I Hate Planned Obsolescence

The other day a friend stopped by and announced that he had a surprise in the back seat of his car. Curious, I stepped outside to see what it was.

To my surprise, he had an ancient iMac sitting on his back seat. He explained with a grin that he had been visiting another friend when he saw their neighbors carry it out to the trash.

“I immediately thought of you, so I asked permission to have it,” he explained.

We carried it into the house. It lacked a keyboard and a mouse, but it fortunately still had a power cord, so I connected a spare Windows mouse and keyboard to the machine and plugged it in.

That old dinosaur powered on.

According to my research, this machine (iMac model M5521) came out around the turn of the century, which means that it is almost 20 years old. The hard drive is a bit noisy, the slot loading CD-ROM sticks, but it still works!

The more I played with that old machine the angrier I got. This computer cost someone $999 new. That’s the equivalent of two month’s expenses for me. The thought of someone tossing that much money in the trash just pissed me off, not because they discarded something they no longer needed or used, but because of the fact that this poor machine was obsolete just a few short years after it was purchased.

That’s the way it is with stuff anymore. You purchase a new phone, computer, gadget, outfit, or whatever only to be told it is useless or out of fashion before you’ve hardly managed to break it in, so what do you do? You go out and buy a new one, tossing the old one into a closet or—like this poor old machine—in the trash.

Heck, purchase a new appliance these days and you’ll discover that the lightweight gears and moving parts within the machine will fail within a few short years. Don’t believe me? Go to the store and buy a cheap fan. See how many seasons it will last you before it dies. Next, go to a thrift shop and buy one of those ancient fans with the old cloth-covered power cords. I’ll bet that thing still runs even if it is close to 50 years old. In fact, I happen to know a gentleman who uses an old percolator to make his coffee that is even older than that! He got tired of buying coffee makers every couple of years so he dug out the old percolator his mother used to make her coffee with.

Anyway, back to this computer. After tinkering with it for a while I decided to try an experiment. I’m going to see if I can acquire the parts needed to give this puppy an upgrade and make it useful once again. I want to get it set up with some simple games, configure it for printing, add a word processing program, and let my grandson use it to play and do his homework on.

This isn’t exactly a priority to me so I plan to spend as little as possible. I’m going to ask around for spare parts to upgrade the RAM and search online for a copy of the operating system that I can download and burn to disk. If I get lucky I’ll manage to score a new CMOS battery for it, since the original is long dead.

And piece by piece I am going to turn this ancient machine into something that can be used today, just to prove that it can be done. It won’t be the fastest but that’s not the point. The point is that we spend a fortune on items that manufacturers declare completely useless years before they actually are. We spend hours of our lives each week earning money to buy items like this old computer, only to discard them as worthless a short time later, when in fact, with a little love and a bit of work, they can last longer than Big Business wants us to keep them.

I’ll let you know when I get the old dinosaur running. I will also let you know just how much money I spent turning it into something that can actually be used (paperweight is not an option).

What was the last item you saved from the trash? Please share your stories in the comments below.

8 thoughts on “I Hate Planned Obsolescence

  1. MaryAnn L

    On coffee makers- we also got tired of replacing them. I have an old Corningware percolator that’s white with a blue flower on it. That’s what we use now. The last coffee maker that croaked is the last one I will ever buy.
    I have several retired laptops in the closet. I have had to use them on occasion. They still work even if they are a bit slow.

  2. Linda Sand

    My husband has a back-up computer in his closet. He pulls it out every now and then to work on a big project he doesn’t want tying up his regular computer. When he does buy new technology, his old one goes to me, my old one goes to our daughter, and she sells her old one. Nothing goes in the trash.

  3. Sarah

    I have a laptop which is not as old as yours but still was saved from total disaster thanks to Check disk from Windows. I have Windows 7 running on it. One day, it just got corrupted and I decided to run check disk. It then decided to delete everything! When I realized it I stopped the process, and obviously got such a corruption and many programs were gone including how to log on!

    Luckily for me I had all CD Roms to help me with. However, it did not save all the softwares. And I found out that my Windows 7.img was not working as a disc image! So it took me several weeks to find out that it was actually a 7z manager image. So, I worked hard on it and copied everything (I didn’t have a choice at this point). So I saved most of my programs that way.

    But I still had problems with the Internet which was not working, so I took it to repair. But the PC tech wanted to format it and give me a new Windows 7. So I refused his help, and took back my laptop. Then thanks to some free softwares to help with the Internet, it got sorted out. Now it is working. It is a bit slow, but that’s alright.

    I have another computer desktop this one which is still running Windows XP. I don’t use it online, but it works great. I also had another problem on that one: this time I realiZed there was some corruption due to a hard drive which was in fact FAT32 which cannot be defragmented. So I converted my hard drive to NTFS. And since then it works fine, noisily, but faster than my laptop. And I can defragment it!
    I don’t understand why so many people are always changing their computer, phone… No wonder they cannot save any money!

    1. Annie Post author

      Exactly Sarah!
      I figured it up the other night. Even with repairs and upgrades made to my Windows XP laptop, my current cost of ownership is slightly over $4 a month for the length of time I have owned it. I am honestly debating on keeping it, making a few upgrades and doing repairs as needed, to see if I can squeeze a few more years out of it. If I can locate an official copy of Service Pack 3 then I will probably go that route and continue to use it even longer. That would drive down my cost of ownership even lower and allow me to continue to use something that still works instead of purchasing another one for my writing.

  4. Cam Coogan

    Annie, I totally agree with you – I hate planned obsolescence. I think it is a crime and corporations that do this should be required to take the obsolete item back and recycle it responsibly.

  5. Stacey

    I agree! OK, maybe it’s because I’m getting older, but things are moving too fast for me and planned obsolescence is one aspect of a fast-paced, money-oriented world. Software also keeps pushing us to upgrade our electronics. For example, my husband wants to use one of the “gig-economy” based job sites. But they require you to have a smart phone of a specific OS or higher. His perfectly functional flip phone is now obsolete. GRRRR.

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