How does technology become 'obsolete'

Discussion in 'PowerPC Macs' started by karilynn, Oct 31, 2011.

  1. karilynn macrumors regular


    Jul 30, 2011
    Saint Paul, MN
    Please forgive me if this is absolutely a stupid question, but I am sitting here wondering how exactly technology becomes obsolete.

    I have a PowerBook G4 that I still use. It works just as it did the day I bought it. The only difference being, the day I bought it in January of 2005, it was a marvel of technology. Today, my friends make fun of me for having an 'obsolete piece of junk' for a laptop. To be honest, it makes me kind of sad and nostalgic. I remember when this thing was cool and it's the exact same as the day I bought it, so why isn't it still cool?

    I'm sure the fact that technology is constantly advancing is the key factor in why my PowerBook is no longer a technological wonder of the world, but considering that when I was a child, laptops didn't even exist and I am not that old, it's mind blowing to me that my beautiful PowerBook is considered garbage. I'd say it's still pretty amazing all thing considered.

    I will admit that when I switch from my i7 iMac to my PB, I can notice how much slower it is, but if the PB was all I had and all that existed, I would never think it was slow. Don't you agree that human beings set the bar for what is fast by evolving technology at a ridiculous speed? It honestly makes me kind of sad, because my PowerBook is a gorgeous machine and it's -ONLY- 6 years old. My niece is 6 years old and I'd say she's pretty darn young :) I feel like I can't HOLD on to anything anymore without it becoming nothing special within a matter of months. It makes me sad...

    Blah, I don't know. I guess this isn't a question as much as a rant. Is it really the hardware inside of the machine that ages and causes a machine to be considered a dinosaur and slow? If it is, how so? Because my PB runs wonderfully. I feel like honestly, if anything, it's what my PB is being compared to as the new standard of technology that makes it seem like such an obsolete piece of crap. (I don't think it's crap, I love this thing!) Why doesn't anyone appreciate anything anymore? I have a friend who gets a MBP whenever a new model is released and sells their old one on eBay. And that's cool, they can do whatever they want and I get it, but why the need to have THE BEST THING! Don't people feel connected to this stuff at all? I love my PowerBook like its a loyal friend who has been there for me for years. I would never sell it for something new, not even when it dies!

    It makes me feel kind of bad for these wonderful ancient machines.

    Okay, sorry for this, but I had to get this out of my system. What are your thoughts? Does this make anybody else sad? :confused::(
  2. Intell macrumors P6


    Jan 24, 2010
    Technology can become obsolete when the maker or other makers no longer support it or the things the product uses. The user may find it obsolete when the product in question is replaced with something that is faster or better. Excluding things outside of your control, a product never become obsolete as long as you feel it is able to preform what you need it to preform.

    This message was typed on an "obsolete" G4 Cube.
  3. mobilehaathi macrumors G3


    Aug 19, 2008
    The Anthropocene
    Indeed, everyone will have their own definition of when a piece of tech becomes "obsolete."

    This is probably your best measure.
  4. zen.state macrumors 68020


    Mar 13, 2005
    To put it all in the most simple way possible.. the more people make software do the more power it needs from the computer running it. Add to that the fact that at least 70% of all software out there for any platform is inefficient.

    Hardware companies love all this because they sell more than they ever should and in turn those same hardware companies buy software. The two industries indirectly scratch each others back.

    Luckily when it comes to older PowerPC Macs there is plenty of well optimized software kicking about from the 11 years Apple used the architecture. The G4/G5 era especially since it benefits from Altivec. The key is using the right os/apps combo for your specific hardware. An altivec app that is properly optimized can run circles around one that isn't and make a G4/G5 seem a lot faster than it is.
  5. SkippyThorson macrumors 65816


    Jul 22, 2007
    Utica, NY
    I can't answer your question, but I figured I would chime in on my definition of obsolete. To me, it's when technology makes the transition to useful to unhelpful.

