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What makes your tech gear obsolete?

December 29, 2009 Leave a comment Go to comments

We all have a finite amount of space for our stuff, and our tech toys have to exist within a subset of that finite volume of space. That means that there’s a regular churn as old, obsolete stuff is disposed of (ethically, I hope) and new stuff purchased to replace it. But what is it that makes your tech stuff obsolete? What is it that causes a once-loved (or even lusted over perhaps?) bit of kit to head for the recycling center?

Let’s take a look at some of the most common reasons.


Gadgets don’t live forever.

Everything has a finite life, and with electronics the death spiral begins as soon as you start using them (there’s an old adage that says that tech stuff is either dead or in the process of dying). That said, things seem to live longer than ever now and outright death is rare.

I’m surrounded by an awful lot of tech and total death is a rare occurrence. For example, I’m now in the middle of swapping out the motherboard on my gaming rig, and I have a DVD drive that’s playing up, but I have several systems that are over 5 years old which are working perfectly.

Uneconomical to repair

While some things such as motherboards aren’t worth repairing (even if you could) some things end up on the recycling pile simply because repairing them would be uneconomical.

The reason for this is many and varied. A rechargeable battery can die, or a charger, or some vital component can become lost or damaged.

“Uneconomical” doesn’t just refer to money, but time. If your device is more than a few years old it can be really hard to find a replacement part, even if that part would only cost loose change. You might be able find a part, but the time and effort involved simply can’t be justified.

I’m quite lucky in that I keep quite a stock of old PC and gadget parts, and these become quite useful during repair. While I adore tech toys, I won’t throw something away just because a charger has stopped working (quite common) and likewise if a gadget dies, I keep any parts that might be useful later (power cords, chargers, even things like remote controls).


This is a sub-set of the “uneconomical to repair” category but applies to gadgets that haven’t dies yet, but which are definitely on the way out. My old Motorola RAZR serves as a good example here. It worked, but it rattled because of a loose component and if I put the handset down on a table or desk there was a 50:50 chance it would go off. Prices I’d been quoted for repair were insane, so the handset had to be replaced.

Functional obsolescence

Tech toys might not die, but it is possible for them to become functionally obsolete. One simple example is memory cards and USB flash drives. I have handfuls to these, ranging from single-digit MB capacities all the way to monsters in the tens of GB range. Am I really going to put a 4MB CF card into a modern digital camera? Sure, it’ll work, but it won’t even allow me to take a singe RAW shot.


I’ve never binned anything in the name of fashion (that said, don’t buy things in the name of fashion either), but I know people who do. Personally, I think it’s a horrendous waste of both money and the earth’s resources, but it’s not my job too preach. I can only hope that people pass on their unwanted kit to others rather than bin it.

Categories: General

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