I wonder sometimes how people survived without modern antiseptic contraptions such as the one pictured to the left, the Katadyn water filter as offered by REI. I remember reading at some point that on the Lewis and Clark expedition in the early 1800s, the men were advised to dip their cups deep into the Missouri River waters and to avoid drinking the foamy surface waters. I don’t recall anything about dysentery on that journey.
Edward Abbey hiked the water-parched deserts around Tuscon. Somewhere in his writing he talks about available water, saying that if it was there, he would drink it. If his body didn’t like it, he’d soon know. That was the extent of his water filtering … his colon.
As a kid and younger man I hiked the mountains of Montana, mostly in the Beartooth range north and east of Yellowstone National Park. I carried with me a metal cup with a crooked handled to allow me to slip it in my belt or backpack strap. When thirsty, I would grab the cup and take water directly out of streams and lakes. I never once got sick.
The Katadyn filter might have some beneficial uses, but for the most part it is a product that is purchased and used because of irrational fear. Where did that fear come from? Advertising. Imagine that the Katadyn people met with their ad agency and were told that the product would be hard to sell. It was, after all, treating an affliction so rare and hardly anyone would need it. How would they sell it?
The ad agency advised an indirect approach. See below.
Of course, the word “rare” was never used in selling Katadyns. Fear, a common advertising technique, operates on a sublime level, present in all of us. I fell for this product, and for years carried the clumsy (and heavy when the filter is water-soaked) Katadyn filter with me. We still have it in a box somewhere in the garage, but on our recent trip to Montana and Wyoming, I simply filled a small water bottle out of streams and lakes, just as when I was a kid. No harm came my way.
The “information” campaign about Giardia coincided with the release of the Katadyn in classic create-the-problem fix-the-problem advertising. I fell for it. We are never approached directly by advertisers. They always choose the indirect (and essentially dishonest) route to get us to spend our money on things we do not need. If I lived by a river in which sewage was present, parasites would be a problem. In the mountains high up, it is not. What microorganisms are present in the waters up there are easily handled by the best filters around, our bodies.
I used to belong to a Unitarian group in our former home town of Bozeman. As usual, I was asked to be the treasurer, just as years before with the Knights of Columbus. Our group was small, perhaps eighty members. As we sat around a table one night talking budget, the problem of a database of our membership came up. I suggested any old PC and Excel, as there was already such a machine in the office.
Amazingly, one of the members got his neck hairs standing up, and insisted that the group needed a Macintosh computer. In addition to that, he said that Apple had a database program that could manage our eighty members. I could not believe my ears! Far from needing anything more than a card file, a $1,500 investment in a computer that our office gal was too dumb to use was ludicrous.
I did not prevail. Our fearless leader said that her daughter was a computer consultant, and she would talk with her on the matter. Later she made what she called an “executive decision,” and a Mac was purchased along with a database program that no one ever learned how to use. I imagine it still sits there. I do hope the office gal learned how to type a letter.
What I was unknowingly witnessing was the fallout from one of the most successful ad campaigns ever. I don’t need to say anything more than the photo seen here, “I’m a PC, I’m a Mac.” The subliminal message of this campaign was that Apple desktop computers were cool, while PCs were clunky. The fallout was the creation of a legion of very annoying people who became the de facto sales force for Apple, people who swore up and down that Macs were better products than PCs. That is why that member of our group insisted that for a a bunch of people that didn’t even need a computer, that we had to have a Mac.
When I purchased a Mac in 2012 …. yes. I fell for it … I had to be retrained. For some unknown reason, Mac’s did a few things differently, like scrolling up instead of down, said to be more logical. They were said to have eliminated the wait time after booting, an annoying feature of PCs that exists to this day. What I found with a Mac was that while the screen fired up right away, the keyboard would not work until the boot process was over. They were messing with us. I use Quickbooks, an excellent program designed for PCs. There was a version for Macs that must have been assembled in Jobs’ and Wozniak’s garage, a piece of barely usable garbage. Yeah, I bought that too.
I struggled for a few months, and then gave it up. The Mac now resides in my wife’s office, and she is OK with it. She performs a few activities like internet and email, and any old computer will do. I returned to my PC because, in my opinion, PCs are better products than Macs. My wife now uses Quickbooks on this machine, a PC, because it is so much smoother.
The ad campaign worked on a sublime level, getting people to associate a clunky product with “cool,” while PCs were relegated to the nerd bin. It is true that Microsoft is not as good at marketing as Apple. If you don’t believe that, just ask Cortana. “Cortana”? Really? Cortana? Who names their kid Cortana? Bill Gates?
I’ll never forget the words of my stepson, who is in advertising, as I recounted my fight with the Mac and return to PC. He said “So advertising doesn’t work, right?”