APRIL 2005 IN
RICK ASTER’S WORLD

Plug In a New Computer

Computer peripherals are more durable than they were years ago. There was a time when you could expect to replace your keyboard and mouse every couple of years, but now these computer peripherals usually last longer than the computers they came with.

You can see this in the response to the Mac Mini, the diminutive new computer from Apple. To keep the price down, Apple ships the Mac Mini without keyboard, mouse, or monitor, the peripherals that are included in most computer systems these days. Most people have a keyboard and mouse sitting around, Apple explained, and you can plug the Mac Mini into any old monitor or your new digital television.

Essentially, the computer is the new peripheral. Instead of buying peripherals to plug into your computer, you can buy a computer to plug into your peripherals. This might sound a little like buying a car without a radio, but the approach seems to be working. The Apple Store workers I spoke to said that no one was buying a keyboard and mouse to go with their Mac Mini (though some were buying monitors).

And for that matter, why not buy a car without a radio? If you have a car stereo and it takes only a matter of minutes to move it from your old broken-down car to the new car you’re getting, then why wouldn’t you keep the car stereo and replace the car?

All this goes against the idea of planned obsolescence that was introduced into consumer culture half a century ago, but as technology makes some components less expensive and others more durable in the years to come, I am sure we will see more of it. It’s a way to economize, and whatever else might have changed, it’s still true that Americans like to save a buck.


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