This is an obituary of sorts, but not the type you might expect. When I started my marketing research consulting firm of Surveys & Forecasts, LLC many years ago, I had a handful of tools that I still rely on today: a computer, a phone, and a calculator. I am most fond of my Texas Instruments TI-1795+ solar powered calculator, pictured left. It does four or five essential things remarkably well: it is very basic, almost in a pure sense.
Yes, I could use the calculator on my iPhone, but I am much less likely to make entry errors using the TI-1795+'s chunky Chiclet style keys. It is easy to hold and the display is angled and easy to read. I often find myself reaching for this basic device to crunch a formula, work a quote, or do simple math. It doesn't require a fingerprint ID, and I don't have to hunt for a calculator app. It's always there, waiting to help, anxious to work. And because it is solar powered, I am saving the planet.
The other day, some type of karma occurred when my iPhone slipped from my hand and fell onto my desk. As if to tell me it was time to enter the modern age, the corner of the iPhone landed directly on the solar collector and smashed it to bits. My poor TI-1795+ was immediately killed. The coroner ruled it suspicious.
Somehow, I feel there was a larger story here, but I can't quite put my finger on it. I have long believed that we, being creatures of habit and all things familiar, find comfort in objects that we use every day: a keyboard, a tape dispenser, a coffee maker, a handheld calculator. They become extensions of ourselves in some way.
In the case of my TI-1795+, this device has been at my side for more than 25 years. So instead of simply throwing it in the trash and moving on to my next task, I found myself feeling somewhat saddened by the loss of my close friend and work buddy. I begin to wonder whether I was losing it (my daughter always tells me that I am, but I just ignore her). Maybe my life is so narrow and so heavily influenced by work that I am missing a normal frame of reference? Or maybe I am a special snowflake who was now "over emoting"?
But perhaps there is a psychological aspect of this that needs to be explored. Maybe as marketing researchers and data scientists we can do a much better job of understanding what that connection or sense of loss really is. It is not "brand love", which is an absurd concept, but perhaps better described as a useful relationship with a physical object that, over time, accumulates emotional valence. If I were to operationally define it, I might say that it was "an object that became an extension of me or, as a parallel concept, that helped me extend myself".
I think that the most "cosmic" aspect of this was that the new technology managed to beautifully and precisely kill the old. Maybe the ultimate message here is that all things die. Sometimes that is due to obsolescence, old age, or forces that we simply cannot understand.
Fortunately, the five stages of grief took just five minutes. I didn't look back. I have made my peace, and said a fond farewell to my TI-1795+ workhorse.
I plan to go to Staples and get the new model.