Culturalism · Economic History

How Tech Forces Consumerism

At the risk of sounding like a curmudgeon, or perhaps impoverished, which in the United States sounds worse, I like older things. The simplicity and manual nature may not delight eyes trained for dazzling inputs, but they suit me just fine by allowing for closeness with the device. This becomes more difficult to achieve when everything – and I mean everything – is handled by central logic pieces .

But Big Tech doesn’t allow that, or at least less and less than before. I first noticed the issue after trying to downgrade from Windows 10 (which I don’t like) to Windows 7. Despite having a perfectly good OS copy on hand, I was henceforth peppered with warnings about security violations and lack of authenticity. No matter how many times I regard the messages and try to shut them down, sooner or later they come back, often with a loud notification sound to disrupt tranquility.

Difficulties became worse when I spent the past summer attempting to restore an old Optiplex 745 desktop. Because Microsoft dropped support for Windows XP, the machine was similarly awkward to use, and would not maintain security or time settings. Consequently, even the most mundane websites would spit out multiple alerts and attempt to block access. This includes the likes of YouTube and Google, to be clear.

When I recently purchased an old Nook Color to replace my failing Nook HD, the issues were also prevalent from the start. Apparently Barnes and Noble dropped support for older models in 2018, putting in place security policies that render the device quasi-useless. Many websites deny access, it is virtually impossible to access the Google Play app, and attempts to download browsers are greeted with claims of incompatibility. Ironically, the same messages usually urge users to download Google Play as an alternative.

Although I finally got it working enough through an email backdoor to use the reader functionality, the Nook saga emphasizes a very cynical goal of Big Tech: by making older devices clunky and obsolete through security updates, users are gently shoved towards making fresh purchases. Phone companies in particular are renowned for doing this, with the expectation that you will rush out to grab a new model every 2 or so years, keeping the money churn going. Never mind if a particular product works great and could last 10 years; the fiat must be expended.

What’s sad relates to the realization that older device models are probably not being recycled consistently, but rather tossed out with the trash. Thus all those valuable parts and metals will not make it into new phones, instead sitting in a miserable landfill, forcing humankind to strip more resources and generate fresh pollution in the creation of the flashy digital screen.

But who cares? Just swipe.