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Consumers Buy Less Tech Stuff, Keep It Longer 507

Posted by timothy
from the that-doesn't-sound-like-a-bad-plan dept.
Hugh Pickens writes writes "The NY Times reports that there are indications that a sea change is taking place in consumer behavior as a result of the great recession: Americans are buying less tech stuff and making it last longer (reg. may be required). Although in many cases the difference is mere months, economists and consumers say the approach may outlast a full recovery and the return of easy credit, because of the strong impression the downturn has made on consumers. For example Patti Hauseman stuck with her five-year-old Apple computer until it started making odd whirring noises and occasionally malfunctioning before she bought a new computer for Christmas — actually, a refurbished one. 'A week later, the old one died. We timed it pretty well,' says Hauseman, adding that it was not so much that she could not afford new things, but that the last few years of economic turmoil had left her feeling that she could be stealing from her future by throwing away goods that still had value. Consumers are holding onto new cars for a record 63.9 months, up 4.5 months from a year ago and 14 percent since the end of 2008, according one research firm. Industry analysts also report that people on average are waiting 18 months to upgrade their cellphones, up from every 16 months just a few years ago. 'We're not going back to a time of our grandmothers' tales of what they kept and how they used things so carefully,' says Nancy F. Koehn, a professor at the Harvard Business School and a historian of consumer behavior. 'But we'll see a consistent inching or trudging towards that.'"
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Consumers Buy Less Tech Stuff, Keep It Longer

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  • by LostCluster (625375) * on Sunday February 27, 2011 @09:27AM (#35330018)

    The good news here is that the computer buying public is getting more educated about what they need and what's available, and starting to find better deals.

    The bad news is that the tech industry has to compete more with itself which means its scrambling over a smaller total of dollars available.

    • by devxo (1963088)
      I hope games industry does as well. While I like and enjoy Civilization V, I did go back to Civilization IV and play it with Rise of Mankind mod. It just offers so much more possibilities and features. Civilization V is too dumbed down.

      The bad thing is that instead of making the new games better, it looks like gaming industry is making them harder to mod and otherwise make their lifetime last longer. After all, you can't sell expansions, DLC's and new games if the gamers are playing your perfect game.
      • by Jaysyn (203771)

        After all, you can't sell expansions, DLC's and new games if the gamers are playing your perfect game.

        Not always true. Dragon Age, Oblivion, Fallout 3 & NWN 2 did pretty good in both respects.

    • by intellitech (1912116) * on Sunday February 27, 2011 @09:31AM (#35330028)

      The bad news is that the tech industry has to compete more with itself which means its scrambling over a smaller total of dollars available.

      I think the industries need a wake-up call, to some extent. I find it remarkable how they expect people to keep buying and buying.

      Just because technology gets older does not always make it obsolete, although electronic manufacturers try very hard to make it so.

      • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

        by Anonymous Coward

        Computers and gadgets are relatively new tech, and the feature differences between models have been pretty drastic. 10 years ago, a 2 year old computer was starting to get long in the tooth. Software manufacturers were writing software to take advantage of new features and performance. Likewise, smart phones are starting to hit a level of maturity that makes it far less compelling to justify spending the money. I think the economy has made consumers look at the devices they have and then make an educated de

        • by rtb61 (674572)

          Speaking of computers could it be more than the recession that is influencing change. Is the internet and it's anti-marketing capability starting to have an impact on consumerism? As a result of the internet are people becoming more marketing resistant?

          Is there a growing pressure for products that do last a life time, is the internet weakening fashion because all fashions remain alive on it and forever, is upgrade resistance driven by the growth in expressing ourselves by creating content and interactin

      • by Fractal Dice (696349) on Sunday February 27, 2011 @10:32AM (#35330226) Journal
        Aside from fashion designers, I can't think of any industry other than tech that is more aware and aggressive when it comes to planned obsolecence.
      • by Colin Smith (2679) on Sunday February 27, 2011 @10:45AM (#35330298)

        "I find it remarkable how they expect people to keep buying and buying."

        But that's exactly what people do till they are trillions and trillions and trillions in debt.

        Companies owe the banks lots of money, it has to be paid back or the thugs come rounds and break some legs.

        You have to keep buying. There must be Growth!

         

        • by berwiki (989827) on Sunday February 27, 2011 @03:23PM (#35332194)
          well, the thing is, because the population is always increasing, steady growth should be expected.

          The problem is people have been over-spending and spreading themselves too thin. So now, the slightest bump with their income causes massive repayment issues...People need to be more humble and not lease that new car.

          Being a CS geek, I've taken my share of math classes. It is easy for me to understand how compound interest works, and why saving that nest-egg at the beginning of your career is so vital. Once you can pay for things out of pocket, you will save thousands on interest over the course of your life, which in turn enables you to buy even more stuff down the road. But everyone wants everything 'Now', which is a very hard mindset to change.

          I wish people weren't so damn stupid, because it affects my retirement directly. I cringe at the fact, somehow, someday, I will be bailing out the idiots who are underwater with mortgages/credit card debt because they were irresponsible and acted foolishly. The majority always get their way, even when they are wrong (IMO democracy problem #1). And people like me, who save their money, will have it ripped from our hands with unobtainable student loan grants for our children, first time home buyer credits, or whatever else the government does to keep me in the same rat-race as everyone else.

          True, the banks are partially to blame. In my opinion, nobody should be allowed to buy a house without 20% down. Sure, there are financial wizards who can come up with crazy alternatives and be just fine. But the mess we are in is because too many of those fancy loans were handed out to people who probably never passed algebra 1.

