The story of more stuff (part 1)


The computer I’m tapping away on has seen better days. As a result of a couple of butter-fingered moments, it’s sporting some curves that the designer never intended. As a result of a couple of more literal butter-fingered moment, pointing to no-doubt fascinating points, the screen is more colourful than it should be. Plus it’s a little slower than it used to be. I sometimes have to wait an extra 10 seconds (computer seconds are the opposite of dog years – this constitutes about two human decades) or so for a programme to spring to life.

And so my consumer-conditioned mind has suggested, as the advertisers have trained it, to think about buying another. The latest model is much shinier, has a bigger hard drive for more music (my current collection would only take 15 computer years to listen to) and is awash with new and ‘better’ features.

Then I remember that the book I am reading, the great Atlas Shrugged, was probably written on a typewriter. Then I remember that the works of Shakespeare, Tolstoy, Austen, Eliot et al, were written by hand. Then I remember that the dynasties of the Carnegies, Rockefellers, Astors et al, were built without a computer in sight.

It is with that knowledge that I, perhaps we, are forced to remember that our minds, our knowledge, our thoughts, our time and our focused effort are the most valuable things we posses. Whether shiny or dented, a computer is merely a tool for its user. I have no doubt that Steve Jobs or Bill Gates could extract far more value from my computer than I could from the largest super-computer. I have no doubt that Bill Bryson or Eddie Izzard could make many more people laugh using a pencil than I could with an extensive library of comedy-filled servers.

A new computer would cost me a couple of thousand dollars, all in. Plus a few hours of time to buy it, another couple to set it up and another couple to find out which wonderful new features are worth using. That’s a lot of 10-second waits, or butter-cleaning wipes to make up. That’s a lot of time spent earning money to buy the thing, instead of learning some new jokes.

2 thoughts on “The story of more stuff (part 1)

  1. Amen. I’ve been providing computer-based solutions for over 20 years. I still believe it should be fixed at least twice before replacing, that if it’s still working it has a usefulness that can still be exploited, that I don’t have to spend money just because marketers tell me I will be better off for having done so. If it’s not broken, maybe it doesn’t need to be fixed. When it is broken, shouldn’t it be fixed before replaced? Of course. Why have so many of us been lead astray or plain forgotten?

  2. Great article! With all the education out there about reduce-reuse-recycle, it’s pretty baffling how quick we are to trade up for a newer model. I was inspired by the film “The World’s Fastest Indian”, where old Burt (Anthony Hopkins) reworks his old motorcycle over 25 years to go 150 MPH (200+ KPH?) faster than it was originally designed to. Ingenuity, not clever financing, is what’s going to sustain us.

    BTW, I’m also reading Atlas Shrugged, have been for 6 months. I cannot even fathom the amount of “computer years” that went into typing it…


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