Obsolescence Is a State of Mind

Sometime near the end of this year, every Apple computer in my home will be rendered obsolete and insecure. To be more accurate, every Apple computer released prior to 2013 will suffer the same fate, thanks to the impending death of macOS Catalina.

Why do I have so many "old" Apple computers, you ask? Because Apple builds exceptionally durable machines, and I don't see the need to add perfectly good hardware to the gigantic pile of e-waste filling up our landfills. So, come November(ish), these computers will get no more updates, no more security patches, and no more support. Consumers get to make the choice between buying a new machine, or replacing the operating system (I bet you can guess what my choice was).

Planned Obsolescence = $$$

Look, I get it, indefinite backwards compatibility is impractical and expensive, but there is a serious problem when hardware outlasts its underlying software. But, macOS is not dead. There are two newer versions that are in active development, but are not available to a host of (arguably still performant) machines from just over a decade ago.

How many pre-2012 Apple computers are actually incompatible with the most recent versions of macOS? Is it really necessary to obsolete (yes I used "obsolete" as a verb) potentially thousands of machines, or is it just a money grab?

Considering you can at least attempt to run the most recent versions of Microsoft Windows on machines that are decades old (so long as the hardware can handle it), I have a hunch about the answer.

Planned Endurance = :)

Here's the thing... I don't actually need new computers. So long as the development and writing tools I need to do my job work, then I am a happy camper (and, let's be honest, most people don't even use their computers for even that much heavy lifting). I don't know if I'm becoming more sensitive to the environmental (and financial) impact of unnecessary upgrades, or just my inner-dad coming out, but I have become a pretty firm believer in the "if it ain't broke, don't fix it" philosophy.

Now, let's be clear, "if it ain't broke, don't fix it" does not mean "if it ain't broke, don't maintain it." I've spent years in cybersecurity and IT. Security is no joke, so you have to patch your shit to stay safe on the modern web. But just because I have an aging MacBook Pro doesn't mean it has to actually run macOS.

Linux is our friend, and can give new life to any machine. The key is to be willing to accept change. Sure, there are benefits to living within Apple's walled garden, but there is also a real freedom that comes from leaving it.

Make Everything Last

To state the obvious, this philosophy applies to more than just computers. Cars, phones, televisions, game consoles... the world is filled with waste that doesn't need to exist. The only reason we buy the newest, shiniest things is because we think we have to.

But, here's the secret: we don't.

Most things are only as obsolete as we think they are, not what the manufacturer tells us they are. Even when "official" support ends, there are alternatives that can extend the lifespan of anything. Firmware, operating systems, hardware upgrades... there are aftermarket solutions for everything you have, all it takes is a little effort and the right mindset to squeeze every last ounce of value out of something.


This is post 003 of #100DaysToOffload


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