Struggling with obsolescence


It seems to me that one of the difficulties we face almost every day is our struggle with obsolescence, that is, things we have come to rely on become obsolete and useless. This is different from the situation where something wears out after a useful run. Nope, this is where something becomes trash even though it has been effective and efficient in doing whatever we expected but, through no fault or deficiency of its own, becomes valueless because it’s out-of-date.

This thought came to me recently over Sunday brunch with our youngest son. He commented that he was frustrated because he can’t find razor blade cartridges to fit his razor. H explained that he had purchased one of those kinda fancy and relatively expensive razors using multiple blades and now he can’t find cartridges to fit – apparently the manufacturer quit making them. He bought this razor because he is one of those guys who not only shaves his whiskers but also his head – and. since he is a performer and his smooth-shaven head is part of his on-stage persona, he needs to keep it nice and satiny. As long as the blade cartridges were available the razor was working properly and did the job quite nicely. Now he’s stuck with an useless product – and is searching for a suitable replacement. It’s frustrating.

This got me to thinking about a situation my Sweetheart-For-Life is facing. For many years she sewed – making clothes, drapes, curtains, furniture covers, and all kinds of stuff – but her main interest was making quilts. To satisfy her sewing needs her sewing room had the requisite stash of material and all kinds of gadgets, tools, and an assortment of machines to perform various mysterious functions. She also had her dedicated computer with which she could design her own embroidery patterns and generate discs she could install in her embroidery machine which obligingly reproduced her designs on cloth. In addition, she had her own TV and associated video machine so she could watch both commercially prepared video and telecast sewing shows and classes – and she could record those telecast shows of interest. Yep, her sewing center was quite impressive.

Well, she gave up sewing a couple of years ago – age and infirmity caught up with her. Since then she has pretty well dismantled her sewing center by giving away her stash of material, machines, gadgets, and such with one exception – her instructional videos. The reason she still has them? Not because she enjoys watching them – nope, it’s because they are tapes in VHS format which is now obsolete and no one wants them. Yep, tape machines are no longer made, having given way to disc devices. And so, we have little choice except to consign these dozens of instructional gems to the landfill – which we will do shortly. A treasury of knowledge turned to trash – another victim of obsolescence.

Probably the most widespread example of obsolescence and the one affecting the most folks is in the area of computers. I have very limited use of computers compared with lots of people but I figure computers are tools to help me do stuff I need to get done, and are not the primary controllers of my life. For a number of years I had four computers – two desktop and two laptop. The reason for this was that we spent almost half a year at our winter home in Florida so I had one desktop and one laptop in each of our homes. They all used the same operating system, the same email, word processor, program for taking care of our bank accounts, and so on. That way I had to transport only floppy discs containing the necessary data between our homes – not the computers themselves. Worked out very nicely.

When we sold our Florida home and returned north for the winters I brought those computers back with us figuring I would have lots of backup. Wrong! The operating system of all four has become obsolete and the newer operating systems won’t run some of my old programs – which thereby have also become obsolete. I have purchased computers each of the past two years in an effort to regain the capability I had previously but have been largely frustrated because the newer versions of the programs I relied on in the past are extremely complicated, don’t meet my needs, and will not accept transfer of data from my old programs.

Well, I suppose things becoming obsolete is a fact of life, but I wonder about other, intangible, aspects of our lives, such as our views on morality, civility, law and order, and such, that are also apparently becoming obsolete. You know, maybe those of us whose outlook on life has been greatly influenced by the dark days of the Great Depression, WWII, the Korean Conflict, and the Cold War are becoming obsolete as well. At least that’s how it seems to me.

By Bill Taylor

Bill Taylor, a Greene County Daily columnist and area resident, may be contacted at [email protected].

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