Updated on 02.02.09

The Simple Dollar Weekly Roundup: Obsolete Edition

Trent Hamm

A recent BusinessWeek article (Obsolete Computers That Still Do The Job) inspired me to think about the “obsolete” things in my own life.

We have a television in the basement that’s reached double digits in age, has some colorization issues in the upper left corner, and weighs more than my wife, but it still does the job we want it to do – watch television programs.

I still keep a little notebook in my pocket, even with many other technology solutions, because nothing’s better at jotting down quick notes – it may be low tech, but it does the job.

Both of our vehicles are over ten years old and have more than 100,000 miles on them, but they’re still going.

Those supposedly “obsolete” things (and many others) keep doing their job. So we keep using them. It might be much flashier to replace them with a new item, but it’s certainly a lot more frugal to stick with what works.

10 Innovative But Obscure Sites That Put Money In Your Pocket Good list – I hadn’t heard of some of these! (@ wise bread)

Use Personal Marketing to Persuade Yourself to Save If advertisements are so effective, why not use some of those techniques to persuade yourself to adopt positive behaviors? (@ get rich slowly)

52 Ways to Make Extra Money This is really a solid collection of ideas, and the links are well worth clicking through. (@ prime time money)

“Where’s My Money Going” Month This is an excellent step to take if you feel out of touch with where your money is going. Even people who have their financial house in order (like me) can afford to do this every once in a while. (@ mrs. micah)

25 Uses for Dryer Sheets This one is for Bradshaw. (@ gather little by little)

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  1. Glblguy says:

    Thanks for the link Trent!

  2. Aggie says:

    With such things as “Google Docs” and Windows Mesh… we aren’t going to need huge hard drives any more for most business computers.. and a lot of home computers. Those old 2 gig computers are going to have a lot of new life.


  3. leslie says:

    I hate any “ways to make extra money” posts that are coming out nowadays. Other than selling things around the house on Craig’s List, everything else is quite time consuming and requires start-up funds.

  4. Mrs. Micah says:

    I’ve recently started doing more offline journalling. It’s surprising how much fun something can be without any technological sophistication. After spending so much time blogging, unplugging is refreshing.

    (Speaking of old computers, my Mom’s is over 10 years old. My dad has modified it…and it’s crazy slow. But it works just fine for her.)

    Thanks for mentioning “Where’s My Money Going?” Month. :) I think approaching things from the spending side vs. the budgeting side periodically gives new insights.

  5. PT Money says:

    Great point, Trent. Some things seem to last forever and they will get the job done.

    I enjoyed the can collecting post you shared a while back and had to share it in my list of 52. Thanks.

  6. We have some obsolete items too…our TV is one of those big honking monstrosities, but it still works, and given how little we watch it, it’s fine for us.

    Our cars are a bit obsolete too, but they’re paid for(which is, in my opinion, the best feature a car can possible have!).

  7. Scotty says:

    There’s lots of neat things you can do with older computers! I work in the IT industry, and I use a couple older computers for very useful tasks around the home:

    1. Backup. All you might need to upgrade is the hard drive, but you can set it up with software that can sync it with your PC. I do this myself, and also my dad who runs a business primarily from his PC. If his main system dies, his ‘old’ P4 has all of his all of his current files up to date, and can effectively be used instantly. See ‘Foldershare’ (there’s tons of others). It’s also easy to set it up to view your files remotely.

    2. Various storage needs. Again, treating it like a little server that can hold your files for backup or other reasons.

    3. Firewalls. Make an industrial strength firewall out of any old box. See ‘pfsense’.

    4. Great for learning / kids. If I ever have a child interested in technology, these things are great to clobber and bash around with no real damage being done.

    5. PC’s for guests / visitors.

    6. Great for grandma / grandpa to get started on for minimal cost.

    7. Although Vista and maybe XP might not run great on some of the older boxes, various forms of Linux (which are typically very lightweight) can run great. Ubuntu is free, super-easy to use, and makes for a great backup system or something for the kids.

    Lots of ideas and things you can do with older hardware. Granted, not all of these things are everyones interest, but definitely setting up a spare machine with Syncing software / foldershare is extremely important if you run a home based business and can’t afford much downtime. Even with files backed up on a hard drive or USB key, it could potentially be quite a while until you have a ‘working’ system. You can typically run these systems ‘headless’, and just shove them under a desk or in a closet, just as long as they’re attached to your network (wired or wireless).

    OK, end geeky talk.

  8. The Personal Finance Playbook says:

    Good mish mash of links. Interesting reading. Thanks.

  9. Andy says:

    1) Old computers plugged into the wall that are rarely used are a waste of power.

    2) I have an old notebook. With paper.

  10. Tyler says:

    For those that have old, large TV’s, are you viewing OTA programming or cable/satellite? I’m curious how many are prepared for the Digital transition.

