If you can live without the newest computer, you can almost always find the best value by buying a computer at the knee of the cost versus time curve. Time is the time since the technology first appeared on the market, and cost is the cost to you to buy that technology today. The knee of the curve is where the curve transitions sharply from looking more like a vertical line to looking more like a horizontal line. The reason you may want to buy there is that this is where you can get a great deal while still getting a cheap computer that is eminently useful. You can save even more by buying a used computer there. However, before you buy, make sure you can run all the software you plan to run.
After you're some distance past the knee to the right of the curve, you tend to be into territory where not only is the technology obsolete, but you can't even use it to do basic things, like surfing the internet, writing email or a document, or running other basic software. You can, however operate there much longer if you can be satisfied with older software. This is how some people have managed to continue using their Windows XP computers until 17 years after its initial release date and four years past its official end-of-life date. By the way, Microsoft still makes some security updates for Windows XP, because many corporations cannot afford to rewrite their applications for newer platforms. However, this far to the right of the curve you tend to have to spend a substantial amount of effort just keeping it limping along. So, unless you are a corporation, I wouldn't recommend buying a computer this far to the right of the curve. One exception is people who enjoy playing old video games from the '80's and '90's. But for that, you can also use DOS Box or DOS running in a virtual window on a modern computer.
So, how do you know where the knee of the curve is? That's tricky. However, if you are paying attention ,you can generally tell when plunging prices begin to be replaced by more steadily declining prices. This is somewhere around the right area. In the past (the 80's, 90's and 2000's), the knee of the curve generally occurred for computer equipment somewhere between two and four years from the first appearance into the market of equipment based on a new technology. I remember back in about 2004 buying a new (that's new, not used) Palm V personal digital assistant for $15. The original price when it was released in 1999 was $700. It was still just as useful in 2004 as it was in 1999, and I could even find modems and other peripherals new for similar savings. In April of 2015, I bought a refurbished Dell Latitude E6220 that looked brand new on Amazon for $270. The original price when it was released in 2011 was around $1700. I used that laptop every day, all day, five days a week for work until it died in October of 2017. I think it died because I was sitting on something that caused a static discharge into the laptop every time I sat down and touched it. If it hadn't been for that bit of stupidity on my part, who knows how long it might have lasted.
These days, given the fact that Moore's law is dead, more time generally passes before laptops reach the knee of the curve. However, judging by the prices of used computers that I've been seeing lately, I would say that the general public has either not yet noticed the death or just doesn't care. The reason I say this is that you can generally get a five or six year old computer that is not really that much slower than a new one for maybe 20 to 25% of the price of a new one with similar capabilities. And that's for a laptop that is still--I would guess--maybe six, seven, or more years away from the point where it is no longer useful. If you're a cheapskate, why would you pay five times the price for a computer that is not really that much faster than a used computer? That assumes, of course, that you've done your homework and know what you're buying.
Copyright © 2018-2019 The Cheapskate's
Guide to Computers and the Internet. All rights reserved.