I'm also a major proponent of the KISS (Keep It Simple, Stupid) principal, and as such I'm adamantly opposed to making things more complicated than they need to be. Unfortunately, with the virus-like spread of ever-cheaper microprocessors and related tech, not to mention altogether too many fad-driven trends, unnecessary complexity is growing almost exponentially. Tech developers now do many things because they can and because it's profitable, not because they should or even need to.

And so, for my house I've consciously and deliberately gone very low-tech. Here are some highlights (lowlights?) and the reasons for my choices:

No cable. I don't watch television—as in broadcast or cable-distributed commercial programming. While I do have a voracious appetite for film, and enjoy a select few television series (which I purchase on disc), I saw no need for a cable connection. And cell phones have finally become robust enough to make land lines obsolete, so the only wires entering the house carry 200 amps of electricity.

No broadband. No cable also means no hardwired broadband internet access. I don't do all that much online as it is, and I don't bother with streaming. If I miss something I might like to see as a consequence, so be it; I can't get worked up about that. For the limited amount I do online, I have a hotspot tied to my cell phone account; it's proven to be perfectly adequate for my needs, and costs no more than cable-based broadband, even with unlimited data. It also means having to deal with only one big, greedy corporation instead of two.

No wiring. Other than electricity and a doorbell, the house is not wired for anything. No cable, no Cat-6, no inter-room audio/video feeds, no nothing. Besides, the trending move is towards wireless tech, so even if I did install copper, it would likely be obsolete by the time I bought into some new technology—as if that would happen.

No dish. See "no cable." Besides, being surrounded by trees, a line-of-sight shot at a satellite is probably out of the question.

No smart home devices. I absolutely abhor anything to do with smart home tech. For starters, I've always regarded anything branded "smart" as usually just the opposite. My home will be 100% "dumb" as I have absolutely zero interest in or need for any "smart" devices, many of which are utterly absurd and only serve to line corporate wallets. Not to mention that the Internet of Things is seriously frightening. Hackers are aggressively multiplying, and I refuse to put my privacy and security at risk just for the sake of being able to open or close my garage door while I'm away. For one thing, I'm almost never away. For another, I do not—and never will—own a smart phone. And before anyone uses the "you don't know until you've tried it" line on me, not long ago I bought a top-of-the-line smart phone... and returned it after a week. I couldn't stand it. Having worked as a user interface design consultant, I can assert professionally that the UIs of most apps are frustratingly abysmal. /rant

Not even a "learning" thermostat. It's just me and my cats, at home 99.9% of the time. A Nest or other smart thermostat is really overkill; a simple, "old-fashioned" electronic setback timer is more than adequate.

Sadly, no solar. I'd have enthusiastically opted for solar power, but I live in the woods, where solar panels are pretty much useless. While this is regrettable, given a choice between trees and cheaper electricity, I'll take the former every single time.

On the other hand... I'm considering an EV as my next mode of transportation, possibly a Chevrolet Bolt, although I find most new cars waaay too gadget-laden; infotainment systems (essentially giant dash-mounted smart phones—see "no smart home devices" for what I think of these) have become needlessly complex and dangerously distracting. All the same, I'm installing support for a 240-volt charging station in advance.

I've had more than a few people offer recommendations about making the house easier to resell. Some of these folks simply forget this is absolutely my last home, and as such, why should I care one bit about resale value? Usually, once that sinks in, they get it. Others chuckle and smirk—that "I know better than you" look of self-assumed superiority—as they launch into a laundry list of reasons why I need to do things differently because they understand the market, and the statistical chances that I'll move again, etcetera, etcetera, blah blah blah. These people do not have ears: they don't/won't hear what I'm saying. I will be here until I die.

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