          Anyway, I'm getting off topic, I just hate where we are headed and feel helpless no matter what I do. Save or splurge, I honestly can't decide which is a better idea anymore.
          • by EdIII (1114411) on Sunday February 27, 2011 @11:19PM (#35334994)

            True, the banks are partially to blame. In my opinion, nobody should be allowed to buy a house without 20% down. Sure, there are financial wizards who can come up with crazy alternatives and be just fine. But the mess we are in is because too many of those fancy loans were handed out to people who probably never passed algebra 1.

            Off topic, but I have to say that %20 down was not the problem. Not even remotely.

            The problem FIRST started when they allowed mortgages to become security instruments. 50-60 years ago you had note burning parties. There was an episode of M*A*S*H where the Colonel (this was 1952) burned the mortgage note with the rest of gang. This was standard.

            When a mortgage is sold from one financial institution to another it is critically important that there was a solid process by which the note itself (physically) was transferred. The details were recorded. The home owner could always demand to see the note and to whom they were paying. When the loan was fully paid back, part of the process was receiving that physical note back. The act of burning it was not just symbolic. It meant there was nobody in possession of the note to make a claim against you.

            With the securitization of loans it created an environment where financial institutions needed to move faster and faster. They became more loose with the proper transfer of the note itself, and the most evil of instruments (because of use), the deed of trust was used more and more. It was customary to record on the note itself the payments and total amount owed. That obviously could not work at a speed suited for Wall Street.

            With the laws, bought and paid for by Wall Street and the financial institutions, the ignorant public was more and more buying into the bullshit of deeds of trust and mortgage insurance. About as crazy as agreeing to arbitration with the credit institutions when they get to choose the arbitrating panel and have used to get "summary judgments" on thousands of people. It's tragic how many people show up to the bank to find their money gone when they never even had due process.

            The thing that has never come out in the news is the massive, massive, massive fraud that has occurred with the banks. The vast majority of the time they cannot even *FIND* the physical note anymore, and more than one bank thinks they own the note. But why should that slow them down? They use the deed of trust to perform a non-judicial foreclosure. Which means they don't need to prove they own the note. Just that they are part of that trust arrangement.

            This has been going on for YEARS. People have just been lucky that they had the money to pay their loans, and that the real estate boom kept property values going up. This allowed so many many people to get newer terrible loans that gave them money out of their equity. Why worry about tomorrow? Property values kept going up and that variable interest rate was not going to change in like *forever*.

            What fucked us all up the poopchute was when those greedy bastards were not content to be transferring around the "normal" loans as fast as possible with a reasonable rate of return, and wanted the higher rate of return security pools instead.

            They created a monster that needed ever more bad loans fed into it on a daily basis. It was fucking insane.

            So the problem was not the down payment. It was getting a young couple into a home with a loan that started out at something like $1000-1500 per month. They could not think themselves out of a wet cardboard box (Algebra 1 would have helped) and could only understand their initial monthly payment. Between the two of them they both made $3500-$5000 if they were lucky. These stupid bastards were the same people on welfare or unemployment at the time, but could seemingly afford two Escalades.

            The look of shock on their poor little faces when 2-3 years down the line that $1500 a month payment jumps to $1750. That *was* just the first 3 months! 12 months late

        • by dargaud (518470) <slashdot2NO@SPAMgdargaud.net> on Sunday February 27, 2011 @04:03PM (#35332458) Homepage

          You have to keep buying. There must be Growth!

          "Growth for the sake of growth is the ideology of the cancer cell."
          It astounds me that the entire economic system of most of the word is based on a concept that can only be sustained for a short period. Then what ? Why aren't there economists working on alternate systems to this constant growth ?

          And back on the subject here at hand, part of the reason for the decrease in computer purchases is that they are becoming 'good enough'. Processors haven't raised their MHz noticeably in the last 5 years. Hard disks were at 2Tb 3 years ago, and there are only two models at 3Tb on the market now. You can't do much more with a tower PC now than 5 years ago. Laptops don't have much more battery life now than 3 years ago. Sometimes you have disruptive tech like the EeePC, but that stabilised too. As for the phones, I have a 18 months old HTC and the later models aren't much better. But it's much better than all the generations that came before, so it was worth upgrading before, not now.

          It not so much the sign of a recession as of a mature market.

          • by EdIII (1114411) on Sunday February 27, 2011 @10:42PM (#35334806)

            Exactly.

            I am a sysadmin and a developer. As of a few weeks ago, I had about a half-dozen Dell 24" monitors that were purchased in 2004 (I think. It was right when they came out), a HP Pavillion dv8000t ($4k but worth it), and a BlackBerry Storm that I have had since the Storm came out.

            Only thing that has changed is a new laptop. That HP has lasted me 5 years. Granted, it was $4k at the time, but for a guy like me it was the most important business piece of equipment I owned. Even with all the stuff I do, it has lasted me that long. That's including heavy Adobe Photoshop and Premiere usage and about a dozen windows open all the time. Only reason why I got a new laptop, a $3k Dell Mobile Precision, was because the HP was overheating due to a fan issue. It took me a few hours of taking apart the laptop just to get to the fan to clean it out and I can't find a replacement fan.

            Other than the new laptop, I don't have a major piece of equipment less than 3 years old at this point. I am a geek too, but what has really come out in the last few years that you could consider to be a game changer? Unless you need to be on the bleeding edge of PC gaming, there has been practically no reason to upgrade equipment.

            Ohhh, and about the only exception here is keyboards and mice. Those are practically consumables in my development group, and given the frustration that CSS and coding for multiple browsers can cause, a keyboard or two has found itself embedded in the drywall. Mice pretty much explode on impact.

