The Island Of Misfit Tech
By Perry Michael Simon on December 22, 2010
While I’m waiting for my new printer to be delivered, I needed to scan something. (Okay, if you must know, it was a baseball card, for the piece about how they make sports cards) Because they make multifunction printer-scanner-fax-copier-coffee makers so that when one function fails, they all do, I couldn’t use the now-expired Three Year Wonder. But, true to my status as Chris’ Emergency Backup Nerdist, I just happen to have an Emergency Backup Scanner on hand, an old USB flatbed that would do the job… that is, if there was a currently usable driver for it.
Which there isn’t.
Granted, it’s a few years old, but it’s perfectly functional. And it once had readily available drivers for Windows AND Mac. No problem, right? Just pop onto the Net, check the usual driver sites, done. Except that this model doesn’t seem to have any Mac drivers left on the Net, and even the PC drivers for any flavor of Windows seem to have disappeared. My Mac doesn’t recognize it, my PC doesn’t, either, I have no idea whether the install disc is even in this time zone, and, well, that’s all she wrote. The scanner’s useless. That’s okay; these things don’t last forever, and you can’t expect them to do so.
So why can’t I bear to throw them away?
I have several printers, as I’ve mentioned before, that don’t work. I have several satellite TV receivers for a service to which I haven’t subscribed for several years and which would have to be replaced with HD versions if I ever went back, which is unlikely. Analog cell phones? Sure, got ‘em laying around someplace. Got a bunch of X-10 modules in a box in the garage, maybe behind the dead monitors and the mostly cannibalized PC boxes. My trusty old MiniDisc recorder, with which I recorded many an interview, is sitting here in a cubby hole above my desk, silent, functional but abandoned. And, yes, there’s still a Zip drive somewhere in this mess, probably near the USB modem that had a tendency to freeze entire computers and the no-longer-functional drawing tablet collection. Please don’t tell the producers of those “hoarder” reality TV shows about me.
Some people have no problem instantly selling off their old gadgets on eBay. I know this, because every time I think about getting a new cell phone and fret about the cost of upgrading before the two-year discount kicks in, people say the same thing to me: “Oh, that’s not a problem, just sell the old one.” But that’s not in my nature. Besides, who wants a decrepit HTC Touch Pro running Windows Mobile 6.1 with the back coating mostly melted off? What am I gonna get for THAT?
And that’s how my house is overflowing with tech junk. It’s a good thing my wife is exceptionally tolerant of my clutter, although “do we need to keep THAT?” is a regular refrain and a sharp eye is kept for the date of the annual Hazardous Waste and Electronic Trash collection day at City Hall. (We missed it last year)
I can’t be alone in this. What does your pile of discarded tech items look like? If you get something nice and electronic for Christmas, what are you going to do with the old stuff?
I think there might still be room in the garage. You might want to check.