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Thread: Competing consumer paradigms

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    Volunteer Moderator Badger's Avatar
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    Competing consumer paradigms

    So, I've been thinking about something lately, and I would like to know your opinions. First, let me preface by saying that I have no personal preference or judgment about how people make buying decisions. The choices I'm going to talk about are not mutually exclusive, nor is one better than the other.

    You may have read rumors that Apple may be launching a 12-inch MacBook Air, possibly with retina display, sometime this year. If it comes out, I really, really want it, even though I have a very fast, very nice 15-inch MacBook Pro that, while sort of old (it's a 2009), has never had a problem and is in mint condition. I am justifying this purchase to myself because I can sell the MBP for somewhere in the range of $1k even though it's five years old. Even though the new computer won't have quite the power and the capacity of my current laptop, I will be gaining a ton of portability, which I've realized has become increasingly important to me. I also think that between the new laptop and my phone, I will have my computing needs totally covered (in other words: O iPad, o iPad, ne'er will I see thee more).

    Now here is where I started to run into trouble in my thought process. I have been using Apple laptops for something like 18 years, but I've only ever owned four because I have always bought the best model I could afford, with ample memory and the fastest processor available. By doing that, I have been able to get anywhere between 5 and 7 years of use out of each machine before it either died or could no longer support contemporary applications. Part of me really likes doing it this way because it fits with the practice I apply to other purchases I make: buy the best within reason, and use it for as long as possible before getting another one. It's part of why I buy TB bags. But electronic equipment isn't meant to last forever; its obsolescence is built in from the get go. In 2009, there was no "retina", there wasn't always "an app for that", and cloud storage was not as ubiquitous or affordable as it is now. I've realized that I can do what I need to do on far less machine these days (in terms of both storage and screen real estate) than I have in the past, and I expect the confluence of agility and power to only strengthen as the future unfurls. I've also realized that holding on to a computer for 5-7 years may no longer be a wise practice, and that in some ways it makes sense to go the cheap (well, cheaper, anyway) and cheerful route and replace more frequently.

    But part of me is bothered by the idea of buying the base model and replacing it every time there's a major product refresh (i.e., every two years). While doing this would allow me to make the most of computing trends, I can't shake the idea that maybe this is wasteful—and let's not even get into having to replace multiple accessories/sleeves/etc. when you get a model that's quite different in size than the one you had previously. It's not like I would chuck the laptop in the trash; I would sell it and someone else would get use out of it. But my conservationist impulses tell me it would be better if I didn't buy anything at all until it was absolutely necessary. After all, I've resisted the siren call of the retina screen and/or increasingly powerful MBAs for quite a number of years now.

    Is it possible that I already have buyer's remorse? I realize that this is a first-world problem of the highest order, and one for which there may not be a good answer. I'm not looking for advice (I've decided quite firmly to upgrade for a number of reasons); I'm just wondering if you have thought about this and your perspective on the matter, whether it's about computers or anything else.
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    Quote Originally Posted by Badger View Post
    I've also realized that holding on to a computer for 5-7 years may no longer be a wise practice, and that in some ways it makes sense to go the cheap (well, cheaper, anyway) and cheerful route and replace more frequently.
    .
    I don't necessarily agree with the above. I'm using my MB circa 2008, and, aside from having to buy a new battery pretty much annually, it's fine. (Caveat this and everything else with "...for what I need it to do....")

    While I work in IT, and am happy that things progress and the industry continues to move and keeps me employed <*knocks wood*>, in my personal life, I really try not to get caught up in the latest and greatest that the tech industry wants us to buy into.

    Example: the iphone 5s and 5c. I bought a 5c -- is there really that much of a difference? Especially for a phone?

    I really can't even justify the Air...for the same price, you get a whole lot less than a MBP. It fits the "people who travel a lot" or "people who carry a laptop all day" niches quite nicely, but bringing my macbook to and from work (in a car) isn't a big deal.

    I think it all comes down to how you use your computer; some people can justify purchasing a new computer every couple of years (and the fact that you sell yours makes it a lot easier to do). I just can't do it. My strategy is to buy the least amount of base model computer I need, and then put in as much memory as I can, and keep it until I *really* need a new one.