            If you do your due diligence and research equipment before you buy it you can get a long life out of them simply by taking really good care of it. I have had people remark that there was no way my HP could be 5 years old simply because it was immaculate. I can't say the same for my friends that go through iPods and iPhones like candy because they can't get get a good protective sleeve around it and treat their equipment like crap. Greasy ass keyboards and track pads because they eat Krispy Kreme donuts while they are working at a coffee shop. We even have a guy with a 6-month old laptop that has his keys *melted*. It looks like it has been through Beirut and sounds like wood chipper when it does heavy processing. He lets his cat sleep on the keyboard.

            This consumption culture and illusion of wealth provided by the credit industry allowed people to act like ignorant pigs with their equipment. "Upgrades" were performed simply because people needed the new "Shiny" which wasn't even that much different than the old "Shiny".

            Seriously.... for the gamers out there... is there really that much of difference between 1680x1050 at 60fps and 1900X1200 at 60fps? Do you really have to purchase a new computer every 12-18 months to get the maximum resolution and fps out of the current hot game on the market? Are you sure you could not enjoy a game at a slightly less than bleeding edge resolution and fps? The most enjoyment I think I got out of game was back in the Apple IIe and Nintendo games. That was when plot and substance was more important than graphics.

            I'm glad we had this credit crash. I think it is giving a hard lesson to a lot of people, young people especially, about properly valuing your equipment, understanding interest, and doing more with less.

      • by TheLink (130905)

        I think the industries need a wake-up call, to some extent. I find it remarkable how they expect people to keep buying and buying.

        Many tech items are actually quite cheap for what you get. And in some ways they have been getting cheaper over the years, unlike other things (food, drinks, fuel).

        For example: a 2TB hard drive. You're getting a fairly high tech item ("cutting edge" even) with fast moving parts and fancy stuff like super strong magnets. Comes with a 3 year warranty. And it stores 2 terabytes! Think about it - less than 10 years ago HDDs of the same price stored only 40GB. All for USD88 ( some burgers even cost more than th

        • by morari (1080535)

          As for the smug cyclists/bikers out there, how much does it cost when a truck or SUV hits you?

          It doesn't cost, it pays! You can always sue the dumb bitch that was driving her over sized SUV while tapping out a text message on her iPhone with those ridiculous fake nails on.

          • by tftp (111690)

            You can always sue the dumb bitch that was driving her over sized SUV

            It's not you who will be suing but your estate. You will be resting comfortably six feet under.

      • by mrbcs (737902) on Sunday February 27, 2011 @12:11PM (#35330844)
        I have four P4 2ghz machines that I pulled out of the e-waste trailer. I put in new drives, reinstalled (xp stickers on the box) and set them up for my kids.

        Put a half decent old video card in and the kids can play most older games.

        I have thousands invested in software and I'm not going to repurchase anything unless I absolutely have to. I have about 14 systems in my house and my netbook is the only thing less than a year old. I can buy tons of cheap replacement parts on ebay so I should be able to keep this stuff running for years.

    • Wirth's law (Score:5, Insightful)

      by tepples (727027) <tepples&gmail,com> on Sunday February 27, 2011 @09:34AM (#35330032) Homepage Journal

      The bad news is that the tech industry has to compete more with itself which means its scrambling over a smaller total of dollars available.

      The good news is that as the installed base of five-year-old PCs and netbooks increases, publishers of commercial software may finally realize that the common practice of increasing published system requirements rather than the efficiency of algorithms, commonly called Wirth's law [wikipedia.org], is costing them customers.

      • Five years is the typical standard for a magnetic hard disk to fail. (Possibly the source of the noise in the summary) Planned failure creates sales... as annoying as it is for the customers.

        • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

          by Weezul (52464)

          5 years? A desktop hard drive maybe. Apple's laptop hard drives die fairly reliably like 2ish years out. I've never seen one last longer than 3 years, although I've seen some fail in year 1.

          There are also issues with Mac OS X not handling failing drives gracefully by not giving other processes any CPU time when the kernel starts working on reading a bad sector, plus even obviously bad sectors are commonly not marked.

          • by Winckle (870180)

            My MBP's HDD has lasted 4 years and counting.

          • I've got HDDs that are over 10 years old which still work fine. I have a couple from my old iBook that I still use, too. Those would be over 5 years old, although, I haven't used them much in the last couple of years.

            Can't say the same for laptop optical drives, though. They all seem like crap.

          • There are also issues with Mac OS X not handling failing drives gracefully by not giving other processes any CPU time when the kernel starts working on reading a bad sector, plus even obviously bad sectors are commonly not marked.

            1. MacOS X has Time Machine, which means there is no excuse whatsoever if you don't have a backup. 2. If there are any bad sectors, I want to know about it. 500 GB Hitachi 7200rpm drive cost me £45 including P&P, and about five minutes replacing.

            All in all, I treat the hard drive as a consumable. Like the tyres on your car.

          • Five years, or one drop while spinning. Laptops are obviously more prone to being dropped.
        • My 80GB system drive is at least 5 years old at this point, running fine with no bad sectors. In fact, most of my drives are pushing on 6 years old with no bad sectors. And my 486 is still kicking with the original 80MB SCSI hard drive it came with in the 80s, and a 540MB hard drive that came from a 486 my family got in 1992... Not that I haven't had hard drive troubles... it's just been a really long while... possibly something about never buying "consumer" hard drives after a few bad experiences with a c
          • Most people don't bother to troubleshoot a broken computer, they don't open the case. A non-booting computer is broken, and either needs to be repaired or replaced, both of which cost money. When the costs of the repair exceeds the cost of a new computer, the user will chose the new computer. The point of this story is that it's taking longer for computers to reach that point.

