The Disposable Age of Technology

Posted on May 13, 2010

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My faithful printer and laptop both broke down in the same week. They’ve been great up til now.

I bought my Fuji Xerox DocuPrint 203A in 2006, 4 years ago. It’s been there for me every day for the past 3 years since I started my business. I’ve replaced the toner and paper many times, but suddenly the Drum light was flashing for the first time.

I took it along to my local toner recycler and he said I needed to replace part of the drum cartridge, it has just worn out. Fair enough. That part would cost $120.

My printer is in great condition, it’s barely moved from my desk shelf. It became obvious that it was uneconomical to replace the part needed, when I could buy a new printer with 3 years warranty for the same cost. The lovely Indian salesman AJ convinced me that my new Brother printer was a better way to spend $120.

We had a chat about the waste, about Australia being a throw-away society, how it’s so un-environmentally friendly to throw all these printers away. In India and Vietnam there are shops where people recycle every little part. Nothing is wasted. We said we should send them all on a ship to a country where people could reuse them.

That night, my laptop flashed pink and suddenly I had 6 small screens on my screen. A friendly Chinese repairer said there’s probably a chip on the video card, he sees it all the time. Luckily I was within the two year warranty so it’s been sent off to be repaired.

In this supposedly “green” age, we’re expected to replace our printers and computers every year or two. That goes against my grain.

I don’t want the latest and greatest gadget. If a machine is particularly well designed, I get sentimentally attached to what becomes like another hand, a faithful friend.

I’m expected to chuck it out- not in the garbage bin, but I don’t know where. Over the years I’ve seen so many left out for the council throw-out trucks to dispose of. Where do they take them? To a tip. What are we supposed to do with them? Where is the best place to dispose of machines which may be perfectly good but missing one part?

What do you do? If you can’t beat ’em join ’em?

It was weird enough not having a printer, let alone not having my laptop. I’ve had to access other computers for emails, Twitter and Wordpress. I rang my computer company to organise the repair and they sent everything to me by email.

I don’t have internet connection on my mobile phone, I did once but stopped because the screen was too small. One of Australia’s best brain surgeons Charlie Teo uses loudspeaker on his phone, he says it’s not safe to have all those waves so close to the ear.

Meanwhile I’ve got my office in order, caught up on paperwork and phone calls I’ve been meaning to do for months. Little things were different, like when I needed a phone number I couldn’t Google it, I had to ring directories. I even called the Tax office. Now that’s an achievement.

I spent more time on other things. Time slowed down, the house is tidier, quieter, calmer, more peaceful. I listened more closely to the kids playing Lego happily together, chatting quietly about “baddies” and “infinity times a million times a billion.”

I enjoy seeing what people post on Twitter, Twitpic, WordPress, Posterous and catching up on the news. One problem is that the computer screen wakes up the eye, whereas paper sends us to sleep when we need sleep. It’s nice to have a break, to step off the treadmill. I often prefer face-to-face communication anyway.

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Posted in: Technology