Upgrade Trauma

I have a toaster that is 15 years old. It creates a nice golden brown crispiness to my morning toast as well as it did when it was new. It has never needed repair.

I bought my 25" bedroom television shortly after moving into my first apartment 14 years ago. It connected perfectly to a new VCR five years later. The only replacement parts I've purchased for the TV are batteries for the remote -twice. Today it works great with my DVD player that hadn't even been invented when I first unboxed my TV.

There are probably household items and appliances you remember from childhood that are still in use at your mom's house. A stove, an electric can opener -you name it. Many high-quality, carefully manufactured household items we purchase can last for decades.

Enter computers. They are a completely different story. Why can't they have the same longevity? Is it planned, profitable obsolescence for the manufacturers? Maybe, but why do we put up with it? The truth is that shelling out cash for a better computer every 2-3 years is practically a ritual for many people. An upgrade frequency of 2 years isn't nearly often enough to keep you "current." At today's pace of computer technology growth you would have to buy the latest computer system every week to surf the wave of staying "current."

There are a couple of situations that make us feel the need for a computer upgrade -you've probably experienced both. Usually the desire for a cool new piece of hardware or a software program that is "too new" for our computer is a strong incentive. The other impetus to upgrade is an increasing lack of patience with the sluggishness of an elderly computer.

Yes, I'm excited about getting a new computer, but the fact that I have to upgrade so regularly to accommodate "current" software is still psychologically painful to me. It's traumatic. It's inconvenient. It's expensive. I hate the fact that no matter what I buy now, I know I'll be buying a replacement again soon. Each time my technology becomes outdated, I find myself going through the 5 stages of mourning that we learned in Psych 101:

1. Denial "Wow, that new software is awesome but there is no way I'm upgrading my whole computer to run one program. I don't need to upgrade. I just got this computer two years ago. Forget it! I'm not doing it --but the newest version of that software rocks and everybody has it. Maybe they'll release a 'patch' to the software that will make it work on my old computer."

2. Anger "This is ridiculous. I paid $1,500 for this computer and this stupid new software is telling me my computer doesn't meet its requirements? How can these big, rich, companies get away with making software that only works on newer computers? Are they out of their greedy minds? Forget upgrading. There must be something else I can do. I know -I'll use different software. I'll, I'll, I'll boycott. I'll send them a nasty email threatening to go back to paper and pen. I'll start a chain-letter telling everyone I know to do the same."

3. Bargaining "OK maybe I can just have the hard drive upgraded and get by. Or I could just do all my work on the new, fast computer at the office after hours. My home computer will still be slow and outdated but look at the money savings! And the monitor flickering isn't as noticeable if I squint while I type."

4. Depression "I'm done with technology. Software and hardware companies are out to torment me. They're cruel. I don't have the money for this now. My computer is so slow. I'm out of disk space. My monitor is still flickering (even after I hit it in that special place on the side). Everything I want requires an upgrade and it's not fair -I shouldn't have to. Oh, and my dog ran away. No, don't talk to me. Life sucks right now."

5. Acceptance "By the time I upgrade my hard drive, buy a new monitor, and upgrade a couple other old components I will have spent as much money as I would on a new computer. That new software sure is cool. Fine. I say 'Uncle!' I'll buy the new computer."

I suppose if I could get games, news, check-book-balancing, business-productivity, instant communication, movies and find a date all with my toaster, I wouldn't mind upgrading it to a better model every couple years ---if new bread required it.

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