        • Five years is the typical standard for a magnetic hard disk to fail.

          Which can be replaced by a local computer repair shop with another hard disk, not necessarily another computer. As I understand it, hard disks and RAM are the components most often designed to be replaced, even on laptops.

    • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday February 27, 2011 @10:32AM (#35330228)

      I'm just a barista, and I don't make a lot of money, but even I manage to buy a new Apple device almost every month.

      Each month, I put all of my first three weeks of earnings toward buying a new iPhone or an iPad or an iBook or an iPod. I already have 14 different types of iPods, and 8 iPhones. Next month I think I will save up for a new Mac mini (it will be my 12th).

      It's my duty as an American to buy as many Apple products as I can, even if it means that sometimes I don't have enough money for rent, and sometimes not even enough money for food.

    • by Runaway1956 (1322357) on Sunday February 27, 2011 @10:35AM (#35330240) Homepage Journal
      Well, it's about time. That whole "consumer" thing is just so much sick shit. I happen to be a citizen, a taxpayer, a voter, and a PRODUCER. Consumption is a goddamned DISEASE! http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tuberculosis [wikipedia.org]
  • by thomasdz (178114) on Sunday February 27, 2011 @09:32AM (#35330030)

    Although I have an EyeTV for my Mac and can record TV shows when I need to... my day to day TV recording needs are still met with my VCR that I've had for the past 10 years.
    (I also bought my first CD player in 1993...what's that 10 years after CDs started getting produced)
    (and I have a twenty-year old VAX 4200 minicomputer running OpenBSD as my home firewall)

    • by thomasdz (178114)

      And yes, my Mac is a five-year-old PowerPC-chipped Mac Mini.

    • Although I have an EyeTV for my Mac and can record TV shows when I need to... my day to day TV recording needs are still met with my VCR that I've had for the past 10 years.

      My eyes are bleeding from just reading that statement.

      I hope you at least buy new blank tapes every now and then.

  • by stox (131684) on Sunday February 27, 2011 @09:36AM (#35330038) Homepage

    and keep it for years than have the latest and greatest every year. Sadly, it is getting tougher and tougher to find those quality products,

    • Bought my MBP 17" some 5 years ago and it is still going strong, with just some flickering on the bottom half of the screen that i can easily remedy with a piece of plastic. Definitely worth spending a bit extra to get quality.
      • The other good thing about Macs is the higher resell value. Handy when you want to sell your old computer to help pay for the new one.

    • by Dunbal (464142) * on Sunday February 27, 2011 @09:46AM (#35330082)
      It is, and was always, a case of research. Making up numbers for argument's sake, only 2% of products in a certain category are worthwhile. Usually they're no more (or not much more) expensive than the rest. But you have to sift through the other 98% of garbage (or relative garbage) to find them. Pricing cannot be counted on as a guide because marketing people are wise to the fact that people perceive a link between higher price and better quality, although this is not always the case. So most of the time you are "just paying for the label", as the saying goes.
    • vs deflation.

      In a deflationary environment, money becomes more valuable over time, so when people spend some, they look for products which are going to last longer or which are higher quality items. As a result, producers who produce higher quality, do better than those who produce cheap crap.

      In an inflationary environment the reverse is true, it is more important to get rid of the money, and in fact getting into debt also makes sense as well. The quality matters less because you can just buy another one us

      • by vakuona (788200)
        Um, no. In a deflationary environment, people put off making purchases because they hope to buy in the future, when prices are lower. Sort of like waiting until black Friday to buy stuff! So they would logically buy the cheaper stuff and save their money which will be more valuable in the future. So there, I have given you a theory that is equally plausible.
    • by couchslug (175151) on Sunday February 27, 2011 @11:33AM (#35330588)

      "Sadly, it is getting tougher and tougher to find those quality products,"

      Only in brick-and-mortar stores. I grew up with those, and avoid them now.

      With the internet I find it MUCH easier to find product information and reviews from actual users then buy what I like. I don't need the stores. Drop ship that shit with a tracking number and old couchslug is happy!

      I don't have to rely on ADVERTS for info. Can you say "sea change"? I'm Old as Fuck (51) and in the so-called Good Old Days you had to do research by snail mail and catalog comparisons.

      It sucked monstrously.
      Fuck nostalgia (well, except for the 1970s drug culture, which was fun with little negative consequence!).

      Now, I can read Slashdot while ordering the mix of old quality stuff and new quality stuff that suits my wants. For example, I can order a vintage cutting torch off Ebay and the modern parts to put it back in use, saving (lots of) money and travel time.

      I maintain most of what I own and the internet is access to the modern industrial cornucopia of Stuff. Sure, there's lots of cheap shit, but INFORMATION lets me route around it smoothly. The internet has saved me tens of thousands of dollars, made life simpler, and is a wonderful tool.

      • Only in brick-and-mortar stores. I grew up with those, and avoid them now.

        For oversized or heavy products, shipping can become expensive compared to borrowing a family friend's truck. And if a product doesn't live up to its review, or it ends up unusably unergonomic (especially screens, keyboards, and touch screens), you have to pay return shipping, and I've found that online stores are more likely to charge a 15 percent restocking fee for returned merchandise.

  • by fatp (1171151) on Sunday February 27, 2011 @09:39AM (#35330044) Journal
    The summary said " Americans are buying less tech stuff and making it last longer"?

    No worry, manufacturer are making everything last shorter
  • 1) Consumers will go back to their old "disposable" life style just as fast as you can say "mo' money".

    2) But why does every just take fro granted that the economy will return to "normal" any time soon?
     

