Mauriat Miranda     mjmwired

Computer Waste

So in 1997 I was excited to get a 14.1" Sony Trinitron monitor. It worked at a pristine 800x600 SVGA resolution (and I could push it to 1024x768@85Hz, rare for the time). However that was only for my main computer at the time, a 166Mhz AMD K6 (sorry I couldn't afford a Pentium MMX). So the rest of the 286's and 486's at my house (all second hand) were running monochrome (remember Hercules?) or EGA. So I would scour the used computer shops for monitors. I was looking for any VGA at the time. I bought several $5 or $10 semi-broken monitors (otherwise $50-100 used) thinking I could get my dad to fix them. Sadly in the end they all landed in the trash.

A few years later I remember helping with some replacement monitor purchases at a place I worked. I would select the UPS Ground Service for shipping (typically 1 week) - saving a whopping $50 over faster delivery. Of course that stopped when I was scolded over the fact that if someone needed a monitor for their work and had to wait 5 days, that's 40hours X their hourly wage of less output or in some cases no work at all. Okay, so I could see first hand how time waste translated to dollars.

Wising up, on occasion I would pay more attention to the parts needed to fix a monitor. So it takes a few hours to open it and isolate the board or part that's faulty. Then a few days to order the part. A few more hours to put it back together. Voila! Good as new. However someone will do a cost estimate and find that actually buying a new replacement will take less time and overall cost. And their numbers are correct.

So I dump a monitor in the trash. But somehow I know that doesn't translate well for the environment. While I "potentially" saved money, I know that probably a few resistors or diodes would make that junk into not-junk. Obviously I can't recycle a CRT like you can paper. And then someone will give me an argument that throwing that monitor is probably better for the environment, but I just don't buy it ... yet.

So now I have one of last nice Trinitron monitors on my desk. It's only 17" but it manages nicely at 1280x1024@100Hz. But I want more! I want a wide LCD with a ton more screen space. However I can't get over the fact that I'll be effectively turning this one into trash. Could it a new Dell 24" Wide Panel make me more productive? Sure! Would I be $700 more productive? Tough sell.

I go through computer hardware parts (motherboards, CPU's, memory) almost regularily every 18 months or so, but I never throw them away. Yes, I still have my 166Mhz K6. But with big monitors, they take up lots of space and I can't keep them around. I feel guilty contributing to the growing electronic waste problem, but at the end of the day I might really need that 2GB RAM upgrade or that WUXGA 1920x1200 resolution.

If you don't keep up, the waste of your skills or abilities seems like a greater tragedy.

Posted in: Technology,


  • Jeff Schiller on March 28, 2007 ~ 11:23 PM

    I like the parting shot - good point, that.

    I've got an unused 19" monitor next to my main computer. I keep thinking I can use that for the next computer I purchase (my older one has gone to compy heaven, yet it also sits here collecting dust). Don't know if I'm more worried about the environment or worried that I might need that 40GB drive some day…

  • wahid on April 25, 2007 ~ 07:19 PM

    I would love to learn to recycle, may be take it to Mexico. Do I really need a degree in EE? I studied Chem E. Where do I start? Thanks, Wahid