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Brett Nordquist (Customer Happiness Engineer)

Buy It For Life

Written on August 19, 2016 by Brett Nordquist

A few weeks ago, I called a customer who had recently purchased a computer from us. She explained that she'd configured a new system to run Adobe Creative Cloud to support her business. I brought up her profile and noticed she'd purchased a computer from us back in 2008. I said, "Did the last computer we built for you finally stop working?" 

"No, it's working great. I just needed something more powerful so I passed it down to my mother who uses it for email and Facebook." 

A closer look at the notes on the older system showed that we'd installed a larger primary hard drive about three years ago. But outside of a few questions about Windows 7, not a single repair ticket had been opened in nearly eight years of use. 

We take pride in building computer that last, but I was still impressed her computer had given her 8 years of trouble-free service. I began to wonder what products I own that fit the profile: 

  • 8+ years of ownership
  • Daily use
  • Trouble-free operation

I spent some time walking around my home, and I realized that most of what I own is only a few years old. Turn on the TV, and we're constantly bombarded with messages that what we have is too old or just not good enough. There's usually some magic feature that will transform our lives for the better that's only found in the latest model. You need this today because it's faster, sleeker, lighter or more  powerful. 

During my search I came across products I've had for a few years, but most of them are not ones I use each day. But I did find a few: 

Timbuk2 Messenger Bag - I purchased this bag in 1999, and still use it nearly everyday to carry around my laptop and headphones when I leave my house. My bag is an incredibly boring green and brown, but I don't care. It gets the job done. 

ZWILLING J.A. Henckels Knives - I brought a set of the Four Star series knives home from a business trip to Stuttgart, Germany. That was back in 1997 and they get used every day. I've had the knives professionally sharpened a few times, and they are still remarkably balanced in my hand today. Last year I sent the tomato knife in for repair, and ZWILLING replaced it with a newer model at no charge. 

Honda Odyssey - I put just over 200,000 miles on this van over the course of 10 years. Outside of regular maintenance, it was the most reliable car I've owned. Given the long trips we take during the summer, I decided to replace it last November. With a newer Odyssey. 

Dualit Classic Toaster - My spouse couldn't believe I paid over $100 for a toaster, but this one has lasted 12 years and shows no signs of slowing down. I like that the heating elements aren't exposed so my son, who tried to extract a bagel with a butter knife, didn't electrocute himself. Get the red model if you dare. 

I've recommended each of these products to friends and family. If they finally do need to be replaced, I won't hesitate to purchase them again. 

The oldest computer I own is a Puget Systems Serenity. I upgraded the primary drive to an SSD and installed an NVIDIA GTX 960 so that I could run three monitors and play a game called Firewatch. As much as I enjoy it, it's only half way to the 8-year threshold. 

If you're like me, you might enjoy the Buy it For Life group on Reddit. I also read the Wirecutter for gadget reviews and the Sweethome for home related products. 

What products have you purchased that have withstood the test of time? 

Tags: Serenity, Timbuk2, Dualit

Great topic. Would you believe I have only had 3 computers since 1993? Okay, I also had a laptop for a short period, but it only taught me to hate batteries.

My parents introduced me to computing with a TRS80 in the 1980s and then I bought my own second-hand Commodore 128 around 1990 or so. Since I started buying new, I have purchased a computer about once every 7-8 years or so.

June 1993 - 486DX-33 - nice to have one of those fancy internal harddrives instead of running everything off floppy disks. Along the way, I upgraded the modem from 14.4 kbps to 56kbps so I could enjoy the internet in the fast lane.

July 2001 - Pentium 4 at 1.5GHz - Incredible performance update. A scientific calculation that took several hrs with my old computer only took ~15 seconds with the new machine. I think the software overcoming my poor programming was the biggest factor in that improvement.

March 2008 - Core2 processor (quad-core at 3GHz) - Got this one from Puget (system #45621) because I wanted more power. It is still my main machine. I have been running this one non-stop with distributed computing projects, so it needed a fan replacement a couple years ago and I had two graphics cards die. At some point along the way, I also replaced the main drive with an SSD and added a second harddrive for data storage. So the machine isn't exactly original, but the CPU, RAM, and motherboard have never been touched.

TBD 2017 - new system from Puget is planned. Although my current computer is running fine, the hard drive is over 97% full, and I am looking for something more energy efficient. Will this be my computer for life? Perhaps, but if history is any indication, I will be back here in the 2025-2026 timeframe looking for my next upgrade.

Posted on 2016-08-21 20:38:46

It's exactly 102 months or 8 and a half years of everyday use of my white MacBook. With the original power adapter! :)

Posted on 2016-09-07 18:15:40

And forgot to mention - original battery too, which is estimated to have 93% of it's original capacity. (Although I bothered to use it most often between 30% - 80% of charge when working stationery.)

Posted on 2016-09-07 18:18:10

I'm still on a 2.4 GHz computer built for me in 2009 by Mike Chin from SPCR. It's still working great, and my computing environment has been heavenly quiet for the past 7 years. But my needs have changed recently and I will need to make an upgrade next year when Kaby Lake Xeons come out.

Posted on 2016-09-22 21:21:27