    • by hitmark (640295)

      3) what is "normal" anyways?

    • by Junta (36770)

      Well, to point one, I personally had a couple of relatives who lived during the great depression who would antagonize at length over the need for every little item and the relative costs down to the penny. If they had gone through the line only to find out they misunderstood a discount that means they would end up paying 2 cents more than the next cheapest bread, they would either hold things up while they traded bread, or even give up their place in line if the cashier would not wait for them. The obviou

  • by a_n_d_e_r_s (136412) on Sunday February 27, 2011 @09:43AM (#35330074) Homepage Journal

    When people have less money they keep their items for a longer period. They have functional items and don't have the money and there is less peer pressure to buy the latest since for many the money is tight. They dont waste their money by buying new items they don't need.

    This more or less always happen when the economy are bad.

    • by Billly Gates (198444) on Sunday February 27, 2011 @10:01AM (#35330118) Journal

      The problem during this one is it was so severe that many who are making money are still not spending.

      For example I have $3,000 sitting in my bank right now. I need a new phone but refuse to pay more than $140. Even at $140 I will have bad anxiety for purchasing it.

      For those reading this it does not make any sense. But I was broke, and jobless for years. I am just used to eating top ramen and living broke. My brain is wired to think any spending is bad and dangerous. I may just keep my useless free phone that barely works out of guilt. $100 is a ton of money!

      These mindsets are created during depressions more than recessions. This one has qualities of both. Most of the new jobs are minimum wage. Fear is still there as businesses love restructuring and financially engineering jobs that can be done with less and less skills via cheaper workers. The rest go to India.

      The question is how do you change the mindset? Without that we are in trouble. However, a good savings rate more help the economy more long term so I do not know.

      • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday February 27, 2011 @10:30AM (#35330218)

        >> For example I have $3,000 sitting in my bank right now.

        My how you've fallen, Billy Gates.

      • by vlm (69642)

        For example I have $3,000 sitting in my bank right now. I need a new phone but refuse to pay more than $140. Even at $140 I will have bad anxiety for purchasing it.

        $140 per month ... The real big money is in the multi-year service contracts, unless you're carrying exclusively for free 911 service. $3000 will just barely pay for two years of iphone, if you carefully never exceed your monthly limits and don't buy many accessories, apps, or media. Realistically you can't afford an iphone with only three grand and should stick to pay as you go or a plain ole phone, unless you can somehow make more than $3K after taxes by owning the phone... I certainly cannot.

        I do the

        • by peragrin (659227)

          My two year AT&T iphone bill is roughly $1700 maybe a bit more if I text a lot.

          Pretty much all cell phone data plans are vastly overpriced. I have been trying to decide if to upgrade, as I use my iphones features all the time, or if I keep my iphone 3G going for a fourth year(I am currently 2.5 years into it).

          The battery is surprisingly is holding out strong still.

      • by TheRaven64 (641858) on Sunday February 27, 2011 @11:17AM (#35330470) Journal

        My brain is wired to think any spending is bad and dangerous. I may just keep my useless free phone that barely works out of guilt. $100 is a ton of money!

        I'm trying hard, but I can't see why you think there's anything wrong with this attitude. My current phone is from 2006. I paid £50 for it (a little under $100, at the time), and the only reason why I bought it instead of a cheaper one was that it supported WiFi and SIP, so I could make cheaper calls from home. Over the first year of owning it, I saved more than I paid for it by making calls via SIP instead of the mobile network. The only reason I'm thinking of replacing it is that the battery life is now pretty shocking (about a day on standby, two if you're very lucky). My quality of life wouldn't be improved by a new phone, so I don't buy one.

        This sort of attitude is why I was able to afford to buy a house in the middle of a recession (and lower my cost of living a lot, since my mortgage payments are now a third of what I was paying in rent), and why I seem to spend far less time stressed about money than my contemporaries.

        • The only reason I'm thinking of replacing it is that the battery life is now pretty shocking (about a day on standby, two if you're very lucky).

          You can always just replace the battery. A new battery for my Nokia phone would cost me about €15 or less.

        • by Shivetya (243324) on Sunday February 27, 2011 @02:52PM (#35331974) Homepage Journal

          even with many times in the bank that what he has I refuse to buy a "smart phone" or similar. Too me it seems that the name was a give away. Make the owner feel important, pretentious even, and fleece him behind his back because they know he will justify it to himself!!! I deserve it. We have a running joke at my work, the support people drive better (read : more expensive) cars than the programmers and admins. I do not understand the need to pick up a near 800 dollar lease, that damn car's MSRP is near the person's income who drives it.

          Its like wandering into Starbucks and seeing all the expensive hardware on display. People are far to convinced that the items they are seen with define them. I will drive my little TDI and smile. Its a flipping car, just like its a flipping phone, laptop, etc. They are meaningless in a world when anyone can go in debt to have them.

          Having expensive toys does not make you rich or special.

      • As others have said, you're doing fine and your attitude is quite healthy. I would suggest that you spend your money on good quality food instead of ramen. But technology? Pfeh.

        I have never been able to acclimatise myself to spending money on computer hardware. I know how obsolescent it is. I think of current computers as things that employers pay for.

        We have five computers for four people. The toddler has an ancient Mac G4 with Cinema Display that is her television [bbc.co.uk] - it's a depreciated-to-zero ex-publishing machine we got for free. Girlfriend and teenager have Dell Mini 10 they bought new. I have a Dell Mini 9 I got off eBay 'cos I really wanted the slightly smaller machine (£100 and £30 for 2GB RAM). The teenager also has a gaming rig her mother built which was about £600 total for parts and OS, which is not bad for a gaming rig.

