I recently spent the entire day packing, moving, and unpacking everything I own. I was reminded of a few things in this move: I hate moving, I own way too much junk, and that technology has reached a use and throw away status. The idea of paying over $200 for an item, using it for an extended amount of time and throwing away when you upgrade would be unheard of in my grandparent’s day. It used to be that if something broke, you ordered or rounded up a spare part to repair and fix your item. How can it be possible that repairing something can actually cost more than buying a replacement?
The major reason why technology has reached a use and throw away status relates to the rate at which it changes. Standards, wiring, plugs, and virtually everything technologically related undergoes many drastic changes in just a few short years.
Technology is also very confusing to the layperson. Taking apart a broken computer scares many, because they’re afraid they will do more damage than repair. They withhold venturing into a repair shop because their local Walmart offers a brand new unit with better design, speed, and storage for just a few hundred dollars more. It may be possible to repair technology, but most consumers only fix computers and electronics as a hobby.
Here are a few tech items that I have purchased and thrown away:
Printers: I have a tub filled with four printers that I don’t use, and I’ve actually purchased a printer because it was cheaper to buy a than an ink cartridge. As I transitioned to USB ports, many of my old printers, like their ink cartridges, faded away. I’ve tried to give a few of my printers away, but most people I know have at least two already and don’t want to have another expensive ink cartridge to purchase. I most recently upgraded to a new printer because if offered the combined features of scanning, copying, and printing.
Cell phones: When your cell phone contract is up, your phone is generally outdated, obsolete, and certainly uncool. There are currently six phones in my house, and only two of them are presently used. I hang on to them because they are generally worthless to others, obsolete, and still contain many pictures, videos, and contacts that I haven’t made time to permanently backup. Although they are worthless to me, there are many free recycling programs that give new life to your old cell phone. The EPA has a great site that details the benefits of recycling your cell phone.
Computers: I have an HP 531w desktop with a 1.2 GHz Intel Celeron Processor, 512 mb ram, and 40 GB hard drive that I couldn’t sell on eBay for $100.00. This computer originally sold for over $650 in 2001. I purchased it from my parents after it suffered from a power surge and a little bad RAM. I bought new memory on eBay, popped it in and fired it up. It now serves as my media server and part-time blogging computer. With the introduction of $300 to $500 netbooks, older computers are losing their value quicker than a new car being driven off the lot.
Televisions: While televisions generally last longer than a few years, the proliferation of HD has made many sets instantly obsolete. There are $60 converter boxes available, but my guess is that most folks will opt to upgrade to a fully HD compatible, flat screen television. There are currently four televisions in my household, and we only use two of them. The remaining two televisions will be little more than decorations when February 2009 rolls around.
Other items: Calculators, laser pointers, generic mp3 players, USB memory sticks, and CD-R discs, are but a few items that have drastically fallen in availability and price. When these items were first introduced they were rare and very expensive. They are now featured clearance items in store flyers and given away in gift bags as tokens of appreciation.
As prices continue to fall and cheaper items are introduced to the public, buying new will always be easier, take less time, and provide greater performance. The constant change and lower prices associated with new technologies allows more people greater accessibility and connectivity; it helps technology get into the hands of people who might not otherwise have had it before.
The key is keeping what you use and giving what you don’t to those who can benefit. Organizations like Goodwill Industries allows you to donate via the Internet and is glad to put your old items to good use. There also also many churches, after-school programs, and individuals that would greatly benefit from your used technology. If your items are broken, recycling can provide people with employment and help the environment. Most major computer manufacturers offer recycling for free or a nominal charge.
Next time you conduct an inventory check, see if there is anything that would help someone else rather than sitting in a closet. My new goal is to give it away rather than throw it away.
Read more: The EPA has an excellent resource detailing programs that recycle and reuse unwanted electronics.