I'm typing this post on a computer that I bought nearly a decade ago. Last night I had the misfortune of having my year+ old laptop freeze up. I'll know how bad the damage is when I bring it into the geniuses at the Apple Store in a few hours, but I took the prudent step of setting up my old G4 Mac as a backup.
My old G4 is a thing of beauty, a dusty sleek machine with none of the modern brushed aluminum that grace modern Apple computers. It has the poppy fun sensibility of the old gumdrop G3s, complete with the large shiny plastic embossed Apple logo on the side.
My old G4 is a beast of a machine. When I bought it, we were still half a year away from Y2K (remember that, the world was supposed to end because nerdy programmers didn't see 2000 coming). It was 1999 and I was starting a dot com (YouTube too early) and at the time it was the fastest machine in the Applesphere. Fueled by an eight digit bank account funded by irrational Venture Capitalist (everyone was irrational then, it was the hip thing to do), I choose all the pricy upgrades- it had the most RAM, the biggest hard drive, the fancy internal ZIP drive, and a second monitor card so I could stretch out across my two 23" and 27" monitors.
When I left the company a year before it imploded due to zero revenue and heady dotcom spending, I took my G4 with me. Over the next four years it was my work horse, accompanying me on my daily journey onto the internet in search of news, work, games, and more work. It ran for 13+ hours a day seven days a week, 52 weeks a year for nearly seven years in all. It helped me edit video for the TV and commercial work I was did after the dotcom buble burst. It helped me design countless pieces of sales and marketing collateral when I started Renewable Choice Energy, now the nations leading provider of wind credits. It pulled up hundreds of thousands of news stories to satisfy my craving for information, helping to hone the news sense that I now use to make a living as a blogger and writer.
And now, nine and a half years after I first booted it up in my dotcom offices, it's helping me write my posts for MNN.
I'm the kind of guy who uses things until they break.
I wear clothes until they literally fall off my body.
I have the same bike helmet I found at a yard sale when I was 18. I still ride the funky beach cruiser bike I found at a different yard sale a year after that.
My Blackberry cell phone is over two years old. Its power button is broken, so I have to remove the battery when I want to turn it off. For some reason Google Maps stopped working on it last year and the battery won't get me go a day without recharging. But it still works. I can make my calls, receieve and respond to emails, and get on the net to see if there is new news at Drudge or HuffPo. I don't see myself replacing it until it literally won't turn on anymore.
I've only had two computers since my G4, both Mac laptops. The first laptop I had overlapped some of the time I had with my desktop and was used for over five years before I upgraded to a new PowerBook Pro a year and a half ago.
In the last 10 years I've had three computers. My first laptop has been passed on to my ex-wife who uses it in her job working for the local paper (she'll be writing for MNN shortly, she's a great writer). It's not sitting in a landfill or poisoning some third world villagers breaking it down for recycling.
The point I have taken a very long time to get around is that I think the world needs more of that kind of thinking. Do we really need to replace our entire suite of gadgets every time the Consumer Electronics Show comes around. How much energy and resources do we waste working ourselves up in a lather over having the latest/greatest/shiniest new thing? Is there a way we can live rich, fulfilling, technologically augmented lives without burning through the world to do it?
If the Economy keeps going the way it's been going, we might not have to worry about that problem anymore- no one will have any money left to buy anything new and shiny
The real kicker of the situation is that if we had a complete green world, we could consume all we wanted- the laptops and cell phones and flat screen TVs would be made with environmentally and health friendly materials built with an eye on the entire lifecycle. Old products would be entirely repurposed, recycled, or composted when they were replaced by their owners. They'd be powered by clean renewable energy from cradle to cradle and might even have an overall positive environmental impact. We're a long way from that rosy reality, I'm hopeful we can hit in my children's lifetime. But for now, maybe we could rethinking having to switch out our phones every six months? Maybe?
Or maybe I'm just grumpy because laptop broke. Meh.