Unplanned non-obsolescence.

Friday, June 26th, 2020

We have a significant number of old computers in the house. We even have some in drawers and the fabled “porch room” that are historical artifacts only, much like Sammy’s family’s black dial telephone that sits on a shelf behind me.

But the one I’m working on right now, a fine 27″ Apple iMac, was purchased almost six and a half years ago. Our laptop is our newest, and came into our lives 2.6 years ago. But there are other perfectly functioning iMacs here that are 12.6 years old, and 10 years old.

Those darn Apple products, they keep working…for the most part (don’t try to stick any SD cards into the 10 year old one—that port stopped sailing years ago.)

They are, unfortunately, obsolete in another sense. They can’t be upgraded to the latest version of MacOS, the fabled MacOS 11 Big Sur. Well, the laptop can. Barely. They have been upgraded several times and are now running a version of MacOS that was released in September 2017. That’s three major releases back.

Apple would be happy to take these off our hands if we purchase a new one—for precisely $0 in trade-in value. We could sell them, maybe, on Craigslist, if we’re willing to chance an encounter in a midtown parking lot (yeah, I’ve done that.)

About WWDC time (which is to say June) Apple announces the new OS, and the ‘system requirements’ list gets a little smaller each time. This time, my main machine did not make the cut.

So I can’t upgrade to the latest and greatest. On the other hand, the upgrade process itself obsoletes some software I like and find useful. And although you can certainly say “if it ain’t broke, don’t upgrade it,” there are some fairly important security components that do break over time, and if you can’t find an update for just that tiny part, sometimes lots of larger components can simply stop working.

It’s when you focus on hardware and software as a holistic system that you realize that it has so many distinct parts that it’s foolhardy to proceed assuming everything will be fine, forever.

And sometimes, you just want the new hotness.