You'd never guess it from looking at my office or the guest room (it's really time to invite some overnight guests so I have some incentive to get the leftover Christmas wrap and other clutter out of there), but we've been getting rid of stuff. It's time for some end-of-year sorting and clearing out. Okay, make that end-of-years, plural, starting with, oh, about 1992.
We've found the occasional almost-forgotten treasure and a certain amount of just plain junk. Most of the stuff, though, falls into that troublesome category of things that are obsolete or unused, but that are still too good to throw out. We have no need for them whatsoever, but theoretically at least, we might—someday. Or someone might. We just don't know when, how, or why we might ever use them.
Of course, that theoretical potential is exactly why they've been sitting around all this time gathering dust.
Why doesn't somebody hurry up and invent a recycling/transmogrifying machine? It would operate somewhat like the transporters from Star Trek. The machine would disassemble something down to its very atoms, but instead of putting it back together the way it was, it would reassemble those atoms into something new.
You'd put your old stuff—an IBM Selectric typewriter from 1979, say—into the machine, program the right settings, and press "start." After some whirring and beeping and a few flashing lights, out the other end would come a new laptop, a couple of e-readers, and a set of stainless steel tableware for eight. Oh, and that nine-sixteenths wrench that's missing from the socket set.
Just think of the possibilities. Outgrown jeans and old tee-shirts could be transformed into this year's fashion, or maybe a new pair of Carhartts coveralls. An old bicycle could become a new skateboard. Unwanted Christmas gifts could be transformed into just the thing you'd have bought for yourself. The lighted plastic "pig driveway markers" I got in a white elephant exchange could become a new pair of dress shoes that didn't pinch my toes. Fruitcake or gingersnaps could be transformed into dark chocolate.
Now, that would be regifting.
Of course, there are still a few technical details to iron out before such a machine could ever be perfected. And if it were ever to be made workable on a practical scale, it would completely disrupt the world's economic systems. We certainly wouldn't want to do that, given how perfectly everything seems to be working right now.
So it may be a while before the "Atomic Recyler" is on the market. In the meantime, does anyone out there want a perfectly good Selectric typewriter?