Making Do in a Throw-Away World

In three days, my car will be 44 years old. It has never had another owner. I have never had another car. Despite people telling me I need to get rid of such an unsafe vehicle and upgrade to a modern car with all sorts of safety features unheard of four decades ago, my VW bug still runs. And with its new engine, it should keep going another 100,000 miles or so. Someday, I am sure, I will have to get a new car, but meantime, the two of us keep chugging along, unsafe or not.

And I never upgraded to DVD or Blue Ray or any of the other modern movie machines. I still have my 20-year-old VCR. Still have a collection of VHS movies I inherited from my deceased life mate/soul deskmate. I see no reason to upgrade because the stories are still the same no matter what machinery is used. Besides, watching those tapes — the tapes we watched together — makes the experience special in a personal way. If ever the tapes are destroyed (and since they are stored in a non-controlled environment, it’s entirely possible), I will get rid of my VCR but will not upgrade to a DVD. (Though come to think of it, I do have DVD player I have never used — it belonged to my parents. But it is packed away, as is my 20-year-old television.)

So, it should come as no surprise if I tell you I have an aged computer, though the idea of an eight-and-a-half-year-old machine being obsolete boggles my mind. The PC is still shiny new. Still works as fast as it ever did. Still does what I ask of it. Still gives me great pleasure just to contemplate its arrival in my life. (It was a gift, unbelievable and unbelievably awesome.)

But now its very life is threatened.

I must be one of the very few who like Vista, the operating system that was new when I got the machine. I loved the ease of operation, the graphics, the feeling of power beneath the hood. (Most of that power lies dormant. It was supposed to be able to tie all sorts of media together, and I only used it as a word and photo processer, a means of browsing the internet, and a portal to my blog.) Microsoft will only support Vista until April of 2017, and already the ramifications of that non-support are showing. Internet Explorer can no longer be updated. The most recent manifestation I have available is IE9, and WordPress as well as a few other treasured sites no longer work with IE9. Most recently, Google has announced that as of April 2016, Chrome will no longer support Vista, which means that Vista machines using Chrome will be exceedingly vulnerable. I can still use Firefox (though I never did see the greatness that others do), but then . . . ?

I suppose then I’ll have to get a new machine, though I really don’t want to. By next year, Windows 10 will itself be aging, so I won’t have the full lifespan of the system. And if by chance Windows 11 is available, well . . . I don’t look forward to using an untried system. Mostly, though, I don’t like being penalized for taking care of my machine. Don’t like that it has arbitrarily become obsolete.

And especially I don’t like feeling that my most cherished values — conserve, use up, make do, leave a light footprint upon the earth — are also obsolete.


(Pat Bertram is the author of the suspense novels Light Bringer, More Deaths Than One, A Spark of Heavenly Fire, and Daughter Am I. Bertram is also the author of Grief: The Great Yearning, “an exquisite book, wrenching to read, and at the same time full of profound truths.”)

7 Responses to “Making Do in a Throw-Away World”

  1. Janice Campbell Says:

    Kudos to you for cherishing what you have and living lightly. It is sad when the structure of the market is designed to thwart that good and prudent intention. Best of luck dealing with the computer issue.

    • Pat Bertram Says:

      Thank you. One good thing about the computer issue. I’d considered getting an inexpensive netbook or something like that to take on my cross-country trip, but with my computer about to become obsolete, I can take it since I don’t have to be quite so careful. I like the name of your website. Yep. Doing what matters.

  2. Chuck and Heidi Thurston Says:

    Pat – you might consider keeping that old machine as a dedicated word processor. Many writers do just that, so that the machine doesn’t need an internet connection (with the accompanying distractions) and is in no danger of picking up viruses, malware, etc. You can get a little flash drive (just a few bucks) to move your work onto a newer machine that is internet-capable if you want to put it in a blog, etc. Good luck.

    • Pat Bertram Says:

      I like that idea. Funny — I have an old thinkpad with windows 98 that I kept for that very reason (I loved the keypad — so smooth!) but I never use it for that. Never use it at all. But I do need distraction-free writing. I mostly write my books long-hand, but get so bored in the reyping, I keep checking email and Facebook. Though, with the lack of wireless service, I don’t do that so much anymore. But then again, I don’t write much anymore, either!

  3. Juliet Waldron Says:

    I’m so far out of the loop now I’ll probably never get back in. I feel for you==and we’ve got the same problems here–no desire to upgrade every five minutes. In the end, all they do is hide the essential basic functions under a stack of drop down menus, and that is called “improvement.”

    • Pat Bertram Says:

      I don’t want to get in the loop. I don’t need or want anything more than I have now. All the rest is a ridiculous waste. I don’t need better graphics or more connectability. Don’t need a gazillion apps. It seems to be the way of the world for me. As soon as technology catches up to what I need, it bypasses me, so like you, I am out of the loop. It happened with the VCRs. The last VCR I got was perfect, great picture, instant focus, self-cleaning, fast rewind. And then poof. No more VCRs. At least, I don’t have to worry about someone else deciding my machine is obsolete. I can use it as long as it works.

      People keep telling me I should get a MAC because they don’t update like MS, but I just saw someone on FB complaining that Chrome will no longer support their MAC, either.

  4. Coco Ihle Says:

    Right before the VHS machines disappeared, I bought a machine that converts VHS to DVD for several dance shows I had been in, so I’d be able to see my performances in old age. Now I have an HDTV and Blu-Ray/DVD player and am totally spoiled to the sharp, clear picture. There are conversion possibilities for converting VHS to DVD and then editing to computer and then transferring to DVD or some other format. I’m working now on doing just that. When I’m gone my sister, son and grandson will be able to see me in my youth entertaining my little heart out! Ha!

    As for computers, I have two. An old HP PC that has a design program on it I can still use. And I have a fairly new laptop Dell PC with Windows 7. My computer guys have discouraged me from getting Windows 10 because it had some bugs that needed working out. (They may be by now.) Anyway, I find it annoying that every time I get used to a program, it gets updated to something that has a huge learning curve and by the time I’m comfortable with that, something else comes along. Grrrrrrrr!

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