Your computer keeps crashing, BBC iPlayer stops and starts, to print you have to switch the printer off and on then wait 2 minutes and then press print, WiFi signal keeps dropping off, there’s some jam and toast stuck in the keyboardsoyoucan’tusethespacebar, World of Knitting Craft role playing game says your computer does not meet the minimum specifications, should you go out and buy another computer or is there something you could do to make it work?

It all depends on how you use your computer.

If all you need to do is a bit of Excel and Word, music and pictures, email and maybe skype then you can get away with using a computer made in the last century and keep it working perfectly, fulfilling all your computer needs. You’ll need to be fairly self sufficient as not many people will know how to fix it. You’ll have to put up with your kids laughing at you for not even having a smartphone and be called a dinosaur of the computer age but you’ve got better things to do than Facebook and YouTube, right? Turn the keyboard upside down and shake it, the jam and toast should fall out, if not then you can unplug it and soak it in warm soapy water for five minutes and leave it to dry in an airing cupboard for a few days.

If you use your computer for anything else, it’s likely that you need to be using one made in the last four years. This is especially true of Apple computers, which only started using Intel processors in 2006 and Unix operating systems in 2001. An Apple powerbook G4 just can’t keep up with BBC iPlayer any more (it’s Adobe’s Flash Player that is causing the problem and not the BBC or your broadband service).

Four years, that’s all? (David Bowie said it was Five)

WiFi started to appear in our homes and offices around the late 1990s, then in 2003 the WiFi elves made it go faster with a new specification (802.11g) so all of the old WiFi boxes had to be replaced. Then in 2007 they did it again with another new faster than ever before specification (802.11N). It’s almost time for another new specification. You can see the same (roughly) four year pattern more obviously in Microsoft’s Operating System naming conventions – Windows 95, Windows 98, Windows XP, Windows Vista and Windows 7

Alternatively, move your digital life to ‘the cloud’, sell your computer and just use your mates’ computers from now on. Or renew your library ticket and get out more.

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