Why are computers old beyond their years?

FI-Log-On-With-Larry-SchneiderDear Larry,

Recently, you helped me purchase and set up a new computer for my home, and I thank you for that. It was a replacement for my old five-year-old computer that had conked out the week before. That’s what my question pertains to. Should a four-year-old computer just die like that? Do these things come with built-in obsolescence?

 

F. S.

 

Dear F. S.,

Believe it or not, there is some obsolescence built into every computer and there’s perfect sense behind it.

Sure, they can build solid state components that are far less apt to burn out, design hard drives that are far more crash resistant or include cooling systems that instantaneously conquer your computer’s worst enemy, heat. But the problem is, would anybody buy it for what they’d have to charge?

When I was growing up, there was this urban legend that spoke of how Bridgestone could easily construct a tire that would never go flat, but the truth was that nobody would ever purchase one, let alone four. The same principle applies here.

Here’s a theoretical analogy: Imagine you purchased a very special automobile in 1910 that had luxury items unheard of in more common cars of the day that cost half as much, only to discover a few years later that a crankless car with an all new electric starter became available. All of a sudden, that luxury car of yours looked as if it were a grand waste of money.

The same holds true when talking about today’s computers. Granted, there’s probably a small market for a very cheap computer that does a few things well albeit slowly. The problem is, try finding a manufacturer who is willing to invest in such a bottom-of-the-line product when the truth is they can build something far more powerful that costs only a couple hundred dollars more.

Competition and margins in the computer industry are incredibly tight these days, so every Dell, HP, and Sony goes out of its way to keep part costs down and profits up. And that’s why you shouldn’t be surprised when that seemingly “new” computer of yours overheats and keels over five years into its life span. As I explain to people, a dog year is equal to seven human years and a computer year is equal to around 20 human years.

Any computer these days that can celebrate its five-year — err, make that “100-year-old” — birthday is most definitely worthy of celebration. And maybe even a special trip to the dump.

This is Larry Schneider, logging off.

 

Larry Schneider is the owner of Accent on Computers, a Greenwich-based consulting firm catering to individuals, businesses and professional offices. Services include computer setup, training, troubleshooting, virus resolution, networking, Internet, database and programming. Call 203-625-7575, visit Accentoncomputers.com, or send email to [email protected] 

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