    If I try to use my first generation iPhone as a phone, it is glaringly obsolete in the sense that my iPhone 4 replaced it in every way, coupled with the fact that the Wifi died on the thing. I only ever touch it anymore to place it on a charger to keep the battery from going bad. I also have a 1999 beige IBM desktop loaded with Windows 98 on a 7gb HD. It's no longer useful; but instead a detriment to my workflow. Hence, it sits unused.

    In terms of my 2 old iMac G4s, they are FAR from obsolete. They are still fairly snappy, and get whatever I ask done in a reasonable time. They are productive to my workflow, and thusly are not obsolete to me.

    My old iBook G4 has been repurposed, wiped clean, and rejuvenated. While it may be obsolete in a sense to me (after being replaced with my MacBook) it has found new and very useful life in my mother's hands, who never wanted a laptop before seeing that perfect little 12" machine.

    Obsolete can mean a lot of things to a lot of people, but to me, branding a machine obsolete all boils down to usefulness. Something only becomes obsolete when it is no longer productive. Furthermore, something that someone seems obsolete may be perfectly usable to someone else. Some say the G4 Cube is obsolete, but I'd still love one as a media server! :)

    *This was not a stupid question at all, and all of the responses here are spot on. It's all a matter of choice. Excellent discussion topic, OP.
  6. Davy.Shalom macrumors 6502


    Dec 23, 2008
    Obsolescence is when your machine becomes too old to function properly on a day to day basis, with modern day application (using word, youtube, email, etc.) It's when your machine becomes too old to support the software that in itself has support for necessary peripherals. It's the time at which your heart drops and you realize that your beloved machine isn't going to be your electronic companion forever. It's when you realize that eventually you are going to have to move on to something newer, with support for modern software.

    >As software moves forward, hardware moves at a slower pace. It takes longer for hardware to need to be replaced, but when it does there is little you can do to avoid it.
  7. ThunderSnake macrumors 6502

    Jul 23, 2010
    I think we might be approaching a point in computing history where Moore's Law comes up against what people actually need from their computers.

    I too know folks who upgrade every 18 months or so--Mostly for reading spread sheets and word docs. It boggles the mind. I think it's just habit for them. Sometimes people do things out of habit long after the necessity is gone.

    I think it still makes sense to upgrade frequently if you do video editing for a living, but for 95% of my needs, there is no difference between my MDD and my Intel Mac.
  8. karilynn thread starter macrumors regular


    Jul 30, 2011
    Saint Paul, MN
    Great replies, everyone. I appreciate your input!

    I agree that what works for someone is really all that matters. My PB works perfectly for word processing, email writing, music playing, etc. It can't do anything amazing anymore, which is what gets me down. Not much I can do about that, though. I played World of Warcraft on my PB for 4 years until I couldn't anymore. I literally can't play the game on it anymore because it doesn't have an intel processor - hence why I have this super duper awesome iMac that can play WoW and a plethora of other nifty things that my PB can't do. But trust me, it was a sad day when I realized I had to buy something new to do the stuff I like doing. I hate to personify my little PowerBook, I know it's not real, but I felt a little bad for it that it couldn't keep up with technology anymore!
  9. ThunderSnake, Oct 31, 2011
    Last edited: Oct 31, 2011

    ThunderSnake macrumors 6502

    Jul 23, 2010
    True story: I had one such friend visit me last month and, after spending an hour surfing the web on my MDD, decided that he needed to get rid of his aging (one year old) multi-core PC and replace it with a "new" Mac MDD like mine since mine is so much faster than his.

    The simple truth of the situation is that I have a far superior connection to the internet than my friend who lives in the middle of nowhere. But sometimes simple truths can be quite difficult to explain.

    edit: You should have seen the look on his face when I told him that it might be difficult to find one of these new since Apple has not made them for almost a decade. :)
  10. Bloodstar macrumors regular

    Mar 19, 2011
    Philadelphia, PA, USA
    In my house, upgrades don't really happen that often. My mother uses a Pentium 4 tower from 2003 and it still does what she asks, although that runs a Linux distro instead of Windows XP now due to said install really collapsing over time. I've mulled over the idea of building her a new machine or her getting a 2009 Mini so she can run Windows on it if need be, but... she doesn't really urgently need it for the light gaming and web browsing that she does. Flash on it sucks, but that's another story altogether.

