In Praise of Anticipation (or, A Geek's Christmas)

December 25, and a fair chunk of the SlashGear audience is probably ripping off brightly covered wrapping paper and getting to grips with a new toy or two. It's a day when crossed fingers, letters to Santa and heavily dropped hints finally come to fruition, and the tech plaything of your dreams hopefully ends up in your sweaty grasp. All that anticipation, building up to something shiny to play with. Maybe I'm unusual but for me, sometimes, the anticipation is better than the gadget itself.

Perhaps it's geek-masochism, but I've always found the run-up to a new gadget is more exciting than the thing itself generally turns out to be. The research, planning and mental-juggling involved, as you hunt out new reviews or keenly scan through spec sheets and make up comparison checklists. Yes, there's plenty of joy to be had in finally signing for delivery, ripping open the box and marvelling at whatever it is you've treated yourself to (or, even better, been treated to courtesy of someone else's wallet), but the run-up to it can be equally pleasurable.

Sometimes its the tardiest of products that can be the most rewarding, if you're similarly addicted to the tech foreplay. Notion Ink's Adam is perhaps the most topical, with twelve months of build-up, but it's certainly not the first. Sony Ericsson's P800 was a lengthy tease, but it only made the excitement that much greater when it eventually arrived in stores and I could finally upgrade. Would I have been so keen – or, indeed, have stuck with the often-flawed P800 experience – if I hadn't built up that swell of anticipation beforehand?

I once made the mistake of telling the SlashGear team about my love of instruction manuals; I'm one of the few people who actually enjoys reading them. I can remember, a Christmas many years ago, pestering my parents not to have early access to my new HiFi (it was a JVC and had a 6-disc CD changer and a tape deck) but just to the user guide so I could eagerly pore over them until December 25 came around.

Perhaps unsurprisingly, the rest of the SlashGear team – despite being huge geeks in their own rights – teased me mercilessly for even considering glancing at the manual. But I can't help it: there's something about the anticipation of having a new gadget, of imagining hitting the button combinations that program a 6-disc multitrack playlist (or something slightly more modern, if you prefer) that taps into the same enthusiasm I get from researching potential new purchases.

I don't have the JVC any more – the CD changer seized up and refused to give me back my Jamiroquai disc, which with hindsight I see was a last-ditch attempt at good taste before it spun its last. I still have the memories of the gleeful anticipation, though, perhaps even more rewarding than the HiFi itself. After all, slot in a CD, punch some buttons and there's your excitement over with; the real thing couldn't live up to the promise my imagination had built up. Sometimes, too, the gadget itself simply underperforms: the Sony Ericsson LiveView should've been brilliant, but patchy performance and underwhelming functionality meant the reality fell well short of the hype.

Happily, we have the biggest anticipation-generator of the year just around the corner: CES 2011 in January. We've been tracking the rumors, leaks and teasers for months now, as companies ramp up to announce what might be under your tree come the 2011 holidays. Twelve months more anticipation, twelve months of poking through manuals and gleaning first-impressions. Much will turn out to be junk, a fair amount won't even make it to the shelves, but if you're a geek like me who loves the chase as much as anything else, that's all part of the game.

Merry Christmas if you celebrate it; Happy Saturday if you don't.