Saturday, May 21, 2011

What is obsolete?

Eliminating what I don't need, despite the waste!
Way back in 1999 we bought our first computer. A Compaq Presario It was very exciting. I can't remember why we bought it, there was something about spreadsheets, word documents but mainly I think I thought it would be cool, and I could veg out and play video games. We wanted something that would retain it's usefulness for years to come. We were both working so could afford a decent machine and they weren't as cheep as they are now. It was a big investment and we fell for the hype that we just had to have one... I think back then we also bought a big TV too!

Looking back I can't believe how much we paid for our machine, but we were assured that this model would outlast most others in the market. Unlike the cheaper ones it had a DVD ROM (No burner... nobody had those!), and 2 USB ports which was also uncommon, but may prove to be handy in 'The Future' and a ZIP drive which was the mass storage hardware of the future. There was a whopping 15 Gig of space on the hard drive and it had 250 mb of RAM.

I have to say that the computer did actually change my life. At the time we got it I hadn't had any experience with typing. I used two fingers and looked at the keyboard, only staring at the screen to proof what I'd written! I was slow.
I was working as a Postie and had plenty of free time but I spent most of it playing games! Somewhere along the way I got up the nerve to leave my secure job and actually went back to school... At TAFE I learned to type and somehow found myself writing essays, reports and stuff like that. (Believe me it's not what I thought I'd be doing so long after having dropped out of school) The skills I learned using that computer enabled me to get office jobs. When I was a kid that was a big deal! I had dropped out of Tech, and never thought I'd work in an 'Office!'. I didn't really want to but that's not the point. (actually one teacher informed me that I would be unemployable)

(Now here I am dreaming about making earth bricks in a remote community...! anyway back to the computer story)

The old computer served us well for about 7 years, in that time we upgraded it with by installing more RAM, shoving in a new Hard Drive and installing a CD burner. After 7 years though it had become obsolete. It just couldn't be upgraded enough to run the programs we wanted to use, we were going to have to get a new one. This is when I realized just how wasteful we can be. PC's were designed to work like a kit. You play around with the components and build them up as you go. I thought many of the parts were meant to be interchangeable and so I expected that, I'd be able to pull out the motherboard and reinstall a new one into the box. After all it's just a box with ventilation, a power supply, and the necessary gaps and spaces for all the peripheral stuff you plug in. Well as you would guess that isn't how things work. There's a manufacturing principal called 'Planned Obsolescence' which pretty much guarantees that when they produce a new product the manufacturers make damn sure that it won't just fit into the space where your old one used to sit! A new product has to occupy it's very own space in the market and everything old must be thrown away! People must have the latest stuff! 

In the end we bought a whole new computer, even though most of the parts from the old one would have continued to work for at least a few more years! I have held onto the old machine for the past 4 years or so since we got the new one but now I've decided to get rid of it! It is such a shame. the box is still in perfect condition and it will likely end up in the land fill, not even used for scrap metal... 

I have been struggling to make sense of this sort of thing for a long time but have only now decided that it's OK that it makes no sense. Don't bother trying to understand why it's like that... it just is. Put it down to yet another crazy things people do, marvel at the colossal waste, but don't worry...  

It will all be obsolete some day. Rather than worry about it I think I'll sit under a tree and learn to tie knots in a rope. Its bound to come in handy some day, you never know when your ocky straps might snap... ;)

No comments: