Products Are Bad, But These Products Are Good

Angela Lashbrook
10 min readJan 8, 2021
Color Print of a Copperplate Picture of a Toy Shop, 1860. Utagawa (Gountei) Sadahide. Courtesy of the Metropolitan Museum of Art

2020 was ripe with horrible lessons, a real year of realizing things, but one of my most annoying and rather late realizations was finally understanding that products suck.

Stuff is bad. The stuff on the shelf, bad. The stuff on my Pinterest board, awful. The shit in my Target cart, abominations. Why do I need to buy a whole new food processor when only the top is broken? Why is all my new Abercrombie loungewear already fraying after less than a year of ownership? (To be fair, I live in my sweatpants now, but come on!)

Still, there are a few purchases I made in 2020 that I don’t regret with the whole of my being. As I spent much of the past year completely disassociated, below are the purchases significant enough that I actually remembered them.

My Alphasmart Neo 2, $30ish

Well, this one’s easy. I’m working on a book (who isn’t), and this dated piece of technology has, I’m not joking, at least doubled my word count. I wrote 1500 words about why I love it so much, so you should go read that, but in short: for anyone who struggles to focus on their writing projects because of the enticing circus that is the internet, I highly recommend an Alphasmart word processor, an early 2000s device that was originally designed to teach kids how to type. It’s better for drafting than editing, which means it’s not so good for journalism and other research-heavy writing, but brilliant for getting the pages down on a first draft of a creative project. I got mine for about $30 on eBay, though it looks like the prices have climbed a bit since spring.

A light-up pizza binder, $7.99

Prior to this purchase, my hundreds of printed recipes were stashed haphazardly in a thin black binder I used for my college thesis. It wasn’t up to the task, in particular because when I moved from SF to NYC in 2016, I left behind my three-ring hole punch. I have suffered ever since.

Angela Lashbrook

I’m a columnist for OneZero, where I write about the intersection of health & tech. Also seen at Elemental, The Atlantic, VICE, and Vox. Brooklyn, NY.