A bout with unplanned obsolescence

Two years ago, having run out of names of Goon Show characters, I named my new desktop computer Canopus, after one of the Imperial Airways flying boats which used to visit Durban in the 1930s and 1940s.

The machine is a Fujitsu Siemens 2,8Ghz Pentium 4 with 256Kb of RAM, a 40Mb hard drive, and all the required plugs and ports in the back. It is very well made and visitors to my office often remarked on how quiet it is.

Shortly after buying the computer, I bought another memory chip from a local supplier to upgrade it to 512Mb, which was more than enough at the time. I regularly had a number of programs open at the same time and manipulated image files of between 50Mb and 100Mb, with no problems at all.

The machine has lately begun to slow down a bit because some programs I’ve installed lately use a bit of the available RAM. I decided that it would be nice to add some more memory and didn’t anticipate a problem in getting it.

Which just goes to show how just how wrong you can be, because, after phoning my usual sources, I discovered that PC333 DDR RAM is no longer available locally. To make matters worse, it emerged that I could not just put in a new motherboard with slots to accommodate currently available RAM chips.

It seems as though the plug on the processor has been changed and that, if I went the new motherboard-route, I would have to buy a new processor as well. I then went to Plan B and phoned Fujitsu Siemens to see whether they could help.

I already have two 256Kb chips and they said they could supply me with two 512Mb ones to replace them with. This was great news but it turned out that they wanted more than R1000 for each chip which, I thought, was pretty steep considering that some suppliers PCs are advertising whole new PCs for around R2700.

I then found out that Kingston still make RAM of the correct type for my machine and I managed to track down their SA agent. The said they could supply me through one of their dealers but that the price, surprise, surprise, would be R2200 for a 1Gb RAM chip.

I am angry because my computer would be fine if only I had a bit more RAM but that is not good enough for the PC industry, which obviously wants me to buy a new machine at this point.

I can understand manufacturers upgrading their products but, when the product is already good enough for most people who will use it, it seems underhand and manipulative to make incremental improvements and change slots and plugs, just for the sake of driving sales.

Entry-level PCs for the past few years have been pretty potent and sufficient for the needs of most users, except when it comes to RAM. Some of the systems I see advertised still come with only 256Mb, which is barely enough to run Windows properly.

I’d advise asking for an upgrade to 1Gb of RAM, but don’t forget to tell the salesperson that you’ll be checking the price with other retailers and that you’ll be buying from the one which gives the best deal on the upgrade. If you bought a PC recently, and you think you might need more RAM one day, I advise investigating an upgrade before it’s too late.

I’d appreciate it if you left a comment by clicking the link below, especially if you know of where I could get some PC333 DDR RAM.

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6 thoughts on “A bout with unplanned obsolescence

  1. Thanks to everyone who has so far left comments. I was late in putting up the column and so the comments were going to be tagged onto another column so I have deleted them because it would have been confusing down the line. I did save them and will act on the suggestions once I know if my Australian family, due out here soon, has been able to get me a DIMM. Thanks again, Allan,

  2. Hi Allan
    You should just use DDR400 RAM
    It’s backwards compatible so would work fine on your machine. The prices have really sky rocketed over the last year or so. Used to be around R380 for 512MB now last I checked was roughly R600. Best place to get it from? Either PC Zone or NewPC.co.za… There’s no such thing as service in the industry anymore and these guys are charging the same price as everyone else is paying directly at the suppliers. Rule of thumb, never buy from Incredible Corruption almost everything there is double the price and they tend to recommend the option which makes them more money. Hehehe.
    Well hope this helps.
    Cheers.
    Chris.

  3. Hi Allen:

    Your column correctly points out the problem with upgrading older PC systems.

    I ran into a similar problem when I upgraded my Dell Dimension 2300 Series PC. It was originally shipped with 256MB memory a few years ago. I upgraded it to 512MB last year. I wanted to go 1G, but the local retailer only carried 256MB (PC133) memory modules. I recently went back to upgrade to 1G, but the retailer was discontinuing all PC133 memory modules! I was able to order 2x 512MB (PC133) memory modules direct from Dell.

    Obviously, as you point out, the PC manufacturers want consumers to purchase new PCs and not hold on to their older machines.

    – Mike

  4. Ordering from overseas works. It’s quick and surprisingly cheap. I’d like to support local retailers but I suppose they can’t afford to keep stock of older components. My rule of thumb is that I’ll pay 10 times the dollar price to a local if he’s got what I want but, after that, all bets are off.

  5. My RAM has arrived from Australia and my computer is running really well with the new 1Gb Dimm and one of my old 256Mb ones. The machine is now a bit over two years old and is perfect for everything I’m doing on it. I’ll only need to get a new computer if something goes wrong (there’ll be no spares available) or in the unlikely event that I find a new activity requiring vastly more computing power.

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