In Ottawa here, we have had a number of "computer garage sales" held at local churches, etc., several times a year. These give people the opportunity to pick up trailing-edge computers at good prices, as well as peripherals and monitors. There's also a store called "Computer Recyclers" where older computers and parts are sold. This is good for those who want to try these things out without having to go for a full-priced new unit, those on a budget, and those like me who just don't want the latest stuff. It also minimizes the number of computers going to landfills and gets them to a home.
Another good example of this is how many golf courses use PCs to keep track of handicaps, etc. You don't need a Pentium 700 to do this. Instead, a 486 or low-end Pentium works just fine.
Over the years, I've repaired many monitors and sold about 30 computers to date, ranging from 486/466s to a Pentium 266. So, there's definitely a need for the trailing-edge systems. Many not-fully Y2K-compliant machines can be fixed by simply installing a software patch or upgrading the BIOS.
These problems are on my home computer. I turn the unit off (monitor too) between times. I run a full SCSI system. This allows me to scale back on a main processor because the AHA 2940U2W SCSI (on PCI bus) adaptor takes a lot of the load off the processor. I even turned "virtual memory" off to save disk caching (256-Mbyte SDRAM on the motherboard). I like this as the adaptor vendor doesn't (nor is it required to) turn as many needed iterations in advancement as the main processor industry does. I can use the same SCSI adaptor for many years compared to the need to upgrade a processor in much less time. So, those software vendors can go right ahead and churn out ever more complicated code within increasing file sizes (requiring more real estate on a hard disk). My main processor just loafs along.
I will always start out a new SCSI HD with a low-level format followed by media verification using the utility in the Adaptec 2940 ROM. Hardly ever do I come up with a bad cluster, but sometimes there are a few. When I start having problems with operating, Windows 98 will eventually spit and can't even correct the problem with it's own Scandisk. Using the SCSI utility again to verify media will reveal A LOT of bad clusters! I counted 76 bad clusters on this 2.4G Samsung drive after it would get only 78% into the routine.
This drive saw nine months of use. The disk prior to the Samsung was a 1.2G and lasted about 13 months. I had replaced a 345M Maxtor HD with the 1.2G only to get more room and ended up putting the Maxtor back! The Maxtor is seven years old and has no problems. Now I have a 4.5G Seagate and am keeping my fingers crossed.
I have also gone into a "minimalism" mode. I no longer use my home computer for such uses as Quicken, photo archiving with a digital camera, midi music entertainment, and MP3 functions, as I'm tired of starting from scratch to reinstall devices. I would use every IRQ available and that isn't enough. Now I use the computer to occasionally surf and for daily e-mail.
At work I use a laptop which gets replaced about every two years. Why? They start to break down somewhere within and you know there isn't much modularity with their construction.
I could go on, but I guess I should sum up this dissertation with the notion that a platform with no moving parts would be the most robust. In that way, I could say the computer could be as easy to use (at least last as long?) as appliances!
S.W. Public Service Co.