What makes your tech gear obsolete?

What makes your tech gear obsolete?

Summary: We all have a finite amount of space for our stuff, and our tech toys have to exist within a subset of that finite volume of space. That means that there's a regular churn as old, obsolete stuff is disposed of (ethically, I hope) and new stuff purchased to replace it. But what is it that makes your tech stuff obsolete? What is it that causes a once-loved (or even lusted over perhaps?) bit of kit to head for the recycling center?

SHARE:
TOPICS: Mobility, Hardware
26

We all have a finite amount of space for our stuff, and our tech toys have to exist within a subset of that finite volume of space. That means that there's a regular churn as old, obsolete stuff is disposed of (ethically, I hope) and new stuff purchased to replace it. But what is it that makes your tech stuff obsolete? What is it that causes a once-loved (or even lusted over perhaps?) bit of kit to head for the recycling center?

Let's take a look at some of the most common reasons.

Death

Gadgets don't live forever.

Everything has a finite life, and with electronics the death spiral begins as soon as you start using them (there's an old adage that says that tech stuff is either dead or in the process of dying). That said, things seem to live longer than ever now and outright death is rare.

I'm surrounded by an awful lot of tech and total death is a rare occurrence. For example, I'm now in the middle of swapping out the motherboard on my gaming rig, and I have a DVD drive that's playing up, but I have several systems that are over 5 years old which are working perfectly.

Uneconomical to repair

While some things such as motherboards aren't worth repairing (even if you could) some things end up on the recycling pile simply because repairing them would be uneconomical.

The reason for this is many and varied. A rechargeable battery can die, or a charger, or some vital component can become lost or damaged.

"Uneconomical" doesn't just refer to money, but time. If your device is more than a few years old it can be really hard to find a replacement part, even if that part would only cost loose change. You might be able find a part, but the time and effort involved simply can't be justified.

I'm quite lucky in that I keep quite a stock of old PC and gadget parts, and these become quite useful during repair. While I adore tech toys, I won't throw something away just because a charger has stopped working (quite common) and likewise if a gadget dies, I keep any parts that might be useful later (power cords, chargers, even things like remote controls).

Unreliability

This is a sub-set of the "uneconomical to repair" category but applies to gadgets that haven't dies yet, but which are definitely on the way out. My old Motorola RAZR serves as a good example here. It worked, but it rattled because of a loose component and if I put the handset down on a table or desk there was a 50:50 chance it would go off. Prices I'd been quoted for repair were insane, so the handset had to be replaced.

Functional obsolescence

Tech toys might not die, but it is possible for them to become functionally obsolete. One simple example is memory cards and USB flash drives. I have handfuls to these, ranging from single-digit MB capacities all the way to monsters in the tens of GB range. Am I really going to put a 4MB CF card into a modern digital camera? Sure, it'll work, but it won't even allow me to take a singe RAW shot.

Fashion

I've never binned anything in the name of fashion (that said, don't buy things in the name of fashion either), but I know people who do. Personally, I think it's a horrendous waste of both money and the earth's resources, but it's not my job too preach. I can only hope that people pass on their unwanted kit to others rather than bin it.

Note: As I write this piece one thing has become apparent to me - If I had warehouses of space, I'd probably never throw anything away, ever ...

So, what is it that makes your tech gear obsolete? And what new tech have you got on your holiday wish list that replaces some existing bit of kit?

Topics: Mobility, Hardware

Kick off your day with ZDNet's daily email newsletter. It's the freshest tech news and opinion, served hot. Get it.

Talkback

26 comments
Log in or register to join the discussion
  • Three more obsolescence scenarios

    Feature Overlap:
    One reason I stop using devices is that I get something else that can do everything the previous gadget can do, plus some cool other stuff (or, if it doesn't do ALL of the same things, the features on the older device that don't overlap tend to be ones I never used). I might keep the older toy as a backup, but I'm more likely to give it away to a relative.

    Spring Cleaning:
    There is only so much space to store all of the gadgets - less if you want to move around and have the place look nice. If there's a gadget I no longer use, and there's no room for it, it gets given away or trashed.

