To Upgrade or Not To Upgrade
What's the right time to buy a new computer? How often do you need to upgrade software? Is it necessary to have every latest-and-greatest gadget?
Your answer depends on what you use technology for and what (if any) real benefits you may get from upgrading—as well as what's in your budget.
When it comes to considering upgrades, it's important to remember that there's a difference between outdated and obsolete. The former means "no longer current." Since new hardware and software are constantly hitting the market, all systems are soon superseded. No matter what you buy, outdated seems to apply by the time you get it configured.
Obsolete, on the other hand, means "no longer useful." Outdated computers or software aren't necessarily obsolete.
For example, I've met people who'd be happy if MS Word never progressed beyond v5.1. That version included the most useful basics (word processing with formatting options, plus spelling and grammar checks), but without all the extra—some would say excess—features that make the current version require more than 100 MB of hard drive space and of RAM.
Here's another example. Back in 2004, I upgraded to a cable modem. "What?" those of you addicted to broadband are probably thinking. "It took you that long?"
Yes, it did. Although I used email every day, my inner Luddite saw no reason to switch. Since text is light on bytes, dial-up speed was acceptable. That is, it was until I got an assignment writing a couple of software-training courses. Those scripts included image files of screen grabs from the software I was writing about. And that made each script document a whole lot bigger than if it were text-only. One module weighed in at 10MB, which by itself took more than an hour to upload. Upload times for the smaller ones, even compressed, could still be measured in quarter-hours.
Granted, I could continue working on my computer while these uploads progressed, or have dinner, read magazines, etc. But with dial-up, I couldn't use my phone. And I had to stay nearby so I could check periodically that the connection was maintained. (Note to clients: I did not bill for this time.)
The frustration and wasted time were finally enough to make me switch to a cable modem. Like many modern conveniences, I quickly began thinking of it as something that I can't do without.
Alas. Nowadays, necessity is loosely defined. And it's no longer the mother of invention, but of shopping...
Out With the Old
When you must buy new equipment, please remember that it's illegal to dump electronics in the trash. If the equipment is less than five years old, you can probably donate it to a school or other non-profit. Otherwise, it should be brought to a recycler. Refer to the following site for more information: