Caveat Emptor 2.0

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Old people (sorry, but this tells your age more than grey hair or a giant beer gut hanging over chicken legs) complain about buying an item of modern technology and it becoming obsolete before they make it home from the store. They say this to justify their Luddite cynicism, but it’s true even for young people. Obsolescence can come quickly.

Take, for example, the laptop I’m typing this on. I bought it less than three years ago. I had a broken foot, but it was at a stage of heeling where I didn’t require crutches. I bought it for school, as they said laptops were “required” (they weren’t, really) and it became out of date right about the time classes started. The reason? It ran on Windows Vista.

In this case, it’s not the failure to update to the latest item that makes me out of date. It’s doing so too soon. The same can be said for a couple months ago when I wanted to buy a new cell phone, thinking of getting one of the Blackberry brand. Blackberry isn’t obsolete, necessarily, but their recent regime change has changed the company vision’s direction towards products intended for business use. That’s better than Research in Motion going completely under, but I’m lucky I delayed purchase until after warning signs went off.

Like people who bought Kodak digital cameras in the past year (seriously, what were you thinking, Kodak digital cameras have always been pure crap), the volatility of a fast-advancing, hyper-competitive market can disappoint quickly. When I worked in a camera store I sometimes felt a tinge of regret in buying one camera before another came out, but since I’ve been usually removed from any environment densely populated with New and Improved Stuff. So I relax with what I have. My desktop is nearing six years of age and my laptop about three. The former is still on Windows XP. When the time comes to replace one or the other, which is not a financial priority anyway, I will concern myself more with the long term than with something shiny. But most of that is a state of mind rather than product features. Just chill out, both old and young. Your competitive spirit will crush your soul if you beat yourself up over buying something just a bit too soon.

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