Planning Around Obsolescence

tiny housers Lina, Malissa, Chris, and Dee with tiny laptops

MacBook Air is the laptop of choice for tiny housers Lina Menard, Malissa & Chris Tack, and Dee Williams

Last week I was Getting Smart About Phones. My lessons in planning around obsolescence continued this week with my laptop. My New Year’s Resolution for 2013 was to go paper-free so I’ve been Strategizing Digitizing and Getting All My Docs in a Row. Let me set the stage for this discussion of planned obsolescence by explaining some of the technological advances I’ve experienced in the past.

I got my first laptop when I was 16 years old. It had a 6 GB hard drive and it weighed as much as a newborn baby. It was made by an off-brand and it had plenty of quirks, but I coaxed it along for 5 years. When I was studying abroad in Florence, Italy, I could tell my laptop was dying a slow, miserable death. Nevertheless, it allowed me to write my papers and store the hundreds of photos I was taking. I had purchased my first digital camera just before leaving for Italy and I was click happy. When I returned stateside I laboriously transferred my photos to CDs via many batches with a flash card reader since my computer’s CD drive was broken and it didn’t have a USB port. My laptop had never really connected to the internet well with its clunky modem card and the ethernet port wasn’t working anymore.

I did my research before purchasing my next laptop – a 20GB iBook G4 with a Super Drive. It weighed considerably less than my old computer but it was worlds more powerful. I was determined to use it as long as possible. I transferred my photos and papers right over from the CDs. In the 5 years I owned my iBook I had to have the screen fixed and the power adapter and hard drive replaced. (Fortunately, I’d wised up and learned to back up my computer. So I didn’t lose anything but the document I was working on when I messed up the hard drive by working on my computer while I was a passenger in someone’s car and we went over a speed bump!) I only had to invest a couple hundred dollars over the lifetime of the computer, so all things considered my iBook G4 held up pretty well. But when I brought my G4 in to the Apple store to get a new adapter and the techs gathered around my computer like it was a fossil, I decided it might be time to upgrade for grad school. I transferred my entire computer onto a 250 GB external hard drive and then transferred its contents onto my new laptop.

The past two years I’ve been very happy with my refurbished MacBook Air. It’s powerful and sleek. And I can’t help liking the combination of a tiny laptop and a tiny house. My Air is slim and light enough that I can take it everywhere. I transport it from home to work to school and back on a daily basis. I take notes in class and meetings. I research. I blog. I download and sort photos from my adventures. I use Sketch Up to design tiny houses and Excel to keep track of My 200 Things List. I scheme up the vardo I plan to build for myself and I plot to make the world a better place.

About a month ago I decided to set up a second user on my laptop so I could separate Home and Work. (This is the trick I’ve discovered to use two Dropbox accounts.) Immediately my computer started giving me “almost out of space” error messages. At the same time, my power adapter quit working because the cover for the wire developed a stress fracture from being wound up and transported every day. I was considering trading my laptop in and upgrading to a new refurbished MacBook Air.

However, the friendly guy I talked to at the Apple store assured me that my MacBook Air still had plenty of life in it. He explained that setting up the second user took up a good deal of space so we took a look at what else was taking up space on my computer. Turns out I have 30 GB of photos! The tech suggested I bring my external hard drive in so we can consolidate my files and free up some space so I can run two users on my computer.

I’m grateful for Apple’s Genius Bar and for techs who would rather keep a good thing going than upsell me to something I didn’t need. He hooked me up with a new power adapter and I was on my way. I’ve set up a follow up appointment for next week.

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