  11. Brad says:

    Dryer sheets are also good to put under the hood of your classic car while storing it during the winter. It keeps mice away from your wiring.

  12. Sheri says:

    Strictly speaking, if you currently use something it is by definition not obsolete. The word refers to something no longer useful or no longer in use. It doesn’t much matter how low-tech or old a thing is. That said, I did like the geeky computer ideas.

  13. Anastasia says:

    I used to do a lot of computer work for my family (before I moved 800 miles away), and in trade they’d give me their old parts to build “new” computers out of :)

  14. BigMick says:

    Our house is full of obsolete items.

    We have no debt and no interest with keeping up with the Jones`.

  15. I still love using old fashioned can openers. I find them irreplacable. They last for ever and don’t use up electricity. what more could you ask for?


  16. Laura W. says:

    Ditto on still owning a Windows 98 computer. A friend of ours works for Microsoft, and the look on face when we told him we still used Windows 98 was priceless. That said, IMO those old boxes were really built to last– unlike 2 out the last 3 laptops we have owned.

  17. Elisabeth says:

    Those are good tips for the dryer sheets. Most of those things you can still do after you’ve used them once.

  18. Battra92 says:

    At work they wanted to dispose of an old Pentium 3 laptop. The battery was dead and it ran slow as Hell in Windows XP. Since they were throwing it out I wiped the Hard drive, loaded Xubuntu and was on my merry way.

    All I need to do is add a wireless card, a new battery and maybe a PCMCIA USB 2.0 card and I’ll have a sweet netbook for browsing and typing on when I go out. Not bad for $50 or so.

  19. Mickey says:

    I’ve been saying this for a while now. If you have only to write on it, you don’t need the latest machine (wich will always last less than the previous!)

  20. Karen says:

    We still use an old rotary phone, as our second phone. It was a phone that used to be a rental from the phone company back in the day. When the phone company phased out the rentals 25 years ago, I kept it. It’s built like a tank, and will probably work 25 years from now.

    We have 2 televisions–our newer TV is 13 years old. Our 13″ kitchen TV is 23 years old. We do not have cable. We purchased 2 digital converter boxes and rabbit ear antennas so they can pull in the digital signal. It’s seems to working fine. But, we are considering getting a rooftop antenna installed so we can get more stations.

    Obviously, we hang on to our obsolete appliances!

  21. tarits says:

    my desktop computer (hulking monstrosity compared to laptops, defintely!) is more than five years old.it helped me finish my undergrad thesis and it will probably still work for my masters’ thesis next year. and i am still using windows 98.but i would

    my celular phones are both 2ndhand, i inherit my parents’ old ones when they upgrade because of their postpaid plan. one is 6 years old, the other is 3 years old, since i only use them for texts and calls they are perfectly fine.

  22. Meg says:

    I’m housesitting for a friend of mine, and her PC has *64MB of RAM*. Not kidding! It wouldn’t be a PC I would be happy with having full-time, but she isn’t as much of a computer geek as I, so I guess it works for her. My PC was pretty old for awhile, and certainly cheap ($80 secondhand), but it went to PC heaven, and got replaced by a somewhat more expensive one ($500 new). I got a little tired of not being able to play anything that came out after 1999, so for me the cost was worth it.

    In my family, all our cars have over 150k km and they work fine for us. My little Neon is the least-used at just over 180k, but my mom’s minivan is AMAZING. It’s over 350k (~217k miles) and it still runs OK.

    I got my cellphone for my 16th birthday, and I’m now 19. Kind of sad that it’s considered “obsolete” already, but apparently it is. My dad’s was even older, but our cell phone provider replaced it free of charge last year, because when they did some kind of cell phone network update, phones as old as his became incompatible. :)

  23. Deb says:

    I have had my cellphone for 4 years. It’s a simple cellphone. I use it to talk. I don’t need the internet, text messaging, a camera, or any other function. I don’t need a new cellphone with a new charger, case, headset, etc.

    My husband’s truck is a little 79 Toyota, purchased on CL for $340 two years ago. He’s a great mechanic, he went to scrap yards and loaded up on spare parts. He’ll keep that thing running for years on end. My Nissan truck is 9 yrs old, has 89k miles. I’ll drive it until it’s dead.

    We purchased a very vintage 50s small tractor, full of good old American cast iron parts. It came with a rototiller, mower, and hauling wagon. All for $400. Husband has it purring like a kitten. Handles our 4 acres just great.

    I use a $6.99 daytimer. It’s small enough to fit comfortably in my purse. I like having the calender in front of me for making appts & work stuff. If I lose it, I won’t be upset like I would if I lost a PDA or other techno device.

    Simple and obsolete works for us just fine!

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