        My phone is a £10 dumbphone that does voice and texts. The teenager's is similar. The girlfriend's is a Blackberry Curve 'cos she got a better deal on it than her previous contract, and it's quite smart enough thanks.

        Just Enough Technology. Computers are dross.

  • by cybergabi (1962340) on Sunday February 27, 2011 @09:48AM (#35330090)
    The environment will be happy.
  • by epine (68316) on Sunday February 27, 2011 @09:49AM (#35330092)

    From the perspective of the wealthy one percent--whose greatest concern is finding a bank of historical Swiss virtue with a fresh coating of wikicaulk--the Gini has delivered unfathomable riches.

    In America, with the repeal of the estate tax, tau is better than ever. The majority of the population who tacitly supported the "death" tax revocation against their present interests--in favour of interests they wish someday to have--now find themselves pinching their threads. Who would have guessed?

    Here's an interesting theoretical question. Under what conditions does accelerated inequity appeal to the majority of a democratic population? And how long can you keep the descending majority from figuring out they have more to gain by repealing the obsolescence tax (which they actually pay) rather than the death tax (as aspirational indignity increasingly far from reach)?

  • I used to purchase a new computer every couple years. Now I find with the exception of high end gaming my 4-5 year old computer will still do everything I want to do at an acceptable speed. Even the gaming works, just not at maximum settings.

    It wasn't that long ago that if you were a couple years behind the curve then many operations were extremely slow. That does not hold true anymore, at least in my case.
    • That was always true...

    • I think around 1GHz was where this started to be true. My mother still uses a computer from that era. I sometimes do (I have a 1.2 GHz Celeron M ThinkPad that I occasionally use), and for 90% of things it's not noticeably slow (as long as it has a decent amount of RAM). My current laptop is 4.5 years old, and it's just starting to feel a little bit slow. Even when I 'replace' it, the old one won't be thrown away, it will be kept as a spare in case the new one breaks and used for various noncritical thin
  • Old stuff works fine (Score:5, Interesting)

    by ytaews (1837554) on Sunday February 27, 2011 @09:51AM (#35330096)
    I think that, at least for the average user in their day-to-day tasks, five or six year old computers still perform adequately, and people really have no reason to upgrade. My uncle has an eight year old IBM ThinkPad which he still uses as his primary computer, and it runs Windows XP, Outlook Express and Office 2003 just fine - and that's all he needs. Given, it's more or less approaching the end of its life, the battery doesn't hold a charge and the HDD is as slow as a dog, but having seen his friends' bad experiences with new hardware and the bloated mess that was Vista, he's reluctant to upgrade.

    And that bloat I think is causing a lot of this. New hardware isn't much faster than the old if it's dragged down by a bloated OS. And I think it's fair to say that most of these new 'features' aren't really necessary at all, so people don't see a need to upgrade. Why do you think XP still has such a large market share? Because people already have it, it does what they need it to, and there's no real need for them to upgrade.
    • by hugetoon (766694) on Sunday February 27, 2011 @11:18AM (#35330472)

      "HDD is as slow as a dog" beware of this symptom if this behavior does not go away when recreating a filesystem!
      Modern hard drives have bad blocks when they are shipped like old ones had (there was a paper with list of bad blocks attached to every new HDD back then).

      The difference is that new HDDs have extra space used to relocate bad blocks and do it automatically when they sense that a block is about do die. When there are many relocated blocks it is equivalet to having a fragmented filesystem: for a sequential read the disk head has to seek data in physical places that are afar. The apparent HDD speed decreases as the number of bad blocks increases.
      The next stage is to having bad blocks reported by O/S that don't go away when overwritting them. This means that there is so many of them that there is no "extra" space left to relocate them. Your HDD is then basically a colander full of holes and You shouldn't entrust your data to it.

      As a side note, after this explanation it should be clear why it happens to be impossible to recover a file due to bad blocks but a after low level format they "vanish". This is not a magic feature of a low level format like "polishing" the plate surface with some strong magnetic field, in reality when a block allocated to a file dies, and You try to read it, the HDD has no choice but to report an error because the data is no longer there, but when You write to it (which low level format does) the block gets relocated.

      For this same reason it is recommended to have HDDs holding data that is rarely accessed (typically forensics evidence HDDs) being periodically fully re-read. This forces the relocation of "weak" blocks before they become unreadable.

    • A modern but lean operating system, that is what your uncle needs: time to introduce him to Linux! For example, my friend's brand new i3 laptop running Win7 feels much slower than the modest C2D with Mint I'm using right now.

  • by zerofoo (262795) on Sunday February 27, 2011 @09:53AM (#35330098)

    I don't see this as a return to frugality - I see this as a warning shot for the industry.

    Innovation in the electronics and technology industry is stagnating. What really separates a high-def TV, smart phone, or computer from one of 5 years ago?

    Consumers seem to think not much.

    As much as I love my new Verizon iPhone - it's not really leaps and bounds better than my old 3GS I gave to my wife. My company switched to Verizon, so I was forced to "upgrade". If I was paying for it, I wouldn't have made the switch.

    I think TV manufacturers saw this trend coming a couple of years ago, so they scrambled to put 3D in to every TV they could hoping it would spur another round of upgrades - and most of the world said meh...

    The low-hanging fruit is gone - the tech world will need to really think creatively to create the next round of stuff that people find useful.

    -ted

    • I don't see this as a return to frugality - I see this as a warning shot for the industry.

      If I was paying for it, I wouldn't have made the switch.

      Uh, sorry? I'm not seeing the warning shot here, I'm seeing a guy admitting that if his new toy would have cost him some bucks it just wouldn't have happened.

