Splashing out on a new computer doesn’t follow principles of #ThriftyLiving

Sheena Grant thinks computers and other electricals do not seem to last as long as they once did

Sheena Grant thinks computers and other electricals do not seem to last as long as they once did - Credit: Getty Images

My laptop – the one that appeared to be heading for that great IT room in the sky at just four years old – is rather spookily working again.

Who knows why or for how long but for now, I’m sticking with it. I’m attempting to live thriftily, after all, and splashing out £400 upwards on a new computer cannot be said to be remotely thrifty.

Anyway, I have it on pretty good authority that many computers and the operating systems they commonly run are short lived. So, chances are I’d just be replacing one flawed bit of electrical kit with another.

According to Christopher Dewhurst, who contacted me after I voiced my suspicions about the robustness of modern household ‘machines’ in an earlier column, there are better, less well known systems on the market run with a British operating system called RISC OS. Who knew?

“Some older RISC OS machines are even going strong after 25 years,” Christopher, who is editor of Drag ‘N Drop PDF magazine, informs me. “We call it sustainable computing supporting UK businesses,” he adds. “Perhaps if more people did the same we wouldn’t see so much waste.”


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Perhaps. And maybe one day, when my current computer has shut down for good, I’ll investigate more. But getting my head around techno-babble is about as welcome a prospect as discovering Vanessa Feltz is sitting in for Jeremy Vine on Radio 2. So I won’t bother until it’s absolutely necessary.

Not everyone would agree. There is a school of thought that says it makes better economic sense to ditch older appliances in favour of newer, more energy efficient ones, regardless of whether or not they’re still working. I even found a website that tells me how much I could save by doing just that. Modern washing machines, it informs me, are 20% cheaper to run than my 1996 Hotpoint model, meaning I’d save £7.24 a year if I got rid of my faithful old friend. I’d save £29.03 a year if I replaced my freezer and another £14.60 if I traded in my fridge, making an annual total of £50.57.

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Such disloyalty! And anyway, I’m not convinced by this argument. It takes no account of the environmental cost of continually manufacturing new ‘stuff’ and even my shaky maths is up to working out that the replacement appliances would probably have broken down, beyond economic repair, before I’d managed to recoup what they cost in the first place.

If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it – old and reliable always beats new and poorly made. Don’t you think?

Email sheena.grant@eadt.co.uk or tweet using #ThriftyLiving

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