The one thing we know for sure about technology is that no matter how innovative and cutting-edge it may be today, eventually it will become out-dated and obsolete, destined for the scrap heap.
And the rate at which these so-called advances have occurred over the past half-century boggles the mind, leaving one speechless. I say so-called because in some cases I’m not really convinced that all technology has advanced humankind. But the world has certainly changed over the past 50 years.
Today, almost every home has at least one computer, if not two or three. And practically everyone you know has a cellphone of some type and is connected to the Internet. Even the world of entertainment has changed dramatically in the past couple of decades with streaming services opening up more viewing opportunities than one could have ever imagined. Coupled with the arrival of digital and smart televisions, and hand-held devices, there are limited entertainment possibilities.
But seriously, have our lives really improved because of video games, television programs and cellphones? I guess so. Perhaps it has in some ways. However, there are many negatives to such technology but that’s another argument left for another day. Right now I want to talk about what we do with the equipment once it becomes obsolete.
What do we do with the computers, cellphones, tablets and televisions that have outlived their often all-too short lives? In some cases, no sooner do you buy an “upgrade” than it’s practically obsolete the minute you leave the store or it arrives on your doorstep, if you shop on line. And there’s another way technology has impacted in our lives.
It’s a conspiracy, don’t you know? It’s an elaborate plot designed by large multi-billion-dollar corporations to perpetuate the buying cycle, thus filling their bank accounts to over flowing and the landfills with electronic devices that probably had a few more good years left in them but were tossed away because someone somewhere needed the latest gadget.
There are government-funded programs and private initiatives designed to divert these devices from landfills and the trash heaps, but the advances and production of new gadgets are happening far too quickly for these efforts to keep up. This buy-discard cycle happens around the world as advancing technology makes it necessary for us to buy into the upgraded equipment as our older equipment becomes unable to adapt to the changes.
Usually, you have no choice but to play their game. Either you upgrade your equipment, or you risk becoming disconnected. The bottom line is that we — and by we I mean all of us — have been caught in the web of technology and in this ever-advancing world there is no way out.
Take a look around your home. I bet many of you have old cellphones in a drawer or box that you no longer use because you just had to have the upgraded version. Truth be told, you could still be using that old phone but as consumers we have been brainwashed into believing that it is necessary to upgrade every couple of years, even if you really have to.
In some cases, though, some equipment just comes obsolete. Take VCRs. This is an excellent example of how advancing technology with DVD players has rendered obsolete a device that was once widely used by millions of people across the continent.
I remember in the late 1980s when VCRs first arrived on the scene. Home entertainment would never be the same again. As a movie fanatic, I was on cloud nine. I paid $600 for my first VCR (yes I really did). I just had to have one in my home because the device not only allowed me to rent movies that I could not get to the theatre to enjoy, but I could also buy them and watch them whenever I wanted.
Today, we have several VCRs in the house that are just gathering dust along with boxes and boxes of VHS movies that haven’t been viewed in years and are never likely to be viewed ever again. What a shame and what a waste. When I think of the hundreds of dollars we spent over the years adding to our collection of movies only to have them become obsolete, it makes me cringe.
It also makes me sad because eventually we will have to find a way to get rid of them and at the end of the day maybe they will end up in the garbage as the equipment to play them is mostly no longer available.
Old analog television sets are in the same boat. What does one do with a perfectly good television set that was loved and well taken care of until it was pushed aside into the spare room after our new flat-screen arrived? It’s time to clean house and the old television has to go.
It seems like such a waste to add it to the recycling pile, but it appears there are few other options. You can’t sell it. Heck, you can’t even give it away. If you know of someone who could use a perfectly good television, albeit an old-fashioned model, please let me know and he or she can have it for free.
Now don’t get me wrong. I’m not totally against technology. I enjoy my digital television as much as the next person and we have several computers in the house. Every member of our family has a cellphone, but we don’t upgrade every year or two just for the sake of having the latest gadget with all the newest bells and whistles.
In fact, I’m still using an iPhone 4, which in cellphone years, is several generations removed and almost ancient. But it serves my purposes and I don’t feel the need to upgrade just for the sake of upgrading. As long as it continues doing everything that I need it to do, I’m perfectly content to keep on using it.
Advancing technology is a beautiful thing when it enhances our lives but we should always be wary of buying into the upgrade mode just for the sake of having something shiny and new, or at least that’s view from here..
Vernon Oickle was born and raised in Liverpool where he continues to reside with his family. He has worked for more than 30 years in community newspapers on the South Shore and is the author of 28 books.