    Maybe next year...

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    Registered User monkeylady's Avatar
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    I do a similar thing with my cars as Badger does with computers. My current car is 15 years old. I would rather spend $$ on something else, if spending is the call of the day.
    The stockpile keeps growing...I'm in serious trouble.

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    I totally sympathise - I constantly fight the balance between efficiency and not buying the latest'n'greatest just for the sake of it. FWIW, I'm typing this on an 11" MBA, so I can understand your gadget lust!

    I'd say that if your MBP is five years old, you've already had its best years, so to speak - at work, we consider any Mac over 4 years old to be "ready to replace", mostly because if it dies on you, the wasted work hours whilst it's replaced cost our organisation more than a new machine. So I don't think you should feel bad about replacing it.

    My MBA is almost three years old and still going strong, so I wouldn't worry that you'll need to replace yours within two years. Admittedly mine rarely leaves the house - I use it mostly so I can work in any room I feel like, rather than being stuck at my desk. But you do need to be gentler with a MBA than a MBP - I gave my 2-year-old 13" MBA to my husband when I bought the 11", and he soon broke the screen hinge *rolls eyes*
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    Volunteer Moderator Badger's Avatar
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    scribe, that's exactly right, efficiency vs. frivolity. I don't really think my question has to do so much with computers, actually, but with the sort of mindset one adopts when making decisions such as these, and how changing technologies (or advancements in manufacturing or fabrication, or what have you) complicate ideas and principles one has held for a long time, or at least cause one to ask if those principles still make sense. It's more a philosophical question than a practical one.

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    Registered User Ilkyway's Avatar
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    Aren't that the too pols wee are all town in-between: something so sturdy to last forever as in filling the need for "eternity" (meaning something to hold on to in this fast moving wold, something lasting and trustful) and on the other hand something shiny and brand new to play with filling the need of exploring and concerning new horizons.

    I remember the time (as you all are too I expect) when computers involved so fast that todays news was aingent history after 6 month. I hated this. Everything was outdated so fast. But today I am waiting for someone to bobble my harddrivespace for nearly two years and nobody is doing it. What I am getting at: why change your way of thinking about computers NOW as they are slowing down?

    I have found this approach the best in thinking about spending money:
    1. has the family everything that is needed?
    2. Is the house in a good shape?
    3. Have I spend money for people who have more needs then I do?
    4. Is there something left? Lets do something fun with it without hurting the planet or other people. AND without giving it second thought after the money is spent. There is no value in doing that.

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    Volunteer Moderator Badger's Avatar
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    I may be changing my mind because a) I don't agree that the rate of development is slowing; and b) my priorities have shifted from maximum space and speed to maximum portability, but with the added potential dilemma of increased fungibility.

    I guess what I'm getting at is that sometimes something comes along that causes you to reexamine the way you thought previously. A product that makes you think about how to do things in a different way. I imagine that traveling with only carry-ons, or using a modular packing system, is akin to what I'm suggesting.

    Maybe the computer wasn't the best example. I will try to think of something that makes more sense.


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    Registered User Ilkyway's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Badger View Post
    I guess what I'm getting at is that sometimes something comes along that causes you to reexamine the way you thought previously. A product that makes you think about how to do things in a different way. I imagine that traveling with only carry-ons, or using a modular packing system, is akin to what I'm suggesting.
    I am totally with you there. You think you have it all figured out and than you look at it from a different angel and boom totally different perspective. I love and hate when this happens to me.

    Ilkyway
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    Volunteer Moderator Badger's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Ilkyway View Post
    I am totally with you there. You think you have it all figured out and than you look at it from a different angel and boom totally different perspective. I love and hate when this happens to me.

    Ilkyway
    Yes, and I mostly hate it! But I have to admit that sometimes it's a good thing. I have to remind myself that I adopted many of my ideas about many things at a fairly young age. I don't think it's a bad idea to think about whether they still ring true, even if ultimately I don't end up changing my behavior.

