Thursday, October 05, 2006

Zippity Doo Dah

I'm an Antiques Roadshow addict.

Never has holding on to something, secreting it away into a dark corner of a closet, ever been so compelling, and how often have I wanted to swerve for a yard sale in search of hidden treasure for twenty-five dollars.

For twenty-five dollars, I believe it was, a fortunate one purchased a small, rather undistinguished-looking Federal period piece of furniture that later sold at auction for something on the order of $400,000. The Antiques Roadshow contains all the attractive ingredients of suspense, frequent dismay, and occasional astonishing discovery keeping me on the proverbial edge of my distinctly non-antique seat.

The world of technology resides in a different universe.

How often have I received an inquiry asking what to do with an external Zip drive and a stack of disks, or a SCSI scanner. My suggestion is to toss them all right into the dumpster. I'm as shocked as anyone by the rapid growth of technology. We're living in a universe where I can't seem to throw stuff away fast enough. I've got a flash drive slightly larger than a stick of gum that holds more data, more reliably, than ten Zip disks and costs perhaps a tenth of what I paid for the Zips.

There is a lesson here. Utility vanishes at an alarming, almost visible rate, evaporating before your very eyes. Both the concept of later use and later value are illusory. No, we can't use it later, and unless you're willing to hold on to a piece of current computer hardware for a hundred years, it's value plummets at a precipitous rate.

The nearest analogy might be a car, with the exception that computer hardware depreciates at a far faster rate and a Ford Model A can still be a functional transportation device and a charmingly valuable collectible. Old computers don't take this course (with very few exceptions; I can think of one or two but I'm not telling because I'm still looking for that gem amidst the flotsam of yard sales. Surely, you will allow that some secrets must prevail). Most old computer hardware takes on the aura of post-modern junk. Like a closed Ford plant in Flint, Michigan, that Power Mac 8500 begins to resemble a mini-tower of trampled dreams and urban blight.

Storing anything related to computer technology doesn't save something for someone else to use later—it may not function at all six months from now, and the money I spent buying it gets sucked into a cosmic digital black hole. Any computer three years old is rapidly entering the realm of computer entropy.

Use it now, or sell it now, or give it away now.

Now if I could only make room in my garage for just one more Mac. Surely I could use it for parts. Someday. Plenty of old Mac hardware heading my way.

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