    Locational Discrepancy:
    Honestly, the most common obselescence scenario for me is this: it is in my pocket when I leave home, but not there when I return, and no amount of searching ever locates it. This is why I can't have nice things.
    Nimelennar
    • Locational Discrepancy

      Mine seems to be with chargers. It's always the wrong one.

      I now have three Kensington/iGo/Targus chargers for laptops that will work with almost anywhere with almost anything.... Except the one I'm using.

      I'm also cursed with 'stuff'. And we know the rule of 'stuff': Stuff will fill all available space.
      Overcharge
    • I love that euphemism for lost.

      Locational discrepancy is a good way of appropriating blame to the inanimate object. Of course if we didn't [i]need[/i] so much stuff...

      My wife and I both had a good laugh over that. We're both middle-aged and it seems to happen more and more often.

      Having not heard the phrase coined before, you get credit AFAIK.
      djchandler
  • RE: What makes your tech gear obsolete?

    My Motorola RAZR battery was going out.. again. It was 3 years old and was on it's second battery. I wanted a smartphone, and my 2 year contract was up, so I dumped my Motorola RAZR for a Blackberry Storm 2. I'm planning on reselling the RAZR though. However I was dumbfounded by Verizon's early termination fees for the Blackberry ($350!) and I have to purchase internet data coverage, which is another $30 per month, so while the Storm 2 is a great phone, and having email on your phone is addictive, I'm definitely paying for the privilege. The old phone still worked though, so I guess I could have kept using it if I had bought another battery.
    cjc5447
  • I keep PC's forever. With linux they always have a use. nt

    nt
    T1Oracle
  • RE: What makes your tech gear obsolete?

    I replace tech gear when the repair costs more than 50% of a new technology; the device no longer works or there are "must have" features.

    My PC is from 2002, runs XP SP3 fine, no problems. I have no plans to replace this machine.

    My cell phone was a Treo 700 that was nearly 5 years old when it stopped working, I now have a Droid.

    We got a HD Large Screen when our old tube TV died it was going to cost $150.00 just to have someone come out and look at it.

    Bob
    remilk
    • RE: What makes your tech gear obsolete

      Like you, I have a 2002 PC, and I do not plan to replace it, in fact I just gave it a "face lift" by hosing the Windoze XP partition, and replacing it with Ubuntu 9.10. That is the ticket for a new "lease on life".
      fatman65535
  • Time

    For me, replacement is due when when a new device or machine saves me a considerable amount of time doing a certain job, compared with the time that the old device or machine needs for the same job.

    I hate having to wait for a device or machine to finish it's job...
    pjotr123
  • Depends On The Tech

    Things like TVs and monitors...those things can go indefinitely...an average LCD television will last 20 years or more (60,000 hours / 8 hours per day viewing / 365)....PCs on the other hand, depends on what you are doing with them...

    I have a 7-year old Celeron PC that has Windows 7 on it...without Aero turned on it runs just fine as an office machine.
    itanalyst2@...
  • Nothing

    Being a cutting edge Luddite, it takes a lot to get me to replace tech gear- usually cost of repair. My Apple II+ is still grinding along, and using it for what I bought it for (Alpha Syntauri musical synth), it still works fine (and makes some sound that would be hard to duplicate).
    My 1st "PC", a P166+ finally died, and it would be foolish to repair. My second one (A Duron 850) is still in use, as are every box newer.
    My Sound system is between 30 and 50 years old (parts of it still use tubes (c; ). My TV is 15 years old- decent (A Sony WEGA), but I refuse to get rid of it while it still works.

    However- in my business life, the "bottom line" would be the indicator- can the newer tech let me be more productive enough to pay dividends.
    chris@...
  • Entropy

    If I can incorporate ~90% of the functionality of my present stuff plus gain significant functionality with the new kit, then out with the old, in with the new. Fashion means nothing; my data is all that matters

    Electronics are all re-cycled at a local approved electronics re-cycling center, even if I do have to pay $12 to get a nasty old lead-containing CRT out of the house. Televisions, printers, scanners are a bit more, figured by the pound.

    http://www.surplusexchange.org/
    djchandler
  • Greater demands placed up on them.

