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Obsessed with obsolescence

The fear of not being as up-to-date as possible is affecting my tech spending.
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Written by Ella Morton on

I've been planning to buy a laptop -- my first, surprisingly -- for several months, but every time I get close to forking out the dosh, anxiety stills my wallet-dwelling hand.

As ridiculous as it sounds, I hate the idea of spending a wad of cash on a spec'd up notebook, only to have it superseded mere months later by the next model. Of course, the rational part of my brain knows that when it comes to tech, anything available at retail level is already yesterday's news, but I can't help getting a little anxious at the idea of not being as up-to-date as possible.

The problem with this outlook is that it's affecting my ability to evaluate notebooks for potential purchasing. If it's not powered by Core Duo, I don't even want to know about it -- which is unfairly prejudiced against all the quality Pentium M laptops that have impressed our reviewers recently.

Way back in 1954, an American industrial designer named Brooks Stevens coined the phrase "planned obsolescence", which described our desire to purchase new things, even though there is nothing wrong with the old ones. Or, as Stevens put it, "the desire to own something a little newer, a little better, a little sooner than is necessary."

This sounds a little sinister from a consumerism or marketing point of view, and I'm ashamed to admit I've succumbed to it. There's nothing wrong with my 10GB third-generation iPod, and yet I am frequently overcome by the desire to shell out AU$300 for a Nano which looks cooler but holds a fifth of the capacity.

I'm trying to push past this obsolescence anxiety and just buy a darn laptop, but in the mean time I'm comforting myself with the knowledge that when it's time to upgrade, the old model can be used as a seat warmer or cutting board.

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