      In the meantime, I really don't think there is enough high level thinking going on in most consumer markets to support your assumption. The market still quivers in anticipation over every new tech toy. 3D
      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by garnetquagga (1854714)

        3D isn't big yet but it will be. This was a mistimed market after the wide acceptance of affordable LCD/Plasma displays and the analog broadcast ban in the past 5 years. Had 3D been introduced 2 years ago it would have had a much faster adoption.

        I'm not sure about that. Most of what I've heard from people who are not buying 3D is that it gives them headaches or makes them feel ill. Not sure any different timing would have affected that. Personally, I've seen 3D but don't think it's enough of a better experience for the money. I'm not even sure I like HD yet. I'm not yet comfortable with seeing every one of Kevin Costner's blackheads, or being able to tell when the makeup artist was half asleep.

    • by vlm (69642)

      The low-hanging fruit is gone - the tech world will need to really think creatively to create the next round of stuff that people find useful.

      The companion problem is thinking hard about covering your target market, in all fields, not just tech, such as marketing and artsy-craftsy stuff. Used to be simple, everyone owned a SDTV in an "entertainment console" roughly the size of a dorm fridge.

      We're headed to a hyper fragmented market. Middle class folks with traditional old dorm fridge sized CRT SDTVs. Poor people with giant HDTV big screens (sorry for the stereotype, but it runs true). Rich folks with the new 3D TVs but no knowledge of how to

    • by Kjella (173770)

      Innovation in the electronics and technology industry is stagnating. What really separates a high-def TV, smart phone, or computer from one of 5 years ago?

      Innovation is live and well, their problem is that they can't really invent demand. I must admit I'm a bit of an upgrade monkey, I've gone from 4 GB to 8 GB to now 16 GB of RAM, more because I could for a reasonable bit of money ($170 now for 16GB) than actual demand, even though I'm a fairly heavy user.

      It doesn't really matter if they innovate to 8-16-32 core processors with 32-64-128 GB RAM, the demand just isn't going to be there. Eventually you end up with something like a toothbrush, it serves its purp

    • by tepples (727027)

      What really separates a high-def TV, smart phone, or computer from one of 5 years ago?

      For one thing, the "smartphones" of 5 years ago were what we would tend to call "feature phones" today. They ran BREW [wikipedia.org], which has much more overhead for application developers than Android or iOS hence a smaller selection of applications. And the high-definition TVs of today are more likely to be 1080p rather than 720p. I seem to remember five years ago that the low end of the market was still CRT SDTVs, which can't even take a PC video signal without an obscure adapter.

    • by ShakaUVM (157947)

      >>Innovation in the electronics and technology industry is stagnating. What really separates a high-def TV, smart phone, or computer from one of 5 years ago?
      >>As much as I love my new Verizon iPhone - it's not really leaps and bounds better than my old 3GS I gave to my wife.

      I agree when it comes to computers, but you're wrong about the other ones.

      Smartphones: The iPhone wasn't out 5 years ago. So that's a pretty big difference. (It came out in 2007) And they've improved pretty dramatically, too.

  • I tend to hang onto all of my stuff until it breaks beyond repair or is no longer functional for me. I hung on to my Dell Dimension 8100 and kept it going with upgrades and replacements for almost 10 years. It's still usable, but I needed more computing power for number crunching so I got a new computer.

    I used my Tungsten T3 for 4 years until it accidentally got washed in the laundry. Replaced it with another one and still using it 3 years later.

    still watch tv on a 10 year old 23" CRT

  • Longevity (Score:5, Interesting)

    by mccalli (323026) on Sunday February 27, 2011 @09:57AM (#35330106) Homepage
    "For example Patti Hauseman stuck with her five-year-old Apple computer until it started making odd whirring noises and occasionally malfunctioning before she bought a new computer for Christmas"

    Yep. I have a five year-old Mac Mini which I upgraded the CPU in (1.5 CoreSolo->2Ghz Core2Duo), a three-year old MacBook Pro, my wife has a five year-old MacBook (the original one). They are all doing fine for the moment, though ominously it looks like Lion is 64-bit only and so the original 32-bit MacBook will have to go.

    This isn't a Mac-only thing either. I'm sure someone would be able to point me at their five year-old PC laptop and say pretty much the same thing - basically unless you're doing really demanding tasks or gaming, anything from the last five years is fine.

    I have two applications where I wish I had slightly more modern hardware - Logic 9 (music production) stutters at times when I use a lot of audio effect plug-ins, and I wouldn't mind more than 4Gb so that I could run virtual machines a bit more smoothly. That's it - my day-to-day existence is more than catered for with this hardware, indeed it's pretty much overkill.

    Cheers,
    Ian
    • Re:Longevity (Score:4, Informative)

      by TheRaven64 (641858) on Sunday February 27, 2011 @11:25AM (#35330520) Journal

      They are all doing fine for the moment, though ominously it looks like Lion is 64-bit only and so the original 32-bit MacBook will have to go.

      Why? I only bothered upgrading my PowerBook to 10.5 when VLC dropped support for 10.4. It's not like the old MacBook will stop working when 10.7 is released...

  • Realism (Score:5, Insightful)

    by camcorder (759720) on Sunday February 27, 2011 @09:59AM (#35330112)
    Welcome to the normal way of living America!
    • <getoffmylawn>

      No kidding, I thought the tags for this story should include "suddenoutbreakofcommonsense". Just yesterday I reluctantly gave up a clock radio that I have been using for over 30 years, because a well-meaning relative gave me a new one for Christmas. The old one has been dropped hundreds of times; once when I was living in hot, humid Houston it had a colony of cockroaches living inside it; the case is so loose it pops apart if you so much as look at it -- yet it has not lost any functi

  • by Xacid (560407) on Sunday February 27, 2011 @10:15AM (#35330160) Journal

    Am I the only one appalled by this part "Consumers are holding onto new cars for a record 63.9 months"?

