My MacBook Pro slowed down after I installed the latest operating software, Lion, a few months ago. The software before this, Snow Leopard, was working perfectly fine and I never felt the need to upgrade it till two young Apple freaks taunted me with “Oh, you’re still on that?” and dismissed me as if I was a Luddite. They also told me I would be able to do “many cool things” with the latest software.
For reasons I do not know, Apple names its operating systems after big cats (tiger, leopard, snow leopard and lion), Microsoft switches from numbers (Windows 95, Windows 7) to letters (XP and NT) and a name (Vista) in between, and Google names its Android system after desserts: cupcake, gingerbread, honeycomb, ice-cream sandwich.
Frankly, I was quite happy with OS X Tiger, the operating system that came loaded on my computer when I got it in late 2006. I saw no great reason to upgrade the software but I didn’t want my precious computer to become obsolete so soon. I wanted the software to be compatible with my iPhone and iPad. I have, however, never upgraded the hardware, and therein lies my problem.
The Apple helpline told me I should go to an Apple store and ask them to reinstall the operating software. Which I did, and the computer is running much better. But the technician also told me that Lion will not work to its optimum level unless I increase the memory. And then he added, “No point spending money (about Rs 6,000) on a six-year-old machine.” Use it as long as it lasts, he said, because soon it will be difficult to get parts for this computer. The other option, he said, is to hawk it while there is still life in it, and invest in a more recent model.
Handle with care: Laptops can last up to five years if you look after them. Photo: ValentineMueller/Wikimedia
So this means that even though my MacBook Pro is running fine, it might soon die on me. Is this what they call “planned obsolescence”? Wikipedia defines it as “a policy of planning or designing a product with a limited useful life, so it will become obsolete, or no longer functional, after a certain period of time.” Manufacturers want us to buy their new products. Two years ago, a Spanish film-maker made a documentary called The Light Bulb Conspiracy (it’s available on YouTube) about planned obsolescence and how companies engineer their products (it gives the example of the incandescent bulb) to last a limited period of time.
The Apple technician was not the first person to give me this hawk-while-you-still-can advice. I have heard those words when our television set, microwave oven and washing machine began to malfunction at various times. “Carry on as long you can,” they told us, because parts of older models are difficult to come by, and often they are also expensive. I can understand that our 20-year-old television set (remarkable for an electronic product to last that long) just packed up one fine day, but the washing machine was bought only five years ago.
The screen of my desktop monitor—which has gone through a major surgery—now occasionally turns pink and my technician says if I buy a new one now he can perhaps try and get some Rs 300-400 for this “in exchange”. If it blacks out, which I am sure it will, it’ll have to be junked. But unlike the monitor, or a washing machine, a MacBook costs a lot more money. And my question is: Should I sell it now and make whatever little I can, or just carry on and hope it lasts a few more months—or even years.
According to online forums—and I have come across hundreds, discussing similar dilemmas—if you take good care of your laptop (“don’t leave it switched on a soft bed because it might overheat”), it can very easily last up to five years or more. Of course, you would need to replace the battery after a few years and keep updating the software, but beyond that there shouldn’t be a problem. The important point is to look after the laptop. I handle mine carefully, and apart from the glitch I mentioned above and which got sorted out, I have never had any problem.
So I’ve decided to carry on with my ageing MacBook Pro till it finally packs up. By the time I am ready to invest in a new computer, I will get the latest model for my money. It makes a lot of sense to me.
Shekhar Bhatia is a former editor, Hindustan Times, a science buff and a geek at heart.
Write to Shekhar at firstname.lastname@example.org