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My House Is a Time Machine

by on April 16, 2017 5:00 AM

Retirement has led to changes in my life which now include selling my home in State College and moving more than five decades of stuff to the family compound on Little Pine Creek. Life seems to be a period of accumulating followed by one of distributing things, or downsizing.  

I have reluctantly arrived at the downsizing phase of life, and I am amazed by the timeline of technological development that my collection embodies. Technologies arrive and are supplanted with better, faster and cheaper methods which are then supplanted by even better technology. Companies that were stock market darlings for their breakthroughs in one era rarely make the leap to the next technology. Most die as their products are replaced by the “new and improved.”

I began collecting stuff in the 1950s. Going through it all is something of a time machine. Like most teenagers, I was an avid consumer of music and had a great collection of 45 rpm records and an RCA player that sat atop my mom’s floor model radio, plugged into the preamp. I still have those 45s. In college I moved on to 33-1/3 LPs. I still have a turntable so I can play those great artists’ ancient recordings. I somehow avoided the 8-track era and skipped directly to cassette tapes and a Sony Walkman. This was followed by compact discs which stole the market from tapes and vinyl records. 

I unearthed my first iPod which, at the time, held an astounding 1000-plus songs. Most recently, I bought my wife the Amazon Alexis, which plays music from the cloud, when my internet connection is working correctly. The business of purchasing music has transitioned from various forms of plastic products to a virtual service residing in the cloud.

I also have a video entertainment time machine, beginning with video tapes and my VCR to a nice batch of DVDs, Blu-ray discs and a Blu-ray player. Now people have Netflix on their phones to watch almost whatever they please.

I recall the 8-inch floppy disks for my TRS-80 Model II system. They were followed by the 3.5-inch disks, and then an Iomega 100-megabit ZIP disk. It is not with a small amount of awe that I consider my latest laptop has a terabyte of hard drive storage and my various tablets have huge flash memory. By comparison, the computer technology shifts have come in in what feels like rapid-fire succession.

As for my collection of books, many have been donated but many I cannot bear to part with just yet. (I also had a great collection of comic books, but Mom cleaned these out long before they would have financed my retirement.*) These days I have five tablets ranging from Kindles to iPads which hold my collection of electronic books.

Amateur photography and video have been replaced by our smartphones.  So much for my Kodak film camera, Polaroid instant camera, video camcorder, and miniature tape camcorder.

Outside of facing the fact that I have a lot of stuff, this weeding out has crystallized that we live in a rapidly changing world where technology is offering better, faster, lighter and cheaper ways to do the things humans value. Brilliant innovators at the high-tech companies are pushing the envelope ever forward. Which technology will become dominant, which companies will flourish and which will fail? These are great questions for your portfolio manager. Like my dad used to say, “What will they think of next?”  

*Comic books are not an appropriate or reliable retirement vehicle

 



Dan Nestlerode was previously the Director of Research and Portfolio Management at Nestlerode & Loy Investment Advisors in State College. He retired in 2015 after 50 years in the investment business. A graduate of Penn State University, Nestlerode became an investment advisor in 1965. He can be reached at danielj@nestlerode.com.
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