If there’s a problem – yo – I’ll solve it…

Dear Mr. Sterne,

There is a computer in my home which I affectionately refer to as “the OX.” The OX is a beast of a machine that I use to play  the latest and greatest video games. I won’t bore you with the specifics of it’s insides, but rest assured it’s a speedy little machine.

I’ve owned the OX for twenty years.

The OX was first assembled in the summer of 1992.  It could play chess and sported Windows 1.1. Since then I’ve been upgrading the OX slowly, part by part, to keep up with the demands of the latest software.

For the first 10 years or so of the OX’s lifespan, I must admit I wasn’t the best steward to the environment.  If I replaced a part on the OX, the old part would get sent to a bin where it would remain for years before it was thrown away (not recycled).  But something happened around 2002; I got an eBay account.

Now, when I upgrade a part on my computer, I sell the old part on eBay, where it’s life begins anew.  Most of the OX’s insides stay around for about three to four years before I sell them again.  I can do this because I don’t skimp on the quality of the parts that go into my OX.  I think of it like buying the better dog food for my dog, which in turn increases his lifespan and quality of life.  The sale of the old parts helps subsidize the cost of getting new parts and gives the old parts a new home (perhaps a computer called “the MULE”) to live and function, thus extending their life well beyond their years in the OX.

I can’t say what happens to these parts after the next user is done with them.  They may go to the very landfills in which your are concerned; however, the lifespan of the OX’s insides is certainly much longer than what you have described in your chapter. The innards of the OX do not come from a single company, but rather several:

  • The motherboard comes from a company called ASUS.
    • 4 years old
  • The video card: PNY
    • 4 months old
  • The RAMG.Skill
    • 4 years old
  • the case: Antec
    • 12 years old
  • the power supply: Antec
    • 4 years old
  • the processor, Intel
    • 5 months old
  • The hard drive: Western Digital
    • 5 years old
  • the keyboard: Microsoft
    • 5 years old
  • the mouse: Logitech
    • 5 years old

The problem with planned obsolescence is not simply that there isn’t a company that adheres to a model of longevity; there are plenty of computer options out there that allow consumers to upgrade components individually.  Hardware standards don’t change as quickly as your chapter might lead one to believe which is why I’ve had the same computer case for twelve years now, and will probably keep it for another five or six.

Planned obsolescence is certainly a problem, but it’s not a problem that sits solely in the lap of the manufacture.  Spending an extra dollar now on a computer with a little bit more ram or a larger hard drive can extend the lifetime of computer by years, and gives the consumer more money back on their purchase if they choose to sell their device later.  There are more eco-friendly options available to the consumer; however most consumers don’t take the time to educate themselves about those options.

and now I step off my soapbox…


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