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.