Long Live the Old PC

This is one very healthy sales figure that many in the industry will hate to

According to a study done by a leading market research firm, against every
two new PCs being sold today, especially in many of the emerging markets, there
is an old and used PC being resold. These PCs are mainly coming from countries
such as the US, Japan, and some in Western Europe, and being sold in countries
in Africa, Latin America, South East Asia, the Middle East, and Eastern Europe.
Currently, one in 12 PCs in use world-wide is an old PC.

The figures are interesting. One always thought that nobody buys old and used
PCs-they are either donated to poor schools and NGOs or are thrown away as
junk. In fact, there has been a lot of coverage in the media about health
hazards arising out of these growing junkyards-which,
many times, are right in the middle of the city. Personally, I am very happy to
see this trend. It was such a pain to see old PCs just being dumped in the
attic, or thrown away. Old cars, cycles, sewing machines, clothes…..all of
them are re-used.

What is a bit surprising though is that this business of buying and selling
of used PCs does not seem to be a very common practice in India. The fact,
however, is that there are quite a few who would benefit if this takes off in
this country too. There are so many schools, colleges, hospitals, social welfare
organizations, besides aspiring individuals who do not have funds, but given a
chance will really put these old and rejected machines to use. For instance, I
know of a few ‘madrasas’ in north India, where the management is using 386
and 486 machines with MS DOS to train little boys and girls. I also know of an
organization that runs an old peoples’ home and an orphanage that is imparting
computer training with very old PCs.

Ibrahim Ahmad

A serious danger in this entire business is the possibility of old components
being used in new machines

I do not know of many commercial organizations that buy old PCs, but if this
becomes an acceptable practice and picks up in India, users, typically
organizations and individuals with very tight budgets, will not hesitate to buy
old PCs. Today it is seen as a taboo.

Critics might put forth only the negatives: quality of output will be low,
power consumption will be high, poor users will be duped with obsolete machines,
software piracy will go up, and so on. But I have reasons to believe that this
will help the industry in the long run.

I do not see this as a dent on sale of new PCs and licensed software. On the
contrary, this practice will bring in an altogether new fold of users, who would
not even have dreamt of using a PC for the next few years. And many of them will
evolve into users who will invest in IT in the days to come. I would venture to
suggest that use of old and used PCs should be supported by hardware and
software vendors. For instance, can hardware vendors along with their huge
reseller channel chain which spreads through the length and breadth of the
country, offer outdated components for sale. Similarly, can software companies
give old versions of their software at throw-away prices to these users. I am
sure that buying and selling of old PCs, components, and software can be a
reasonably big business. Is not the sale of old cars and motorcycles, and spare
parts, bringing cheer into the life of many?

With this we will also see a mushrooming of nook and corner maintenance
shops. Many of them will actually be using spares from old machines. There are
quite a few opportunities that these small shops will have to serve even new
machine users. These guys will add up to the technical manpower pool that India
has and will need in the days to come. This capability to offer help on old PCs
could even throw up call-center opportunities for serving users overseas.
Actually, one might even see some standard practices coming into this business,
whereby the quality and dependability of old PCs will be much higher.

However, there is a serious danger that can arise from this business of
selling and buying of old PCs. It is often alleged that many branded vendors
often use second hand components in the machines that they sell as new. If
developed countries dump old PCs into developing countries like India, the
possibility of old components being used in new machines will be high. But that
is a problem that the industry and the government will have to handle.

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