    This is something I've been considering lately, probably because in the last year I got rid of probably 80% of my books. I could not fathom not having them, so I moved them all over the country. That was a gigantic pain. It was not easy to come to the conclusion that I like having space and mobility more than I like having the collected works of EM Forster at my fingertips. I would not have said this five or even three years ago.

    Nuts. I should have used books as my example. Too late now 😝


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    Quote Originally Posted by Ilkyway View Post
    I have found this approach the best in thinking about spending money:
    1. has the family everything that is needed?
    2. Is the house in a good shape?
    3. Have I spend money for people who have more needs then I do?
    4. Is there something left? Lets do something fun with it without hurting the planet or other people. AND without giving it second thought after the money is spent. There is no value in doing that.
    This is a wonderful approach - thank you for sharing this. This is practical, considerate, and allows some room for true enjoyment after checking for other needs. I like this!

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    Registered User Janine's Avatar
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    Thanks for starting this conversation, @badger. It might be a first-world problem, but it's certainly relevant in many ways.

    I don't know the current statistics on electronics recycling, but I know it isn't cheap and the amount of gadgetry that ends up in landfills or floating in the artificial plastic continent is quite high. Selling old stuff to new users only delays the problem, it doesn't solve it. If the lifetime of a laptop, for example, could be 6 years instead of 2, then (using simple math that I know is naive) we have 1/3 the debri, 1/3 the industrial waste, 1/3 the recycling dilemma, 1/3 the environmental impact. You could argue that newer computers are produced with less damage to the environment, but is it enough to offset the increase in units produced? I know cost is lowered by the efficiencies of scale, but my 18-year-old base model car was designed such that nearly every component in it could be replaced. Why isn't my laptop like that? Or my tablet? Or my phone?

    Or if that's unreasonable to expect, electronics being quite a different thing than vehicles, then why aren't we embracing the disposable culture by making it ecologically sound? Entirely recyclable, made from non-toxic components, engineered for ease of disassembly, with data storage designed for ease of transfer to a replacement device? Is the goal to have our great-great-great-great-great grandkids dig up fossilized hot dogs and clickwheel iPods as an archeology project?

    I carry shopping bags with me to every store. I recycle. I compost. I reduce my family's consumption of plastics. We garden and buy local. We buy well-constructed items that are designed to last (to echo your initial observation). Why do my gizmos have to be the one place in my life where my ethos has to be ignored?
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    Registered User Janine's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Ilkyway View Post
    I am totally with you there. You think you have it all figured out and than you look at it from a different angel and boom totally different perspective. I love and hate when this happens to me.

    Ilkyway
    It's such an important thing to do, though! If we don't examine our ideas periodically, they become stale. We forget why we thought them. We lose focus and start to wander and lose control of our destinies.

    It still sucks when we realize that we are wrong or are acting like jerks, LOL. And it's even worse now that Facebook is here to remind us of all the dumb stuff we did in the past. :-)
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    Registered User Janine's Avatar
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    ps. Hey badger, the retina screen is only going to remind you of how bad your eyesight is and how oooooold you are getting. Hahahaha.
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    Volunteer Moderator Badger's Avatar
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    As old as a fossilized hot dog. Thanks for reminding me, Janine.


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    Dee
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    I tend to battle the upgrade vs make do decision too.
    I am generally not an upgrader. I don't buy a lot of stuff generally. I don't need the latest iGadget just because it's new. But I do buy quality stuff generally, and when part of the setup changes (or part of the workflow for that matter) it tends to kick of a potentially expensive replacement spree.

    Sticking with MacBooks: when the time came to replace my iMac, I was also starting a new telecommuting job, and reasoned that i should get a laptop for portability, because I work while traveling. I couldn't afford two machines, so I had to get a desktop replacing laptop, a 15" MacBook Pro. A while later, job going well, money in the bank, and an upcoming trip. I looked at my MBP, my bag, and my pile of things to pack, and decided it was just not going to happen. In came the 11" MacBook Air.
    So now in hindsight it would really make more sense to have a traditional desktop and the air as travel machine, or even an external HD to offload some stuff, a display, and the Air for everything. Either hindsight solution means spending a chunk of money and an unused perfectly good laptop.

    First world problem indeed.

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