“Obsolete before I opened the box!”

The computer of the 2004 as imagined in 1954

Third in a Series: Technology in the SOHO

You have always suspected it. It is true. Your technology is obsolete before you get it out of the box.

Planned obsolescence is real (where companies plan for things to become obsolete or ineffective as quickly as possible to maximize their profits) but computers are really developing faster than any other technology that has ever existed before them.

If cars developed as quickly and as effectively as computers have, you would have a car that would virtually indestructible and drive to the moon and back on a teaspoon of gasoline! A computer is the most advanced technology on the face of the earth with over a billion manufactured parts inside of each and every one.

  1. A tightly-packed stack of new $1,000 bills totaling $1 billion would be 63 miles high. In comparison, jet planes fly at 30,000 – 40,000 feet (5.7 – 7.7 miles high).
  2. About a billion minutes ago, the Roman Empire was in full swing. (One billion minutes is about 1,900 years.)
  3. About a billion hours ago, we were living in the Stone Age. (One billion hours is about 114,000 years.)
  4. About a billion months ago, dinosaurs walked the earth. (One billion months is about 82 million years.)
  5. A billion inches is 15,783 miles, more than halfway around the earth (circumference).
  6. This sophistication does not come without cost. Thousands of man-hours have been spent in the design of the manufacturing process that creates computers and millions more on the programming of the operating systems that allow them to do even the most rudimentary task of booting up.

You get what you pay for.

Your real mission is to get the best value for the price, and ensure the longest functioning life for your technology. The best way to do that is to buy as close to the cutting edge as you can afford. The cutting edge is usually the province of gamers and hardware enthusiasts (with rigs that cost anywhere from $3,000 to $10,000.) You don’t have to spend what a good gaming rig costs to get a box that will do what you want.

  1. Free is nice and low price is good, but sometimes, what you need will cost money and you will often pay handsomely for it. The trick is to be able to get help in deciding what something should be worth to you and what a reasonable price for that would be.
  2. This does not mean you can’t economize and buy effectively or wait until a good price shows up at your computer store but this rule is one that should always be in mind.
  3. Buy the best equipment you can. If after determining your needs, talking to a professional, and deciding what would truly be the best for you, you cannot afford what you need, then wait.
  4. Save to get exactly what you need rather than a poor substitute. My experience after buy millions in information technology is: Buy it once and buy it right. But if you buy it cheap you’ll buy it twice. Once for what you thought would work, and then twice because you have to still buy what was truly needed in the first place.
  5. Normal non-graphic business users can get away with significantly less power (and cost). The range for a good business rig is from $650 to $1500 for a desktop and $900 to $2500 for a laptop. You can spend more if you like, but try not to spend less. The less you spend, the faster you fall on the obsolescence curve. Buy the fastest processor and the most RAM you can put on the computer. These two elements compose the most important devices you can put on a computer and are the most important factors in determining how long your computer can resist obsolescence.
  6. Know your hardware and the software that you use. I know how hard it is for some people to focus on their computer’s age, processor speed, and hardware it has shipped with, but this information is very important, especially once your computer begins to age. If you bought your computer new, your shipping information should include all the most important data about it.
  7. Know how old your computer is and keep track of the day you got it. Your warranty will be based on that date. You may be able to extend the warranty on the computer before it has expired, especially if the computer’s hardware has been problematic.
  8. If you still have a warranty, familiarize yourself with what it covers and what it doesn’t. A good warranty covers all hardware issues and offers free over the phone technical support for software issues. A new computer should have at least one year of warranty. A new laptop should have a three year warranty (even if it costs more) because laptops are more likely to suffer problems due to their traveling lifestyle.
  9. Know your basic internal hardware: Processor name, hard drive, CD-DVD drive, internal cards, (video card, sound card) RAM amount and type of peripherals attached. This helps your technical support person know how best to help you when they come to see you or when you have to get tech support over the phone.
  10. If you got your computer without any specification data, use the free application System Information (Sysinfo) to make a printout of the most important data about your computer. The system summary contains the info you need. You can find Sysinfo under the Start Menu>Accessories>System Tools>System Information. You will be amazed at how much information there is to know about your computer.
  11. Know the names and versions of the applications that you use the most. This helps when you are troubleshooting, updating, seeking out new versions of your software or updating your drivers. Invest some time in mastering the programs you spend the most time with. Time invested with a program pays itself back tenfold over time.
  12. A quick rule to determine whether its time to buy a new computer: if you spend more time waiting on your computer than working on it, it probably means it’s time for a new one. Let a tech come out and evaluate your system to make sure you have the most RAM and the fastest processor your motherboard can support. If after a complete reinstall, you are still waiting, let your current computer go and embrace something new.

Moore’s Law states that the capabilities of computer processors will double every 24 months. Yes, this means approximately every two years, a new processor comes out and computers get faster. This also means that every two years your computer loses potency, effectiveness and becomes slower. Programmers write their programs for the fastest chips possible, so when this new software is used on your computer, the program will feel slower and slower as time goes on because it was not designed for your slow computer. Moore’s Law has been effectively predicting the capabilities of processors for years and is believed to be able to do it for another ten to twenty years at least before physical limitations in the construction of materials and the limits of the laws of physics (as we understand them currently) will prevent components from getting any smaller. They might still grow more efficient but that remains to be seen. When Moore Law reaches its limit, it may be that the current design of computers as we know them may radically change, almost as much as the concept of the computer did compared to the ideas of the 1950s and now.

Weird Al’s video “All About the Pentiums” is the source of the quote for this section. Enjoy!

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