All that said, I actually had answers for this week's questions, so if you're ready, gear up and read on.
1. What kind of specialized equipment do you own for a specific non-electronic hobby or job?
I have a lot of cake-decorating supplies. Without even checking my cupboards or opening up the large tackle box that many of them are stored in, I can think of the following:
- straight-sided heavy-gauge aluminum cake pans in various sizes, plus bake-even strips, a baking core for the really deep pans, and a cake-leveler for fixing things after the fact
- various novelty pans, including bowling pins, a penguin, a guitar, and Barney the dinosaur
- cake boards, including some sturdy ones the Man cut special for me, and a big roll of fancy-schmancy foil to cover them
- a lazy-Susan-style turntable (makes frosting ever so much easier)
- special ingredients (like powdered vanilla) to flavor buttercream frosting without darkening it, then a range of paste food colorings (a jar of which seems to last for ever) to tint it
- angled icing spatulas in a couple sizes, and frosting towels (some people just use paper towels) for smoothing
- piping bags in various sizes, couplers in at least two, and soooo many piping tips (aka tubes) for writing, making borders, crafting flowers, dropping leaves, etc. Also, tiny tip brushes to clean them out!
- miscellaneous decorating stuff like icing combs, flower nails, a flower lifter (looks like angled plastic scissors), templates for dropped & piped scallops, writing guides, etc. Oh, and the aforementioned tackle box for storage.
- plates, pillars, and wooden dowels for constructing tiered cakes
- a tub of transparent piping gel always in the fridge (yes, I replace it periodically) for shiny images and writing
- various Wilton method books, none of them terribly modern
2. In what way can this equipment be upgraded or souped-up, and how difficult or expensive would the update be?
Frankly, home-kitchen cake decorating, even if you aspire to have all the stuff, is a pretty low-tech hobby. Nothing named above is a precision instrument or a machine requiring a motor, and lots of it can be done without (or substituted for by "close enough" implements that anyone might already own). And the majority of even the most essential/super-specialty items on my list are cheap plastic or insubstantial metal pieces. Of the things named above, only the largest pans, the books, and the tackle box cost more than $20 each to buy (my sturdy turntable was a gift, or it also would have set me back). The accumulated lot of it represents a sizable investment, but if a cake decorating thief took it all tomorrow, I could probably replace the core items for under $250 total.
That said, conspicuously absent from my list are any fondant tools. Fondant wasn't really a thing when I was learning cake decorating in the 1980s and '90s, and I happen to hate the taste of it, so I have remained a proud buttercream-only girl. If I were to add fondant to my repertoire, I could imagine an initial outlay of $100 for the tools.
Also missing is an airbrush (I never saw the need), which Amazon tells me can set a person back anywhere from $60 to $250 (I expect I'd buy something in the middle, than chide myself for not going top-of-the-line). I have no idea what airbrush accessories cost, though.
3. In your fields of interest, what's the gear envy like?
I'm gonna stick with cake decorating for this answer. As stated above, home-kitchen cake decorating is a low-tech hobby whose implements are relatively cheap. I guess the serious practitioners might envy one another's super-special pans or fondant knives or airbrushes, but I don't live in that world.
4. What’s something you own the old version of because it’s better than the new version?
I guess I don't have to stick with cake decorating for this answer, though I have already indicated that I am committedly "old-school" (buttercream-only) because the newer way (sculpting everything out of fondant) produces a yucky-tasting result. And yes, I suppose that's not so much a gear thing as a technique thing, but it's the same principle.
I often hang onto old versions of software *and* hardware, not necessarily because some new one is worse, but because the new one doesn't offer enough benefits to make it worth the trouble of learning to use. I was possibly the last person to give up WordPerfect (which *did* have some superior features -- *cough* "show codes" *cough* -- but was mostly beloved by me because I learned it first) for MS Word, and I would still have a flip phone (cheap, compact, adequate to my basic needs, and neither a time-sink nor a temptation to be rude in public) if I hadn't lost my last one two years ago.
Oh, and here's a weird one. Back in the day (the 1970s, if you must know), I read C.S. Lewis' "Narnia" books as God intended that all series fiction should be read: in publication order. The books were always issued in sets with numbering that reflected that order. Then, some time in the 1980s, British publishers started numbering the series according to its internal chronology, and this became the worldwide standard after 1994. Yes, there is a reason for it, but to my mind it is a bogus one. My old pb set is wearing out, but I refuse to own a set with the new numbering. Not only that, but I actively try to dissuade people from following the new reading order (when the subject comes up, which is admittedly seldom).
[ETA -- I have now read some other responders' answers, and it amuses me that I didn't include paper books, CDs, and DVDs in the list above. I guess I can't yet think of them as having been superseded by their digital-download alternatives. But that reminds me of another one that I can admit applies to me: watching current network TV shows "over the airwaves" on their actual day and time of broadcast (with commercials), as opposed to DVR-ing or streaming later, or even waiting to binge whole seasons over non-network-TV services, etc. The new way has many features to recommend it (dodging commercials! setting one's own schedule!), but I am very accustomed to the old way, and it, too, has points in its favor. For instance, right now, I am super thrilled when Monday rolls around, because that is Elementary day! And I try to make sure I have nothing else going on, to the extent that I'd turn down most offers and dodge all calls, just to be seated in my living room when it starts. Now, anything that can turn Monday into a destination day of the week has to be a good thing, right?]
5. What's a hobby you don't engage in that intrigues you mostly because of its equipment or tools?
And we return to that guy-girl thing I mentioned in my opening paragraph! I just can't get excited about tools and gear and such, except as means to some end that excites me. If I am ever tempted to add a new hobby, it'll either be because the *result* is appealing to me or because the type of labor involved looks like it would meet a therapeutic need. For example, I might learn to knit so I could make a pretty scarf or because my fat fingers needed the work-out, but not so I could play with needles.