"I like your computer," she said. "It looks like it was made by Indians or something."
Chia looked down at her sandbenders. Turned off the red switch. "Coral," she said. "These are turquoise. The ones that look like ivory are the inside of a kind of nut. Renewable."
"The rest is silver?"
"Aluminum," Chia said. "They melt old cans they dig up on the beach cast it in sand molds. These panels are micarta. That's linen with this resin in it."
I've been trapped in the 18 month hardware cycle for over a decade. Whether it's mobile phones on a contract with a "free" upgrade, PC hardware replacement driven by games, or Apple's relentless yet undeniably compelling product refreshes, I can't escape it. I won't lie and pretend that I don't get excited by Apple keynotes or video game hardware news, but we can blame Moore's Law for a certain amount of this thirst for improved technological artefacts.
"David House, an Intel colleague, had factored in the increasing performance of transistors to conclude that integrated circuits would double in performance every 18 months."
Every time a major innovation breaks into widespread consciousness, people ask if we've reached the end of Moore's law. However, several trends outside of raw hardware performance now threaten Moore's law more than anything else. Rare earth metal exports are being restricted, so previously closed and new mines are being opened to supply the huge demands of the electronics industry. There have been calls to take better care of this resource, and I expect electronics recycling will become a key part of recycling programmes alongside the now ubiquitous glass and paper collections. I noticed in suburban Japan trucks drive around at least once a week collecting old electronics and household appliances, in the UK we have to take such goods to specific refuse collection locations.
Another trend is crowdsourcing and maker culture. There's a huge amount of interest in the Raspberry Pi, Arduino, 3D printers, and the weird and wonderful products appearing on Kickstarter and Etsy. More people are becoming interested in solving their own problems -- I expect a homemade laptop/tablet movement to kick off if it hasn't already. Put a Kindle and a Raspberry Pi together and you've got a portable machine with incredible battery life. Or, just root your Kindle to use it as a general-purpose computer. I'd actually love an eink laptop with a mechanical keyboard: a portable machine purely designed for writing. It's unlikely that anyone will make this commercially, but I don't need them to because I can make it.
Mobile CPU and graphics hardware will continue to follow Moore's law for the foreseeable future, but many people are satisfied with existing hardware. At one point mobile phones were too big, LCD screens were poor quality, but those are solved problems. I'm extremely happy with my launch iPhone 4, and although I have a lot of devices purely for testing the apps I build, I don't see any reason to upgrade to the iPhone 5. My phone is in excellent working order, although at over two years old the battery will start degrading soon. Apple are notorious for including fixed batteries, so there's going to be a point where it's easier to get a new device than replace the battery. This built-in obsolescence has spread to Android as well, where certain prominent flagship devices no longer support removable batteries or memory cards.
A big issue with pushing hardware beyond its intended lifetime is security. The first iPad didn't get iOS 6, Google quickly got bored of my Nexus One, but I could put community-supported software on these devices.
Etsy, or a similar site, may become the home of William Gibson's sandbenders. Send in your obsolete but well-loved device, get the tarnished casing updated, batteries replaced, and maybe even a community-supported software update. Although I'm still locked into the 18 month upgrade cycle, I like to donate old hardware to charity or friends and family.
If I was in a position to create an electronics company, I'd make the unique selling point "hardware for life" -- open source, removable batteries, removable storage, a mail-in service for replacing the casing and upgrades. The "stores" would be more like a hackerspace than anything else. This goes against the current model for an electronics company, but it might work as a non-profit service-based organisation rather than deriving most of the revenue from new hardware sales.