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Serving: Central

Column: From treasure to trash

I just threw away stuff worth $50,000. Conservatively. Maybe more. Unceremoniously sent it packing, to wherever outmoded equipment goes.

The irony is that “outmoded” now applies to anything not made within the last three years.

Computers, both PC and Mac, and monitors, dot matrix printers, early generation laser printers, keyboards, cables galore, disk storage devices of one kind or another — all were “latest and greatest” not so long ago, now just high tech trash. Some of it was dead; some of it worked, but had been rendered archaic by newer, faster, more versatile equipment. Unloved. Unwanted. Transistorized dinosaurs.

There used to be a saying that a new automobile depreciated 40 percent when it was driven off the showroom floor. The new maxim is that today’s technology is obsolete by the time you get it home and plug it in.

The first computers we got here, 10 years or so ago, were “state of the art” (ha!), with speedy 25 mHz processors, 55 MB hard drives, 15-inch color monitors. That was more computing power than the astronauts had on the spacecraft that took them to the moon and back. Now, it’s laughable. Chips in today’s computers are rated in gigaHertz and contain a million or more transistors. Hard drives are 75 to 100 gigabytes, and just around the corner they’ll be rated in terabytes. In fact, the techno-geeks say it’s only a matter of time until we’ll all have tiny cameras that can see and hear and record every second of every day of our entire lives!

Scientists already have early-stage computers based on DNA. These devices, they say, will have more computing power in a one-foot cube than all the computers that have ever been made, combined.

I still have the Smith-Corona electric portable typewriter I got when I finished high school. Was that sucker evermore fast (unlike the Smith-Coronas of later years, which were clunky). It still works. No planned obsolescence there. I also have an IBM Selectric, probably the best typewriter ever made (even if it did weigh 50 pounds). I never use either, but I can’t bear to junk ’em.

My colleague, Glen Rutz, has one of the manual upright typewriters that all Delta Farm Press editors used when I came here 30 years ago. If the Big Bomb fries all electronic devices, he says, he can still crank out The Armageddon News. Just finger power.

Also getting the heave-ho was a lot of equipment from our photo darkroom, which hasn’t been used in years. Stainless steel film developing tanks and reels, easels, print dryers, squeegees, long outdated photo paper and rolls of film.

I wish I had back all the hours I’ve spent in the darkroom, processing film, making prints. Lord knows how many of my brain neurons were scrambled by fumes from the chemicals. And that was just for black-and-white photos. Color was even more complicated and time-consuming.

Now it’s all digital, film is becoming a dodo bird, and Eastman Kodak, one of the most successful companies on the planet, is struggling for survival.

Who’da ever thought it?

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