We are living in a disposable world - Denny Scott editorial
A lot of companies, especially technology companies, want people to burn through their gadgets, their computers and even their vehicles (and yes, with the number of chips, computers and displays, I now consider that automakers are technology companies) to force us to buy more, but that doesn’t mean we have to listen to them.
As much as I consider myself a tech enthusiast, I very rarely, with the exception of cell phones, buy new, expensive technology. I’ve just never seen the point when you can buy used or repaired technology or scavenge and upgrade old equipment.
Over the past five years or so, I’ve made do with a refurbished Chromebook (a slimmed-down laptop designed for mostly data entry and word processing) and a defunct server computer that I changed over to a regular PC by buying a few new parts and scavenging some old ones.
Prior to that, I had an open-box special laptop I bought at a steep discount during a Boxing Day sale. Before that, I had my second Mac computer, a laptop that marked the last time I bought an completely new computer. That was in my final year of university.
If you do the math, It’s been over 12 years since I bought a brand-new computer of any kind, and it’s been closer to 18 since I’ve bought a desktop computer.
That changed recently as the result of the stay-at-home order issued by the provincial government: I needed a new computer.
My home computer, which has served as a media server for my daughter’s countless DVDs of Disney movies and television shows, my own place to work from and, on very rare occasions, a place to play a really old or really simple computer game or two, had started to make some truly troubling noises a few months back.
I wasn’t overly concerned about it at the time. I have that refurbished Chromebook, which can mostly manage writing stories and attending virtual council meetings (though I recently discovered it struggles with virtual meetings in which I actually have to speak instead of just listen) and I have my work computer that I can haul home when needed.
By my best estimates, one of the fans has come loose and is, at best, making a low, humming noise and at worst is hitting the inside of its enclosure. I narrowed it down to a couple essential pieces of the computer, meaning that I’d likely have to spend far more on it this time around than would be worth spending.
Normally I get frustrated at a piece of technology failing me in such a fashion — we’re talking about a desktop computer here, it doesn’t get moved around, so I’m not sure how it suffers that much wear and tear on screws — but I wasn’t overly annoyed by it. Why? Well I’ve had the scavenged piece of technology for five years, give or take, and before that it was used for 10 years. It’s lasted a good long time and served a few different purposes.
I guess I’m saying that, for the minimal amount of money and effort I went into fixing it up, I figured it didn’t owe me three years of service, let alone more than five.
While I wasn’t annoyed that the technology was failing me, I was certainly annoyed at the timing of it. I’m spending half my day helping to teach Junior Kindergarten and the other half trying to do my regular full-time job. I don’t have time to try and find a replacement through what I’ve normally done — putting together somewhat old parts to make a working computer or scouring the internet for refurbished or open-box specials — leaving me pondering if it were time to actually buy a new computer.
It grated on me because, like I said, I’ve always been a fan of making things work with what I can access. This time around, however, I didn’t have access to anything really.
Anyway, for the first time in over 12 years, I shelled out some money (or some credit, I suppose) for a new computer. I was able to assuage my concerns about buying new technology by promising myself that, for the next 10 years, I’d upgrade and/or repair this computer to keep it going as long as possible.
It reminded me of, again, nearly a decade ago, when I purchased my first new car. I was looking at used cars, but for anything what I was looking at, I’d end up either paying more than I felt it was worth or paying longer than I wanted to for financing. I ended up buying a new car, promising myself that I would make it last as long as possible (unfortunately, due a collision, it didn’t last as long as it should’ve). It took years before I felt comfortable enough to buy a new vehicle again. Again, I promised myself I’d make it last as long as possible.
Just like cars, technology requires regular maintenance and repairs, and we have people locally who are happy to help with that, and that can be the difference between adding garbage to the landfill and using something for as long as possible.
And I guess that’s what it really comes down to — promising you’ll use something as long as possible, repairing it when necessary and making sure that you’re not adding to the problem of our disposable society.