Behind the Times with Technology: Update

First written November 26, 2012

This article is an update to my original one (“Behind the Times with Technology”), in which I defended the reasons why I still used old technology and how I didn’t feel the need to constantly upgrade my equipment. Since writing the first article, I finally got a new computer – an eMachines EL1360G-UW11P for a reduced price of $280 (excluding tax) at Walmart. Now granted, like my Dell Inspiron 1501 laptop, this is a rather low-end computer (actually even more low-end than I expected since I realized after opening the box that it was a slim desktop), but nonetheless, I felt I’d been using my laptop long enough, and given its age, it was more and more at risk of breaking. I also finally scraped together the funds to make this purchase, so at last, I’ve caught up with the times a little bit. In any case, I wanted to make a few additional statements and points that I’ve thought of since last updating the old article – and that I didn’t mention there.

First of all, I can’t say that my needs haven’t evolved at all since starting to use a computer. As I mentioned in the previous article, that mainly occurred when computers became more of multimedia devices – and when I learned of programs and hardware that could allow me to fulfill my creative desires. But, I should also note that I still tend to have lower demands than many modern-day users – and that I still also tend to evolve a lot more slowly. Once I am generally satisfied with the performance of different hardware and software, I generally don’t care to upgrade – or at least I have less drive to constantly do so and may do so at a slower rate. I also think that my computer uses change more after I’ve obtained new machines – rather than constantly upgrading my old ones. For instance, we kept Windows 95 on our Packard Bell (though we did upgrade the RAM and hard drive later), and I was mostly satisfied with its performance. After the Packard Bell died, I moved on to Windows XP-era machines.

I should also say when it comes to evolution, while I wasn’t that fixated on using computers for video making in the late ‘90s and early 2000s, I still can’t say that I never gave it any thought. I always wanted to do some screen recording of The 7th Guest, which could only be done if I had an RCA video composite output jack. So basically, I feel that what I said in my previous article still holds some partial truth when I said that many of my wants hadn’t changed much – though I was slightly less interested in doing so. Then again, had I had a video card with an output jack, I’d be doing the same things I do now with Windows XP-era machines.

Also in regards to evolution, I mentioned some file sizes too big. Granted, yes, most of the time, floppy disks worked, and the bigger files were just system files that might needed to be copied (I encountered this a few times in late 2003 when trying to copy a bunch of Windows 95 system files on floppy disks with the help of another computer to help restore the Packard Bell Platinum 2240 since it had trouble getting the CD-ROM drive and hard drive to read each other). However, I had a few other times when floppy disks simply weren’t adequate. In late 2002, I worked on a PowerPoint game and wanted to transfer it to another computer to add sound effects (since the sound card on the original computer didn’t work). But already, it was much too large to fit on a floppy – let alone with sound effects. And there was another time a year earlier when my dad and I had to figure out a way to store a PowerPoint presentation for school since the file was too big for a floppy disk.

I also just thought of something while writing this. I mentioned in my old article that floppies weren’t as flexible for larger files as flash drives and hard drives. Correct me if I’m wrong, but I think the 1.44 MB standard was introduced back in the late ‘80s, so even some of the biggest files back then could probably fit on a floppy with no problem, but I guess by the ‘90s, they had become proportionately inadequate. So I guess in the ‘80s, a floppy was just fine – but still, I feel that by the ‘90s, a lack of a better, popular alternative existed until flash drives and hard drives came around, so they were still proportionately inadequate. Though actually, now that I think again, they did have Zip drives, but I’m not sure just how popular they were. Still, I’ve loved them the few times I used them. Guess that’s one upgrade the Packard Bell could have used after all.

I also talked about Blu-ray and how I thought it was a little crazy to constantly change formats when the DVD video quality was just fine. While I still stand by my belief that DVD video quality is as good as it reasonably can be, I am open to the idea of using Blu-ray disks since they can hold a lot more data than DVDs. I should note, though, that this is mainly because of an interest in storing data (like files and such), because as I said, I still feel that DVD video quality is perfectly adequate. Anyway, as I said, the eventual shift to Blu-ray might be a good idea because as I said, some storage mediums may become proportionately inadequate as time goes by. Blu-ray replacing DVD would also be good in the sense that it would be easier to keep track of certain mediums. It’s a little easier to have one medium for everything rather than several different ones.

In the days before getting my new eMachines, I noticed that videos on my Inspiron 1501 were starting to lag badly – especially in Google Chrome. It wasn’t that bad in Firefox but could get bad after a while. I don’t know whether or not to attribute this to higher memory demands or something else. Nonetheless, videos don’t lag that badly on the eMachines.

As I also said in my previous article, I think I just get used to my setup and don’t really give upgrading much thought. But there is something else I considered a day or two after getting the eMachines. I went back to use my laptop for whatever reason, and while it wasn’t a strong feeling, I still felt a subtle psychological feeling that the laptop was not as adequate or reliable for my computing needs. When I think about it, the same could be said about old ‘90s computers. Our Packard Bell had a scanner, and while chances are it would be reasonably functional on a basic level compared to my newer scanners, after having been away from them for a while, there’s a psychological feeling I have where I think that I don’t really want to use the scanner, as I feel it would be inadequate and unreliable for the job – even if it’s untrue. So part of the reason, I suppose, why people may not embrace older technology as much is the psychological thought or fear that older devices are not suitable. In some cases, especially with video-related stuff, that might be true, as newer programs could be more stable, but then again, the psychology could be talking, too, simply because one might run an older, less visually fancy-looking program or device.

Also, on a somewhat unrelated note, another reason why Windows 95 might have felt inadequate to me at times (both in the past and now) is because of the lack of newer programs. For instance, in either Windows Vista or 7, you could rearrange taskbar items without a third-party utility. However, I found Taskbar Shuffle, which allows me to do the same thing in Windows XP – and earlier versions of Windows! I never really thought to look on the internet for nifty freeware programs, so my experience on Windows 95 might not have reached its full potential – and fixed some of my inconveniences while still using an older operating system (even more so than Windows XP).

To wrap things up again, I am not saying I have a problem with upgrading. It’s just that I’ve reached a point where my needs have been fulfilled and don’t have much desire to upgrade as fast as others do unless I face bigger, more immediate problems (like being able to transport files). Many people just constantly upgrade whether they need to or not. They appear to often buy new computers and upgrade just because its newer – even if they currently have no significant inconveniences. I tend to live in my own little world, and as long as my setup works, I don’t have any strong desire to upgrade right away unless I face a significant functional problem with what I m using.

Also, many of these upgrades are needed simply because other people are pushing the need for them. We wouldn’t really need to shift to Blu-ray if operating system files and space requirements stayed the same size – and if internet video requirements stayed the same. As I said, I think the video quality is just fine – why burn more power and electricity and demand more resources from a computer when what is already established is perfectly fine?

I really dont’t understand why people can’t be grateful for what they have and be satisfied with it – and demand more, more, and more. I am grateful for what I have and try to get the most reasonable use out of something before upgrading. Heck, I tend to keep my needs sustainable. I don’t even really use a cell phone, and those became commonplace more than ten years ago! Heck, I’d honestly even be okay doing with very limited technology – to live in a world with no cars, phones, etc. and in one with bicycles, horses, typewriters, and such. It would just be nice if other people felt the same way and didn’t feel the need to constantly buy and upgrade stuff. But I guess all I can say is it’s simply human nature. But anyway, it is indeed nice to have a newer computer, though I will still try to have an appreciation for older devices.


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Updated Monday, November 26, 2012