The disposable computer

When I bought my first laptop PC from Gateway to take to graduate school in 2002, I think I paid nearly $2,000 for it. When it died in early 2006, I replaced it with a Dell for not quite $1,000. The Dell’s hard drive failed last weekend, and the cost to replace the hard drive, install Windows 7, and transfer any data that could be recovered from the old drive (we are still waiting to find out about that) is about $350. So tonight I have another new Gateway on my desk, this one coming home with me for less than $400.

Gateway laptop

This machine has probably 10 times the memory and speed of that original Gateway–2.6 Ghz processor, 4 GB of RAM, a 500 GB hard drive, etc. A formidable piece of hardware, in other words, and one of the last retail units still available that comes with Windows 7 (I went looking at Best Buy and they said only a couple of shopworn demo units had Windows 7). Hard to believe so much computing power can be had so cheaply. But that very cheapness means this computer will go out with the trash in a few years when its hard drive fails (as it inevitably will) and I will replace it with another bigger, faster, cheaper model (or maybe just get a smart phone that is smarter than the one I have now, ha).

Even though I have the Mac for photo work, I still want a PC for a couple of reasons. Such as, I prefer how the Office suite looks and operates on the PC. My favorite screen-capture program, SnagIt, is far more fully featured on the PC; the Mac version is so primitive that it is virtually worthless. I have all my accounting in Quicken on the PC and don’t want to switch that over.

And, I’ll just be honest … I like the PC better than the Mac in some ways, probably because I’ve been using a PC for the past 10 years and it is comfortably familiar to me. The Mac is a great machine but it has not proved to be the perfect solution to every computer issue I’ve ever had. It is sketchy and obtuse sometimes, just like a PC. I struggle with it. Some days I love it and some days I don’t. The Mac is not an identity or a lifestyle or a community for me. It’s just a computer, a tool that I use to do certain tasks.

I don’t know what happens to Macs when they get really old, though, or how or if they die. I don’t recall how long I had my old Mac, but I do know that I didn’t give it up because it died. It was working just fine when I boxed it up and put it away in the attic when I left for school. It wouldn’t surprise me if I were to take it out today or 10 years from now and it would start up with that melodious Apple chime and run just the same as always.

Whatever else one can say about Macs, they certainly are not disposable computers.



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