Click Here for previous A Guru's World columns.
Like no other industry I've seen, the computer industry has this amazing capability to suck every dime out of its customer base.
Sure, if you have a car, and you want to tune that car, it costs money to buy cams, headers, and so forth, but before you even touched that car with modifications, it did exactly what it was made to do: Go from point A to point B. Even if you had an old 1969 Beetle, it's going to do its job of transporting you across this great land of ours. In all seriousness, does a newer car get you there any quicker? *
But, try playing Unreal Tournament on a Pentium 233. I would almost (only almost) rather have toothpicks shoved through my eyelids than to put up with the frustration of the screen flicker and the jerkiness of my character's movements on anything LESS than a 500 MHz.
The irony is, that three years ago, that 233 would've been plenty adequate to play Quake or MDK and those games were pretty darn sweet! What's happened?
It is, without a doubt, that the newest games, as they come out, dictate the need for additional power out of our machines. My Athlon 900 does not allow me to type this column up any faster than the 500 I had last year or the 300 I had the year before that. My email is not any faster. Ooh, look at the FPS I'm getting in Solitaire! But, heaven forbid if I can't play Quake 3 Arena or UT to it's max and thus need to run out and buy a faster everything in order to do so.
Think more than ten years back. Picture yourself in an Arcade and playing Golden Axe or Ghosts and Goblins. I challenge you to argue the playability of those games. They were perfect AND they did not require a PIII 733 to run. I still find myself playing Galaga on an emulator from time to time, in FAVOR of fragging some monsters in Quake. Fact is that the designers of the games back then would take in the consideration the limitations of the hardware they had to work with and have to creatively find ways to make the games as playable as possible despite these limitations. Games today are made to PUSH all of the way up into those limitations instead, but yet playability has not improved much at all, nor will I think it will until we are at an age where we can throw a VR helmet on and go on a shooting spree against VR baddies that look like REAL PEOPLE. Until then, what are we getting out of our games? I'll tell you what we are getting: higher credit card bills!
Sure, having more powerful computers allow for faster rendering of graphics and faster processing of data, but when was the last time you heard a story about some kid making a movie like Toy Story on a PC in his basement? Honestly, most people only use the PC for surfing the net and playing video games.
All of this and just the simple need to "keep up with they Jones's" cause these mad rushes to buy the latest and greatest. I don't care if it's more than I'll ever need and costs twice as much! As long as it is faster than the Jones's. Even Intel and AMD play the game. If it weren't for AMD making a 700, Intel wouldn't have made one as soon as they did. (Keep in mind that CPU speeds have DOUBLED in less than a year's time), and on up the scale it goes.
I've actually considered myself quite a Luddite and can thank being actually IN the PC industry for this anti-technology attitude. I'm really not in the mood to run right out and buy an AGP 4X video card and a KX-133 chipset motherboard simply because I know, from building such machines at my workplace, it's not going to be nearly as an improvement as everyone has hyped it up to be compared to what I already have, and I've grown very weary, and broke, keeping up with the Jones's. In closing I would like to give you what I have dubbed Jon's Law. I've simply come to the understanding that in the computer industry:
1. If you can buy "it", it is obsolete.
2. If you wait for the next best thing to come out to buy "it", the next, next best thing will be coming out next month.
3. "It" is never functioning to it's full potential until "it" is discontinued in favor of the next, next, next best thing.
* - We are assuming that the 1969 Beetle is actually functioning, as it should.