The proud, the many, the suckers.

Don't Be a Tech Sucker

Barry Ritholtz is a Bloomberg View columnist. He founded Ritholtz Wealth Management and was chief executive and director of equity research at FusionIQ, a quantitative research firm. He blogs at the Big Picture and is the author of “Bailout Nation: How Greed and Easy Money Corrupted Wall Street and Shook the World Economy.”
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The human capacity for making bad decisions about technology seems to be limitless. In many ways, this parallels bad approaches to trading and investing: Lots of unfounded rumors, emotional decision-making, poor risk-reward analysis, an inability to perform simple math.

The spasms of technology silliness surrounding the iPhone 6 are just the latest in a never-ending stream going back to theIBM 5100 Portable Computer. You should learn to watch all such foolishness with detached bemusement -- and always from a distance.

It isn't that I am not a gadget head; I have been an Apple fan since using my first Mac Classic back in the 1980s. For context, see this ATPM column from 1998, about the time it looked like Apple was going to take the long dirt nap.

When it comes to making bad choices, things are no different today than they were 25 years ago. Sure the technology is infinitely better, but the same sorts of bugs are ever-present in the hypercomplex software that drives these products. The key difference between today and back then is that a) we have decades of experience showing us what NOT to do, and 2) so many people are so willing to pay good money to be beta testers for the tech giants.

No thanks. When it comes to buying the latest and greatest technology, consumers should recall that it is the proverbial second mouse that gets the cheese. (You know what happens to the first mouse).

As a consumer, you have no obligation to endure these snafus. Whether it's bendable iPhones, operating-system glitches or bad security, all it takes is a little bit of intelligence and patience to avoid the predictable headaches.

Don't be a technology sucker.

This should be pretty self–explanatory, but given the lack of awareness that suckers inevitably suffer from, perhaps an example is in order: Let’s say you are a Brooklyn hipster, who favors skinny jeans and just bought the new iPhone 6. A sucker would put that iPhone in his back pocket, go to brunch somewhere in Dumbo, then sit on the phone, causing it to bend.

The problem isn't that the ultra-thin aluminum-cased smart phone is defective -- it's that you are a sucker. For a better technology experience, just try to be less of a sucker in the future.

For everyone else, you just have to remember the three basic tech rules:

1) Don’t be the earliest adopter of anything;

2) All technology eventually gets faster/cheaper/smaller/better over time;

3) Before doing anything with any operating system of any device, back up your precious text, photos and music. And no, the cloud doesn't count. Use a wholly separate device for storage.

If you briefly ponder the past few decades of technology innovation, you will recognize the simple truth of these rules.

Every new technology, from the PC to smart phones to the latest software apps all go through a period of debugging and refinement after they come to market. Why? Because software is never, ever finished. If a company waited for the code to be done, it would never sell a single unit. Given the massive complexity of the devices we use, there is always some unanticipated conflict or bug. That 0.01 percent error rate on a device like the iPhone 6 that sold 10 million units the first weekend still means 1,000 people are going to have serious issues. The expression “real programmers ship” reflects the ethos of getting it out the factory door and doing the debugging repairs later.

Congratulations on paying for the privilege of being the sucker who volunteers to help identify all those software glitches.

As to those folks who used their vacation days to wait on line for the privilege of buying one of the first iPhones, they too are suckers. Every single one of them. The rest of the world didn't have to wait online, got the same phones a few weeks later -- only without most of the major issues. Those who elect to wait six months or a year will get an even better phone for less money.

It's 2014 -- PCs have been around for more than three decades; we are up to the sixth-generation iPhone, and third-generation tablets. How many of these snafus do you need to witness before you might recall that this is a process fraught with error potential?

This column does not necessarily reflect the opinion of Bloomberg View's editorial board or Bloomberg LP, its owners and investors.

To contact the author on this story:
Barry L Ritholtz at britholtz3@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor on this story:
James Greiff at jgreiff@bloomberg.net