Tom Gardiner

2022 - A Year of Analogue

At the start of last year I stated that, for me, 2021 would be a "year of calm". Considering everything that happened in the previous year, I was tired of grinding my teeth and rushing about everywhere.

How Did It Go?

Well, I moved out of my Dad's house, got a mortgage of my own, became our team's tech lead at work, quit my job (starting a new one after my notice period), but also rarely left the house. Aside from some very specific mishaps involving grey squirrels, the usual stress in the lead-up to Christmas of buying presents, and some work things, 2021 was generally very relaxed.

My Facebook account no longer exists. When I deleted it in February, I had already stopped using it for a couple of years at that point, but was still an admin for a couple Facebook Pages so kept it around. After moving house and transferring ownership of the Pages, deleting my Facebook account felt like a fresh start, free from the shackles of a centralised social media platform (he says, willingly spending a lot of time on Discord, YouTube, and Twitch). To add to this, I added as many Facebook domains as I could to my Pi-Hole DNS server, so that any traffic to their servers is completely and utterly blocked. Never to be seen again!

I was able to buy a VR kit/headset, and now do regular, intentional exercise for the first time in my life! Despite how good exercise makes you feel, I have never liked the thought of paying for a gym membership and working out in front of other people, and Beat Saber* has completely removed any friction in the exercise process. I've still definitely gained weight, due to the lack of leaving the house, but at least I get regular cardio, now!

* Yes, Beat Saber is owned by Oculus, who are subsequently owned by Facebook/Meta. Let's not worry about the specifics for now!

I also became completely infatuated with the idea of owning physical CDs and merchandise, and went mad on collecting several K-pop artists' and groups' discography. There is already a strong case for owning a copy of your own media as opposed to relying on subscription services, which I might write about one day, so I was more than happy to make this a hobby of mine. With that being said, it took me until the very end of December to finally get a hi-fi system to even be able to play them in the first place! Furthermore, I am now very aware of the increasing amount of waste in the world right now, and buying pre-orders and new copies of CDs may be a mistake on my behalf. All the components for the hi-fi I bought were used off eBay from the late 80's or early 90's, arguably the peak of audio technology, and they will hopefully be put to good use for years to come.

There is still some more work to do in order to achieve a zen-like calm, but overall I am very happy with how things are going. Hopefully, this year, it's time for more documented change, for the better.

What's Next Year's Theme?

This year, I wish to take the removal of social media one step further, by introducing the "Year of Analogue". Remembering what CGP Grey said in 2020 - "New Year's resolutions suck" - my goal is to slowly remove digital items from my life.

As a developer, this concept sounds ludicrous, but even in my spare time I spend so much time glued to my desk that it's becoming very unhealthy. I would like to spend more time with people in-person (which, in 2022, also sounds ludicrous, but I have a safe bubble. Also, by the time I do any meeting, I will have been vaccinated three times). Furthermore, now that I do live in Scotland, there are activities I spoke about in last year's post which I would finally like to take advantage of.

More specifically, here are a list of things I would like to potentially work towards, as I think about them now:

  • Spend time away from the computer: Not every waking moment has to be glued to a screen, you know! There is, however, a reason I do, currently. In order to want to spend more time away from my computer, I need to make the house I live in more of a home. This is a continuation from last year's theme, where I expressed a concern of spending too much time on my phone.
  • Turn this house into a home: Replacing cold, hard tiles with carpets; building a shed and finally moving my bike from the living room; setting up an area specifically designed to listen to music, drink tea, and have fun with activities that don't require a screen.
  • Film photography: Considering the general theme is "Analogue", I thought this would tie everything together perfectly. I have been introduced to film photography by my friend, Chris; Destin, from Smarter Every Day; Alec, from Technology Connections, and recently went through old family photos from the early noughties. The transition to digital was hard hitting and quite upsetting to see. These old film photos look incredible next to the noisy, low resolution digital camera photos, and I would like to take more memorable photos compared to what's stored on my phone.
  • Tinker with electronics: Despite it still involving electricity, and eventually digital components, I still considering this "analogue". I will be using my hands, and tools, to build something together from scratch. There are a few projects I have in mind that will help this idea, specifically - a doorbell which sends my devices a notification (yes, alright, this is quite digital), and investigating and experimenting with how analogue synthesizers work, and potentially creating my own from scratch (I mean, it's all just a bunch of oscillators at the end of the day, right? Hopefully I am not too far off).
  • Less chiptune, more "proper" music: I already have a "proper" song, ready to go! I have been itching to slowly move away from 8-bit/chiptune for the last two years, and would desperately like to finish more music like this. At some point I would like to be the proud owner of a piano (yes, alright, this will be digital as well, but at least it's not on the computer!), thereby completing the full set of real instruments I wish to play, so far. I bought an electric guitar last year, something I've never truly owned, and I love it. One day, when I move into a detatched house, away from any potential neighbours, that will be the day I go for an actual, hammer-hitting-string-for-real piano.

Normally, this would be quite a lot of work cut out for me, but knowing that it's a theme, and not a goal, I'm not particularly concerned if I don't work on any of these ideas by the end of the year. As long as I have made some progress towards preventing the computer take up the majority of my waking hours, it's absolutely a success.

Consider a theme for yourself, please - what can you do without immediately setting yourself up for disappointment? Something that is broad and easy to work towards, while still helping you achieve the place you want to be, physically and mentally, in life.