    Cars don't really go obsolete that quickly. What sense is there in buying new cars all the time? However, this figure doesn't account for the large demographic who buys used so maybe that duration would prove to be much higher? Basically the early adopters vs. the average consumers in the auto industry.

    • by mattcsn (1592281)

      If you don't buy a new car every three years, how on earth are you supposed to show your neighbor how much bigger your penis is than his?

      • by Dyinobal (1427207) on Sunday February 27, 2011 @10:43AM (#35330288)
        Typically I just whip it out one day at a dinner party. It's always a great hit.
      • by funkatron (912521)

        If you don't buy a new car every three years, how on earth are you supposed to show your neighbor how much bigger your penis is than his?

        You stop being a pathetic consumer and instead use the traditional manly method of "accidentally" leaving your curtains open.

      • by OzPeter (195038)

        If you don't buy a new car every three years, how on earth are you supposed to show your neighbor how much bigger your penis is than his?

        Orgies .. they're called orgies. That's how!

    • by c6gunner (950153)

      Cars don't really go obsolete that quickly. What sense is there in buying new cars all the time?

      In a word, "reliability". 5 years will put the average car at 100,000 - 150,000 km. By that point, you're guaranteed to need increased maintenance and more frequent repairs. Some major components are getting close to the failing point. The vehicle starts to be a bigger investment in terms of time and money. It's the same reason why police departments and other government agencies tend to sell off their vehicles around this time.

      Personally, I don't care - my vehicle is almost 5 years old at this point,

  • by Pascal Sartoretti (454385) on Sunday February 27, 2011 @10:31AM (#35330222)
    I think that the reason is much simpler : the advances is hardware are becoming less significant. When I compare my brand new iPhone 4 to my previous original iPhone, there are not so many huge changes. My wife is perfectly happy with the previous one :-)

    And same for desktop computers : faster, cheaper, quieter, and that's pretty much it. If I compare today's iMac with the one I am typing this on (3 years old), the changes are only incremental ones.
  • by Compaqt (1758360) on Sunday February 27, 2011 @10:38AM (#35330272) Homepage

    too ...

    (emerge is still running)

  • by cheekyjohnson (1873388) on Sunday February 27, 2011 @10:49AM (#35330324)

    I still have (and use) my computer that I bought ten years ago. Sure, it might not be powerful enough to run the newest games (although, surprisingly, it can run quite a few games that I would expect that it couldn't), but it works for my needs. In this case, buying another computer just for the sake of buying one is rather pointless.

  • Also greener (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Max Romantschuk (132276) <max@romantschuk.fi> on Sunday February 27, 2011 @11:05AM (#35330396) Homepage

    I don't know about you guys, but I try not to swap new gadgets all the time not just for economical reasons. It's also a hell of a lot less of a strain on the environment if you can use something longer.

  • by paiute (550198) on Sunday February 27, 2011 @11:07AM (#35330408)

    I'm sending this from a 2004 iBook. First computer I bought was a LCII. Had to throw it out ten years later. It still worked. Bought a Bondi Blue iMac to send to college. Gave it away ten years later, still working, replaced it with a MacBook Pro. Replaced the LCII with a Power Mac G3. Had to discard it ten years later. It still worked. Where it used to sit is an eMac bought for a student. It still works, and I am looking to give it away. It was replaced by a MacBook. Bought an iMac a couple of years ago because the eMac was too slow.

    Only hardware problem I ever had was in the G3, which had a loose connection inside. While it was in the shop, I bought a used Mac Plus in a thrift shop for $5. Used it to word process. When the G3 came back, I put the Mac Plus in the garage and used it to write on when all the other computers were occupied.

    I have tossed or given away a lot of retail value because they just got overtaken by technology.

  • http://lkcl.net/laptop.html [lkcl.net] - i am advocating a hardware design approach which would fulfil the criteria of being upgradeable as-and-when. using, for example, the recently-announced "Bloom Laptop" concept for the casework, and Embedded SoC CPUs for the hardware, as a modular design. this approach simply is not possible with Intel or AMD CPUs.

  • When hardware is too *old* to run windows effectively any longer, it becomes a LINUX server in my house. While 2gb of memory or less may tax Microsoft applications, a LINUX fileserver (samba) and Openoffice for the kids homework is just fine. Tighter kernel, less bloat. We just got our Son starting College a new laptop, it came with W7. At 1st glance I see no great advantage to this new OS, all the other Windows systems we use are running XP, it it does what we need. W7 may be much better than VISTA, but u
  • by unity100 (970058) on Sunday February 27, 2011 @01:48PM (#35331520) Homepage Journal
    the devices and applications have already matured way past the needs of the everyday user. and even gamers. even in gaming, the leading edge of computing devices with its excessive demand for processing power and memory, the point which a normal person would notice any difference is long past. we are getting great realism with great visuals and in high framerates. most cards and games already offer framerates past a person's visual detection ability already. and the ones who are still pushing for more generally seem to be performance enthusiasts. people who aim for 120 fps and on. so, if even in gaming we have reached a saturation point in regard to devices - imagine how it is like for ordinary internet usage, office usage, and casual usage. we just dont need to replace what we have.

The flow chart is a most thoroughly oversold piece of program documentation. -- Frederick Brooks, "The Mythical Man Month"

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