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Ford Model A - The Computer Corner

February 18, 2024

by Charles Miller

At a recent breakfast meeting a good friend said he disagreed with what he perceived to be my aspersions of Software as a Service (SaaS) in an earlier column. SaaS is the direction in which the software industry wants to move so that everyone is required to pay a recurring fee (every month or every year) to keep using their software. My friend said he thought this was a good idea because it kept his software up to date with all the latest features, and found the fee reasonable.

There is no right or wrong position here, and everyone should be allowed to choose what is best for them. The East Texas neighborhood where I grew up was a microcosm of different approaches to automobile ownership. Some people wanted to buy a new car every year. Some, who could afford it, did buy a new car every year, while others kept their old models so long as they still ran.

Neighbor Mr. Owen drove downtown every September for the auto dealer "open houses" to see the new models, and often drove home in a different car. I am not sure he stayed on his every year schedule after the time his new car caught fire the first night he had it, leaving a charred carcass with five miles on the odometer.

Buying the latest technology does have its appeal though. The Kennedys had a 1957 Ford Skyliner that had practically no trunk because the space was taken up with a retractable hardtop and the many electric motors, solenoids, and hundreds of feet of wiring required to make it work. On my way to and from elementary school I would ride my bicycle by their house hoping for the chance to see that car's hard top disappear.

Some cars were bought for improvements in safety, such as the 1966 Plymouth my parents brought home; and insisted I and my teenage siblings use its seat belts. Yet my father was not a safety evangelist because when his 1974 Ford came with an ignition lock to prevent the car moving unless the seat belt was first buckled, he quickly found a mechanic to disable that unwanted "feature." Several Volkswagen "Beetles" were bought for their fuel efficiency.

Other neighbors tended to hang onto old technology as long as it kept working. Miss Philips had a 1947 Dodge with fluid drive. The Smiths had a 1956 Chevrolet station wagon. Both of those survived to the 1980s. They were outdone by Mr. Moseley's reclusive great aunt who lived a dozen houses away at the far end of the block. She had an immaculate 1931 Ford Model A Tudor. Although she did not drive any more she had a mechanic from the local Ford dealership pick up the car every month for service because she did not think anyone else was qualified to change the oil.

All of my neighbors had their own reasons for when and how they bought their transportation. Each made the best decision for them; based on finances, need for reliability, comfort, safety, etc.

So, by way of analogy that is similar to the approaches computer or smartphone users take to their hardware and software. Some people buy a new smartphone every year; others need a new laptop computer every two years to have the newest features; then some people want to hang onto their older technology so long as it still works.

I stated earlier that everyone should have freedom to choose, but today the ability to choose is being eroded. Software makers insist on pushing out new versions on a regular basis. When the new software will not run on older hardware, the user is forced into buying a new computer or smartphone before their technology ceases to work altogether. And that happens on an end-of-life date decided by the software makers.

I realize that classic 1931 Model A might not be the best vehicle to drive on today's interstate highways, but I still miss seeing it around.


Charles Miller is a freelance computer consultant with decades of IT experience and a Texan with a lifetime love for Mexico. The opinions expressed are his own. He may be contacted at 415-101-8528 or email FAQ8 (at)


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