    When I was moving an occasioanl MP3 between machines the old 10/100 router did ok, when I started moving gig+ media files it wasn't.

    When I occasionally watched a video the old 4x3 ratio monitor was ok, now that I watch wide screen video I needed a bigger widescreen.

    When files measured a few megabytes the 250 Gig drive did ok, today I find I need a couple of terabyte drives.

    Games? He has the faster hardware wins.

    3 or 4 Gig of RAM was ok when I had a 32-bit OS, with 64-bit I use 12 gig of RAM. (Lots of open apps.)

    When I seen the difference in encoding video using a Quad CPU it was a no brainer.
    No_Ax_to_Grind
  • I replace stuff whenever

    Steve tells me to.
    That is the beauty of being an Apple fanboy.
    davebarnes
    • I replace stuff whenever........

      (sarcasm)

      Steve tells me to.

      After all, I must contribute to M$ increased "bottom line". That's the beauty of M$ lock-in, Steve's got you by the b---s.

      (/sarcasm)
      fatman65535
  • My reasons

    I'm an admitted hoarder, like Adrian if I do get rid of something, I keep any potentially useful parts. But my main reason for getting rid of something is death. I find a use for almost anything, even if it can't perform its original function. Like I have a 200mhz Pentium computer, sure it can't run modern OSs and applications but I loaded Windows ME, remote desktop client and its now a great thin client. Now if a part goes thats not possible or feasable to replace, then I'll let it go. But that example is in the extreme anyway.
    JasonJD48
  • RE: What makes your tech gear obsolete?

    For me it is functionality. If a device is still working, not broken, and can still do the jobs I want it to do, it is still good.

    If I want to do something and my current kit can't handle it, it is time to upgrade.

    Normally this is about computer gaming. If my computer can't handle a new game I have to play, the computer gets upgraded.

    As far as cell phones and other gadgets, I might replace them unless I can't get anything but the upgrade.

    I really only have a laptop, game rig, and cell phone for gadgets so I probably am not a good metric for this. I have been avoiding e-readers because I can't get e-books that have all of the benefits of being electronic and have the benefits of traditional books. I also tend to read my books for decades so electronic books don't make a lot of sense for me at this time. Maybe if a reader was designed to last 100 years or I could be guaranteed a continuous and backwards compatible upgrade route, I might look into it.
    mr1972
  • When obsolesence trumps productivity it's gone

    Inam all about productivity and common sense. As one who has collected a
    crapload of gadgets, computers Macs and PCs, I've had to draw the line on
    functionality and long term use. If it no longer meets the productivity threshold, I
    bag it or if it's recyclable it's gone.
    dartery
    • planned obsolescence

      As somebody that still has my first computer in a box in my closet (the innards anyway.)I can understand not discarding anything. Have boxes of wall warts, cga video cardsand 2 massive 340mb hard drives, I try to recycle but everyso often it comes in handy,Im the go to guy when it comes to recovering old data.My son brought up a good point as we discard older technology, we end up with tons of data that can no longer be recovered economically, the recent remastering of the moon landing tapes is a good example, all but four of the tape storage decks had been destroyed and they had to strip parts of those to create one working deck. Seems like time to obsolescence is now shorter then ever and most people tend not to look back until they lose the info. Anyone have use for my massive 500mb back up tapes?
      scottl@...
      • I back up my old stuff on new stuff

        Whenever I switch to a new storage medium I copy all my existing files from my previous storage medium to my new one. I did this with all my floppy disks when I got a Zip drive, with my Zip disks when I got a CD burner, and with my data CDs when I got a multiGB hard drive.
        ssaha
  • RE: What makes your tech gear obsolete?

    With home office customers? Seems like cat fur and cigarette smoke. Creates a ball of what looks like old sofa stuffing. Perfect for snuffing out processor fans, power supplies, and video cards.

    Small form factor cases are particularily susceptible.... Considering the price of proprietary motherboards and power supplies, a new computer is generally the solution.
    Overcharge