Yeah, you have them lying around all right, because computers are a weird thing to get rid of. There’s a paranoia about all the personal documents and log-ins and nude photos of yourself eating barbeque chicken pizza that might still be lurking there in the metadata or what-not, no matter how many fridge magnets you’ve run over the casing. So you pile them in the garage to gather dust, next to that plastic tub of charger cables and old speakers that might come in handy some day.
But there’s an upside to this electronic hoarding, and it comes after your brother-in-law shows you how he’s hooked up an old box to the TV and uses it to stream chilled-vibes YouTube clips while he’s working from home (this is, obviously, a universal experience and if it hasn’t happened to you yet, look out…). When this happens, you’ll find yourself giving that old desktop a rough wipe to remove one layer of garage dust and firing it up to discover the secrets of your past self.
Seriously, you might keep a journal, but nothing is more revealing of the person you once were than the contents of your old Download folder. Get into that aeons-old version of Outlook Express and read some of the emails in your Sent Items – then consider the amount you’d be willing to pay if someone else was holding them as blackmail material. Check out the Pictures folder, see what you felt worthy of bookmarking in browser and, if your younger self was more naive than us grizzled future-folk, what still lurks in that telltale History all these years on.
It’s amazing, the things you can learn about yourself with a bit of temporal distance.
There’s a less direct way to access the past, too. This afternoon, I plugged in my Lenovo Yoga, which was in service until mid 2016. That doesn’t seem like long ago, but the Peanuts wallpaper and Mini Metro icon took me straight back to those pre-Pokemon Go, halcyon days. “This is a pretty cool lappie,” I thought… and within five minutes, I was filled with a fury unfelt for two years as the fonts failed to load properly, the touchpad wouldn’t respond and I couldn’t access Dropbox even though it said quite clearly that I was on my home network.
So, in the end, it turns out there is a privacy-saving way to dispose of old hardware. You just have to become infuriated enough to fling your slim laptop off the balcony like a frisbee as hard as possible, so it shatters against the telegraph pole outside your apartment.