The Times We Lived In: The excitement of a new PC in 2002

Published: January 14th, 2002. Photograph by Frank Miller

Erica Calder with her sons Cian (4) and Tom (13 months) with their new computer at home in Ballinteer, Dublin in 2002. Photograph: Frank Miller/The Irish Times

Erica Calder with her sons Cian (4) and Tom (13 months) with their new computer at home in Ballinteer, Dublin in 2002. Photograph: Frank Miller/The Irish Times

 

It’s one of our favourite topics here at this column: “new” technology. Because inevitably, when you look back, it looks ancient.

This photograph, taken in 2002, shows the Calder family - mother Erica and her sons Cian, then four, and Tom, 13 months - clearly delighted with the new computer which had just arrived at their Dublin home.

To our jaundiced eyes, of course, the Dell might as well be an antique, to be catalogued alongside a piece of George III silver or a Chippendale chair. (Indeed, maybe one day that squat breakfront screen and frieze of vintage buttons will probably be coveted by collectors.)

On closer inspection, however, it turns out that far from being behind the times, Ms Calder was in fact well ahead of them. As the accompanying article informed our readers, she had received a new computer for Christmas - but was having trouble disposing of the old one.

“She knew it would be impossible to sell since its age (eight years) meant it was positively a fossil in these hi-tech times when today’s newest model is tomorrow’s antique,” our reporter explained. The simplest way to get rid of it would have been to shove it in the wheelie bin, but Ms Calder’s keen awareness of the environment meant she could not even contemplate that.

“I do think that how each one of us lives has an impact on the environment,” she told The Irish Times. “I don’t like the idea of incineration and we can’t just keep on dumping our waste.”

That was fighting talk for 2002. A decade and a half later, we’re still dumping our waste at a frightening rate - despite what we now know about the environmental threat posed to future generations by unmanaged landfill from the past.

So now, looking back from the viewpoint of 2018, what do we see? Not a bockety old computer but a young mother, trying to do the right thing by her children: and those two gorgeous kids, full of curiosity and innocence. And will they get the eco-future they deserve? There’s not a computer on the planet which can answer that one.

You can buy this photograph and other Irish Times images from irishtimes.com/photosales

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