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Tools Toys and Technology

About the Tools You Use and the Toys That Make Life Interesting

Tools Toys and Technology - About the Tools You Use and the Toys That Make Life Interesting

Just How Old is “Too Old” ? Computer Curmudgeon 9/2009

When the SaddleBrooke Computer Club Board of Directors convened for our monthly business meeting, I was innocently seated in the rearmost chair. As our discussion turned to a proposal that we provide a monthly contribution for publication in the Saddlebag Notes, all heads quickly nodded in agreement to the notion that this would be a fine idea.

When the question arose as to who would be a likely author, all heads turned in unison in my direction. I’m still trying to decide if this is part of a plot to encourage my absence at further meetings – or not.

So, I’ll give this a shot. Computers have been a hobby and a diversion for me, not a profession. I hope this will turn out to be both useful and entertaining. Most of the material will be from me, with some help by other members.


If you are like many retirees, “too old” is likely to initiate a spirited discussion on the notion of aging. Like many electronic devices, computers rapidly become technologically obsolete, even if they receive little use. Unless you are still enjoying the 8 track tape deck in your car, this is not earthshaking news.

The average computer will remain current for the average lifespan of a guinea pig; about 3 to 6 years. Most computer warranties expire in a year or less, and few extended service contracts will last beyond 3 years. Adding memory (RAM) or additional data storage space with a larger hard disk may extend the system’s life span, but mechanical parts like fans and motors will simply wear out in time. Disk drive failure rate increases rapidly at 3 to 5 years of use. With technician repair time billed at $75 per hour or more, the cost of even simple repairs can quickly exceed the value of an older machine.

Wise computer users will have prepared for the inevitable by performing periodic redundant backups of important data and programs to an external hard disk or on line storage service. System replacement should become a serious consideration 4 to 5 years after purchase.

New versions of software appear frequently — some on an annual basis. Microsoft attempts to produce a new Windows operating system on a three year schedule – and provides weekly updates in the interim. Updates are provided for no more than 5 years past the last sale date of most operating systems. Windows XP was first available 12/31/2001; bug fixes for mainstream customers ended April 14, 2009 and security updates will end April 8, 2014.  Macintosh users will see a similar pattern of development and support.

If you have been a faithful member of the Vista Avoidance Society, your patience will be rewarded soon – Windows 7 will arrive on October 22 and Vista is expected to rapidly join Windows ME and Microsoft Bob in the Hall of Infamy. The SaddleBrooke Computer Club has been evaluating preliminary versions of Windows 7 since February. The testers are pleased and most will be among the first in line as the official release date arrives.

This is the first of what we hope will be a monthly series of computer commentaries and opinions by members of the SaddleBrooke Computer Club. If you have comments or suggestions for future commentary topics, please send us a note at: We will read all your messages, but please don’t expect an individual reply. After all, we’re trying to stay retired!