Control The Alter

There are a lot of things happening around me that I want to write about. But sometimes I am scared that I might not be saying the right thing at the right time. In the past fifteen years, the world of technology has ushered in an era that would’ve seemed like science fiction only a couple of decades earlier. We’d move forward more and I know I won’t see it all. No one does. That’s the way things are.

It only seems yesterday that I gushed over my new computer. It was (well, it still is) a Celeron 366 machine, with a 4 GB hard disk drive and 64 MB RAM and a Samsung monitor. That was only seven years ago. Not much could change in that time during the eighties. But now that machine is obsolete and I am in a quandary to replace it with a second hand but younger machine.

For the past seven years, this machine has served me well. It has seen me through a crucial phase of my life. What I know of the world of computers, I’d gratefully acknowledge more to this inanimate teacher than to any living human. It / he has gone through the normal wear and tear of a computer and, as such, he must go.

But I can find that I am not the only one to sell off an old machine in perfectly running condition. There are hundreds of thousands of users around India who do this. And their reason speaks volumes about this present age — they believe their machine is obsolete. Among the older machines on offer are spanking ‘new’ (I don’t know how else would I describe that machine) Pentium – IVs with a slightly lower clock speed than that is available currently at the market to mature Pentium – IIIs with once-proud 1 GHz processors. Their problem is that they do not gel with the software currently available in the market.

This makes me wonder what happens to the really hoary ones – the 386s and the Commodores and the Amigas of yore? I have only read about them in books. The answer that I chanced upon in a news report in The Statesman in December 2006 didn’t make me happy. In our mad rush for speed, I am not sure we’re heading towards another environmental minefield.

The state of West Bengal in India was primarily reluctant to have anything to do with computers. That was way back in the late eighties. Somewhere along the line the people concerned changed their mind and today, in the opening decade of the new millennium, West Bengal is in the forefront of what is called here The IT Revolution. I point this out so that the state of affairs here can be compared to that of the business district of a North American City.

The Centre for Quality Management System of Jadavpur University has recently come up with the startling data that the West Bengal produced 200 tons of e-Waste every year. Of that 200 ton, 10 is produced in the Sector – V of the Salt Lake City, a part of West Bengal that houses more computers than the rest of the state. It has been predicted that this amount is likely to increase nearly five times in the next fifteen years as the computers and other electronic gadgets currently in use will become redundant by that time.

As I said earlier, if the scene is such in West Bengal of all places, what it will be like in California, for example, where even every school-kid has her/his own laptop, to say nothing of their dads.

The Statesman report goes on to inform us that e-waste is extremely harmful because electronic goods contain materials that can contaminate water and soil, and is also injurious to human beings and animals.

In the same perspective, as I leaf through one of the leading tech magazines of this country we find that they nag the hell out of their readers to upgrade. We are told that the latest version of this operating system is the best thing to happen in the world of computing. This OS has its own minimum system requirement and recommended system requirement, which render a good number of older machines outdated. So we go for the latest thoroughbred from the stable of Intel. Then we are advised that this OS would function better when a lot of RAM is thrown at it. The more the merrier, the columnists in the magazine say. More it is, but I don’t know whether it is merrier, because more machines head towards the dumping ground that way.

It is at this point this nagging question rises in my mind – isn’t technology all out making the most out of the least? Or am I seriously mistaken? It is true that human need has risen over the year and it is the task of technology to accommodate every aspect of that need. But isn’t human health and the protection of the environment also a part of that need? If we look at it from a commercial viewpoint, does it make a lot of sense for business entities to engage more capital in something that was already yielding positive results?

I’d confess I don’t know. But I wonder whether anyone cares to look for the answers.


About Surya Sunder

Anglophone Bibliophile
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