The Half-Life of Technology

I love technology. And shiny objects. Blinking lights are a plus. I have lots of gadgets. Too many. And a drawer with tech that can no longer keep up. That same drawer has pairs of glasses no longer suitable for my eyes. At least I know I can easily donate glasses at LensCrafters or Pearle Vision, thanks to OneSight. But what about my old tech?

The Life and Death of Everything

Not only do I have that drawer with gadgets…ok, it’s really two drawers. And a milk crate full of stuff in my classroom. And a tub of cables and obsolete gadgets in the garage. The only win I can claim, and it’s not even a feel-good win, is dropping off totally dead gizmos (failed hard drives, burned out routers, and very dead batteries & CFLs) at the local e-waste collector.

Sad to say, I have shoes that hold up better than some of my tech. Shoes rarely degrade in performance to the point of being unusable. If my clothes get too ugly to go out in public, they go to second string for housework. And I don’t feel guilty about throwing out threadbare clothes.

The Eight-Year Rule

What my clothes and technology have in common is an eight-year lifespan. First string devices and clothes are good for about four years. Second string for about another four years. Second string devices go to my kids. They don’t mind used gear and usually don’t complain about performance.

But who wants eight-year-old technology? The answer, apparently, is eBay. After eight years, I don’t care how much money I get back for a device. Even the most expensive stuff, at about 2 grand, ammortizes out at about $20 per month. If the sale covers shipping, plus a small amount of money to make it feel like it’s worth the effort, I’ll count that as a win.

A Win-Win-Win

Fortunately, I have a neighbor who runs his business on eBay and takes on consignment work. For a healthy cut of the selling price, he’ll come pick up my stuff, list it, then ship it. I’m totally fine with that. Someone gets a great deal on my old gear, my friend gets paid for his time, and I get some mad money.

It Doesn’t Feel Like Winning

I do know that an eight-year-old device will be lucky to last another five years. Sure, you can replace the battery, but you’re ultimately left with a device that will become the equivalent of a rotary dial phone (look that one up, kids). It’s going to make its way to the scrap heap eventually. And with the millions of devices sold every year, that’s millions of devices headed to scrap every year. So I keep my devices a little bit longer than I used to, and replace gadget batteries when they die just to keep them on life support. My watch and the kids’ laptop are due for new batteries. Come to think of it, maybe one of my kids is ready for a smartwatch. Mine just hit its half-life.