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Should I feel bad about my portable electronics?

  1. Jun 19, 2008 #1
    I carry my cell phone and my ipod nano around with me literally everywhere I go. Both of them require charging about every other day. I have been thinking about upgrading to a more expensive ipod with video capabilities. But if I do upgrade, I think I would feel really guilty about my contribution to the impending energy crises. I mean, is it sustainable for everyone in the world to carry around all of these personal electronic devices that make them more comfortable and stimulated and "connected" while they are walking around? Where is the limit to how much electronics people will carry? I am by no means an expert in the field, but I imagine that it is quite inefficient to carry a little television/min-computer/cell-phone/mp3 player with you as opposed to just using it while it is connected to a flowing power source. Does anyone have an idea of what the energy cost is of such portable electronic devices compared to non-mobile ones?
  2. jcsd
  3. Jun 19, 2008 #2
    Buy an Iphone and now you can do all of it in one! I hate things in my pockets, so I only have a cell phone and wallet. I really dont need to have music in my ears walking down the street. I dont understand the point of having an IPOD in your ear as you walk to/from classes. Kids just wanna fit in looking 'cool'.
  4. Jun 19, 2008 #3
    My PDA can do just about anything I need and then some. I could upgrade to a larger flash memory card and have about 4 gigs of music on my phone if I wanted to, then no need for an mp3 player.
  5. Jun 19, 2008 #4
    Are you really worried about how much electricity your personal electronics use up? A 60 watt light bulb on for 4 minutes will use up the same amount of electricity as my cell phone battery can hold.

    (60 watts) * 4 minutes = 14 400 joules

    My cell phone battery is rated at 950mAh at 3.7 volts
    (950 milliamperes) * (1 hour) * (3.7 volts) = 12 654 joules

    EDIT: I guess I misunderstood you... Why are you worried about the difference between using personal electronics when plugged in as opposed to just charging it then using it?
  6. Jun 19, 2008 #5
    I feel the same way. I can't stand having things or any weight in my pockets. I have an ipod but for some reason walking around with it playing in my ear is very distracting to whats going on around me... akin to trying to watch a movie while driving. The dangling wires are also distracting along with all the bluetooth devices that are strapped to your ear. The only time I really listen to my ipod, is when it's plugged into my cars radio, or if i'm riding on a long trip somewhere, even then I usually choose to read instead.
  7. Jun 19, 2008 #6
    I know I am a little weird, but I don't see why you need an ipod. I've lived these past 22 years just fine without one, and I use my cell phone like a home phone so it stays at home unless I'm out driving. I think at some point you need to ask yourself what is really important and not just what apple wants you to feel good about having, sorry to play the anti-consumerism card.

    To respond to the OP though, I have no idea what you mean between the power difference between a battery-operated pack and one plugged into the wall; I really doubt the losses from a battery are substantial.
    Last edited: Jun 19, 2008
  8. Jun 19, 2008 #7
    Does anyone know the power consumption difference between portable devices and their non-portable counterparts? I would think that an mp3 player most likely uses less power than an at home stereo. Your cell probably uses more than your basic at home phone but it's also a digital phone book and you can send and receive your e-mail from it ect.
  9. Jun 19, 2008 #8


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    In fact, it is not so much the amount of electronics you carry around, as their power consumption that might, eventually, all else equal, be a problem (but... see further). Well, I guess that a safe upper limit of power consumption of portable electronics must be below some KW. Otherwise you'd have to carry too big a cooling apparatus with you. I think my upper limit is really a very conservative one :wink:, but it proves that there is not going to be an unlimited divergence on the power consumption of portable devices. A much more reasonable upper limit - although somewhat more open to discussion, hence the utility of the former, conservative one of a few KW - is probably a few tens of watts, because that's already a lot of heat from a small package. Most portable devices are more on the few watt level or less.

    Now, your typical household has a typical electricity consumption of around 1 KW year average (1 KW during one year is 8760 KW-hour per year, as there are 8760 = 365 x 24 hours in a year). Look at http://www.eia.doe.gov/emeu/recs/recs2001/enduse2001/enduse2001.html

    (it's a bit old, 2001, I know, but I didn't find anything more recent)

    So you are worrying about a 1% to a 0.1% section of consumption.
  10. Jun 19, 2008 #9


    Staff: Mentor

    If your cell phone saves you one car trip to and from the grocery store then you have probably justified it energy-wise for a month or more.
  11. Jun 19, 2008 #10


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    I have the same issue. The only time I really use the iPod is when I'm planes or connected to speakers to play when I'm working at the farm. I might use it today on a car trip with someone who really seems to dislike listening to music/radio (he'll turn the radio on for a half hour to listen to NPR, and then back off again), and isn't very talkative either, so I'll need something to keep the ride from getting horribly boring. I took it with me once to go out walking, and it was too weird for me to not be able to hear things around me, like bicycles coming up from behind. And, I realized I prefer the sounds of nature anyway, so ended up turning it off partway through and never took it with me again.

    I'm not sure why people feel the need to be constantly electronically connected anymore. I think it interferes with normal social interaction when someone walks out the door but still never really leaves home because they're chatting with their parents, siblings, friends from home on the cell phone all day long, or walking around with their earbuds stuck in their ears, rather than meeting and talking to the people right in front of them in the places they've gone.

    There are some useful things. I like that I can schedule meetings on a calendar on my computer and have reminders text messaged to me so I don't miss appointments when I'm away from my computer...we used to have secretaries who's job it was to track people down and remind them of appointments, but since computers and the ability to type our own documents even if our typing skills are lousy has reduced the secretarial staff to one per department rather than one per every one or two faculty members, we need another way of getting such reminders without being chained to a desk all day.
  12. Jun 19, 2008 #11
    Actually I never use my ipod to listen to music. I listen to lectures from ITunesU. This is especially useful since my commute this summer is a 30 minute walk which can be really boring. One of the reasons why I began this thread was because I had downloading the audio of lectures from a course on algorithms and I was trying to listen to that during my commute. The video lectures are also available and I realized I was learning basically nothing because they were writing so much on the chalkboard during the class that was necessary to understand the lecture. I thought if I had an Ipod with a TV, I could actually get something out of the lectures by kind of walking and watching lectures at the same time. I hope I wouldn't walk into a tree though...
  13. Jun 19, 2008 #12
    Thats a horrible horrible idea......
  14. Jun 19, 2008 #13
    On the one hand, if you don't stop listening to your ipod, future generations will not be able to listen to their ipods. On the other hand, what have future generations ever done for us?
  15. Jun 19, 2008 #14
    Why not just ride a bicycle and cut that 30 min walk to a 10 min bike ride.
  16. Jun 19, 2008 #15
    I have a 45 minute bike ride to work every morning. I bring my mp3 player with me on it.
  17. Jun 19, 2008 #16


    Staff: Mentor

    Haha! :rofl:

    I used the same logic to justify disposable diapers. Sure they will clutter the land for my children, but it was their mess any way!
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