    Myself, I could easily get through about 80% of the things I tend to do with either my iBook G4 or my MDD tower. There are a few things I couldn't do, for example run a few games I like well/at all, considering most require Intel or Windows (a sad fact, even today), or use the proper version of Xcode for a class (the actual reason I bought my MBP). It's an unfortunate fact of life, nowadays. The iBook still gets plenty of use, though, and can handle everything else I do with ease.

    If something continues to serve your needs, just keep on going with it! If people are actually giving you trouble for having such a machine, just brush it off. (You've no idea how many times I had to do this relating to my XP tower - seriously, a Core 2 Duo machine from roughly 2008 is obsolete? I literally can't see how.) I'd imagine a PBG4 is still enough laptop for most people, and might be for a while to come.

    Keep on enjoying your PowerBook! It's not truly obsolete until you decide it is.
  11. vitzr, Oct 31, 2011
    Last edited: Oct 31, 2011

    vitzr macrumors 68030


    Jul 28, 2011
    1a) I want to thank you for asking a very intelligent question :)

    2a) I too have a PowerBook G4 that I still use. And like yours, it's every bit as good as the day I bought it in November of 2002 (and amazing 9 years of trouble free joy). The last of the Titanium PowerBooks, I have an appreciation of this machine unlike any other.

    Because I'm a technologist / engineer that works with a computer that must have lots of power, capacity and speed for the work I do, I am currently using the latest quad core fully loaded 15" 2011 MacBook Pro. And yet I _Still_ greatly enjoy my G4. I use it at home for all my writing, and other tasks that it's very good at.

    There is absolutely NO Way I would ever sell it or stop using it, until the day it absolutely cannot be repaired. Just think, 9 years of smooth trouble free operation with not one major component replaced!
    (or even minor for that matter)

    3a) I have two kinds of friends. Geek friends that tease me, but admire just how well I have taken care of this machine (I've not babied it) and how it functions so well. Then I have friends who are not into technology or computers and (if) they happen to notice it they ask if it's new :)

    Finally my personal opinion.

    No laptop, desktop or other computer is obsolete as long as it's still serving your needs. Once you have a computer setup to your liking and it's going all that you want, YOU are the lucky one. And why? It's simple really.

    Admittedly I am a hard core laptop and smartphone addict. l have owned a ridiculous number of new PowerBooks / MacBook Pro's / Mac Pro's... you name it. I'm also an early adopter that loves to buy these new machines as they are released. So just what _is_ my point? It's that in this world of technology bugs, problems, etc are a fact of life. Especially with "the latest & greatest".

    I speak from lots of experience when I say newer is not always better, and obsolete is a state of mind. Yet the manufacturers need to progress and need to sell their new stuff to us. Therefore the marketing people have created this obsolescence issue. Let them have it.

    Buy what YOU want, WHEN you want to, and once you have it working well, leave it alone and enjoy it.

    So that's my take on the "obsolete" question.

    Thanks again for this great thread, and your "smart" question. :D
  12. adcx64 macrumors 65816


    Nov 17, 2008
    Technology is obsolete when it no longer does what I need it to do.
  13. MacSince1990 macrumors 65816


    Oct 6, 2009
    Technically even when it came out the final generation of PowerBooks were grossly underpowered and outperformed by their Intel counterparts in the PC world >_>

    This is basically the crux of it. The march of 'progress' means that newer software can do many new, amazing things... but these extensive, powerful features require more power every year. Of course, there's also the aspect of shoddy coding... bloatware, as many like to call it.

    This part I don't quite understand. It's simply software taking advantage of a processor's (in this case verctor) capabilities in exactly the way the chip's designers intended... how does that make it "seem a lot faster than it is"? If anything, it makes it "about as fast as it really is.

    Intel software has pretty much always had the luxury of having code optimized for it... PowerPC, not so much. I'm not trying to argue that the G5 is as fast clock for clock as current Intel chips (that's unarguable), but the gap isn't quite as wide as some would believe based on unfair (unoptimized) benchmark comparisons.

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