Cyber Culture: Microsoft's XBox One is designed to be left switched on but what's the economic and environmental impact?
Rhodri Marsden is the Technology Columnist for The Independent; he has also written about crumpets, Captain Beefheart, rude place names and string. He's also a musician who plays in the band Scritti Politti, and won the under-10 piano category at the 1980 Watford Music Festival by playing a piece called "Silver Trumpets" with verve and aplomb.
Wednesday 07 August 2013
There's a Christmas family tradition in the Marsden household where my father issues a series of strict electrical instructions to me before he goes to bed – what has to be switched off and where, which plugs have to be removed from their sockets and so on. Every year, I look at him with uncomprehending disbelief – but obviously I obey, because it's his house.
That fear of electricity surging unsafely through wires in the small hours of the morning and how many pence it might add to the bill seems to be a worry felt mainly by the older generation; younger people tend to wastefully leave electrical items on standby or just keep them running, like fridges, primed for instant access.
Computers seem to encourage that mindset. Back in the early 1990s, there seemed to be a common belief that turning computers off and on stressed the components and would lead to catastrophic malfunction, so they were best left on.
This was almost certainly total rubbish, but we all paid out several quid and emitted a sizeable nugget of CO2 each year as a result.
These days, standby and hibernation modes encourage us to leave computers plugged in and switched on; sure, a standby mode might only use 10 per cent of the usual power, but if you add that up across a nation, that 10 per cent becomes significant.
A US government website advises that computers that aren't due to be used for 20 minutes should have their monitors switched off, and if they're going to be idle for two hours they should be switched off entirely – but even if I printed that out and stuck it on the wall next to my computer, I'd still find myself ignoring it. We've developed lazy habits.
And on the horizon now looms Microsoft's new XBox One, a gaming console which has been designed to be left switched on for its full 10-year life cycle, quietly downloading system and games updates, and listening out for voice commands.
Of course, technology has advanced a long way in 20 years; the successors to the devices we left noisily whirring in 1993 now barely make a sound, and their efficient components use less power.
But while it's undeniably cool that an electronic device springs into life when you bark at it, there's still an economic and environmental impact related to our dislike of reaching for plug sockets and of waiting for devices to boot up and shut down.
If you had a calculator and could be bothered, you could work out the financial cost of that convenience, whether it's £30, £60 or £90 a year.
My dad would probably say that those are sums worth saving – and if you stuck the money in an envelope and put it on the table in front of me now, I'd probably agree.
Life & Style blogs
Jennifer Lawrence nude pictures leaked: Reddit removes 'The Fappening' board dedicated to sharing naked pictures of celebrities
iPhone 'Wave': iOS 8 hoax claims you can charge your iPhone in the microwave - you can't
From Topshop to Burberry, London Fashion Week spring/summer 2015: Distraction could not disguise a distinct lack of focus
A bottle of wine a day is not bad for you and abstaining is worse than drinking, scientist claims
iOS 8 HealthKit catches a major bug, forcing Apple's fitness apps to lie down and take it easy
Scottish independence referendum: A nation divided against itself
Scottish referendum results: Cross-party consensus collapses amid Tory-Labour spat on the 'English question'
Scottish independence: David Cameron is becoming the 'George Bush of Britain'
Hilary Mantel 'should be investigated by police' over Margaret Thatcher assassination story, says Lord Bell
Plebgate MP Andrew Mitchell called officer a 'little s**t', claim court documents 'exposing ex-Chief Whip's 'record of abusing police'
Archbishop of Canterbury admits doubts about existence of God
- 1 Rihanna 'nude photos' claims emerge on 4Chan as hacking scandal continues
- 2 Frank Lampard equalises for Manchester City against Chelsea: how Twitter reacted
- 3 Kim Kardashian 'nude photos' leaked on 4chan weeks after Jennifer Lawrence scandal
- 4 Free U2 album: How the most generous giveaway in music history turned PR disaster
iJobs Gadgets & Tech
£25000 - £30000 Per Annum: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd: Our client are cur...
£45000 Per Annum: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd: Our client based in Chelmsf...
£24000 - £26000 per annum + Benefits: Ashdown Group: 2nd line IT Support Techn...
£40000 - £50000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Service Delivery Manager Kingston Up...