Recycling some old electronics

One of the things I decided I wanted to do this year was write more blog posts.  I’ve said that many times in the past, and it’s obviously failed to a fantastic degree, however, here’s to another attempt (or to ignoring reality/the past).  I’m going to start off with a rather inane post with the hope that there’s no way I can become more pointless as time goes on.

Earlier this week, I “recycled” some old electronics.  Having moved recently, I’ve done many passes of cleaning out some old stuff, but I think this is the first time I parted with things that felt significant at the time of buying them.  I recycled the first tablet I had ever bought (also one of the first electronics in general that I purchased completely on my own) along with the first digital camera I truly considered mine (and though I ordered it, I’m reasonably sure it came as a high school graduation present from my mom).

The tablet was shockingly the least hard thing to get rid of.  Despite having bought it right when it first came out (it was one of the original Nexus 7s), I had left it sitting in a closet untouched for the past two years and even before then had not given it any attention.  In essence, I had already parted with it nearly four years ago, but it still felt a bit strange abandoning that part of my electronics life.

For the camera, it felt a bit harder setting it aside.  I remember ordering it near the end of my senior year of high school after a lot of deliberation…this was still in the age of cell phone cameras being hopelessly behind real cameras and I wanted something that could at least take reasonable pictures.  I think it was one of the biggest purchases I (or more likely my mother on my behalf) made at that point and through its life

This past year though, I pulled it out to check how it was doing thinking it might be handy to have a smaller camera along for hiking trips and discovered I could no longer turn it on.  I had used it to take a few photos when I first moved to New York (it still felt nicer to use than my cell phone), but hadn’t touched it since.  I plugged it in, left it for a while, and still nothing.  At this point, there really wasn’t anything else I was able to do and I had already acquired several new cameras lately, so attempting a repair didn’t feel worthwhile.  Still, even as I walked to Best Buy to recycle it, I felt like there was so much meaning in it still.  I could hold it in my hand still and think back on the various scratches it had, remembering for many of them the first time I noticed them (as much as I liked that camera, I still just left it sitting in my backpack much of the time; I’ve always felt it better to have a device nearby and risk some damage than to never be able to use it).  Eventually though, I had to accept that the camera, like the tablet, had become more of an ornament hidden on a dark shelf than anything I was likely to use again, and discard it as well.

One of the most striking things for me was that these were not only two of the earliest electronics that I made the decision to purchase on my own, but also two of the most recent purchases I made where I had some illusion I would keep them forever.  Even as I look around my apartment at some of things I own I like the most: my espresso machine, my camera(s), even my bike, I can’t help but think that someday in the next ten years or so I’ll decide I’d like to try the newer version.  I remember my parents keeping their old bikes from decades ago in the garage and can’t help but wonder whether the realization that I’m never going to do that is a generational difference, or just a difference in how I think.  I wonder how much this is a true departure from my earlier inability to throw anything away, and how much of it is just me trying to strip off any emotion from possessions as I adapt the the necessities of living without a garage.  And finally, I wonder what my mother thinks knowing that I can’t bring myself to regard any possession I have as falling into the category as a heirloom, and especially how this affects those kind enough to give me gifts that I may enjoy but never consider permanent.



Oh, and as a last note (phew, the prior last paragraph felt way too long for a closing), I realized right as I was finishing the last sentence that I do have at least one possession that still has some kind of emotional attachment to me: a stuffed animal mouse that I have had since I was a child.  Fortunately, the panic triggered by realizing I didn’t remember unpacking it is over and I managed to find it in the “junk box” (hey, no room for a drawer in my last apartment) I had moved from the previous apartment (and added a few last-minute items to as the last things I packed).  Turns out there were also a couple old calculators I’ve had since high school (including a TI-84 with a *very* assertive personality) and some old smartphones…so I guess I’m not completely done being emotional over possessions.


  1. If I thought there was any chance that I would have gotten around to editing this and publishing the article tomorrow, I would have rewritten the entire thing as a reflection on how I care about material goods with this entire things slimmed down to two paragraphs and used solely as a parable/tangent. As it is though, who knows the next time I’ll post here after tonight (but hopefully soon!).

  2. I think the heirloom thing is somehow harder with devices that use electricity – especially if it is a more complicated use of electricity (IOW, electronics).

    Like you, I’ve accumulated assorted electronic devices over the years and I should really get rid of some of them. There is a number of them which I would have no problem ditching (e.g., some of the old cellphones) but I just can’t see myself getting rid of my Palm Pilot. Of course I don’t use it. Of course it’s just taking up space. But Palm Pilots were so cool! I am still jealous of anyone who had the m500-series. I suppose I could also try to sell some of the more interesting bits of electronics. (Anyone want a Sega GameGear with about 30 games that needs a couple of capacitors replaced?)

    Anyway, thanks for the inspirational blog post!

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