1. The observation made in 1965 by Gordon Moore, co-founder of Intel, that the number of transistors per square inch on integrated circuits had doubled every year since the integrated circuit was invented. Moore predicted that this trend would continue for the foreseeable future. In subsequent years, the pace slowed down a bit, but data density has doubled approximately every 18 months, and this is the current definition of Moore's Law, which Moore himself has blessed. Most experts, including Moore himself, expect Moore's Law to hold for at least another two decades.

However, many companies have interpreted this observation to mean they must offer a new version of their products at this frequency and convince consumers that they need them.

2. Statisitics according to Census information
www.census.gov

3. Ubuntu is a version of Linux available as a free download.
www.ubuntu.com

Personal Computers: Recycle, Reuse, Repurpose, or Throw Away?

It seems like the question of what to do with an old personal computer (PC) becomes exponentially important as each year passes. Public consumerism of and dependence upon computers has driven the PC market into a neck breaking growth rate. Government, schools, banks, and corporations initially spurred the development of computers; however, it was the general public consumption, which started to take firm root in the 80s, that caused an explosion of companies, and offerings. Since this explosion, companies in both the hardware and software fields of personal computers have exploited and manipulated Moore's Law1 to keep the public upgrading their personal computers at increasing frequency.

Commodore 64
Image courtesy of gil

Throughout the 80s, manufacturers had a few main models they offered. These models changed only slightly through the decade. In fact, the Commodore 64, one of the most popular choices for a home computer, sold from 1982 until 1994 with very little change. Most advancements to this platform were in the form of modular pieces you could buy to enhance your existing Commodore 64. The software used on these machines seemed to last just as long. While revisions to the software were made, they did not seem to prohibit them from being run on the older machines effectively. People used these machines for over a decade.

During the 90s the public became more aware of the internet as this form of communication was being commercially marketed. This new advent created even more reasons for households to buy PCs. Furthermore, those running older computers were finally feeling the limits of their antiquated hardware, so naturally they needed upgrades. From 1984 to the year 2000, households in America with a computer rose from 8.2% to 51%2. Now that PC manufacturers managed to get these machines in a majority of homes, they had to find ways to get these households to routinely buy new machines to replace their older ones.

Since the late 90s, it seems as if new software is all but useless on computers over 5 years old, sometimes it seems as though they are only effective on the latest machines. While the scope of this page is not to argue whether this is an engineered marketing strategy, it is interesting to note that some open source software such as Ubuntu3 run as effectively on a computer from 2000 as they do on a current computer. Whether this pattern is caused by engineered marketing or just a byproduct of Moore's Law, the fact is that people find it necessary to upgrade their computers every 3-5 years now. Many enthusiasts, such as online PC gamers will even upgrade once a year. This fact leads to another fact. Old computers are filling dumps and recycling centers even quicker and in larger numbers.

In order to reduce the impact this phenomenon has on the environment, every household needs to critically think about what they should do with their old PC when the time comes to upgrade. This website contains information and resources to help you make this important decision.

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