Computer Upgrading

Date Posted: July 21, 2013

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Remember 1982? I do.

I was an eager 10-year-old looking at his shiny new Commodore 64 as something precious, something powerful, something that would take me to other places and give me new freedoms not attainable any other way. With my Atari cartridges of classic games and my collection of D&D role-playing games on floppies (5 1/4″ no less) I played the hell out of that 8-bit device with 64 kilobytes of RAM. There was no Internet, hard drives weren’t available, and my monitor was at 320×240 res with 16 colors.

Eventually some of my friends picked up new systems. Both Apple and IBM clones began making headway by the late 80s, based on new emerging technologies and operating systems (DOS anyone?). And after nearly ten years Commodore died off. TEN years without any tangible gain in power or flexibility. And then just in time for Microsoft Windows 3.1, the world shattered and what would prove Moore’s law took hold. You could expect that computer hardware’s power and capabilities to double every 18 months, or so.

I held back for a while. After all, these Windows-based systems cost upwards of $2000 and had yet proven themselves as anything but fancy business tools, not much gaming flexibility, yet. But in 1998 after inheriting a hand-me-down from my parents, and a few ‘simple’ upgrades I jumped wholeheartedly on board. Quake II become my new obsession and upgrade become my new watch word.

I spent $1500 on my first new system, with a 500 megahertz AMD II processor, 320 megs of hard drive space and 64 Megs of RAM. I put a nVidia graphics card into it, a 128 Meg RIVA TNT. Within a year I had upgraded to an AMD Athlon III at 1 GHz, 640 megs and a 256 MB graphics card.

Better and more demanding games every year, therefore upgrades and eventually new systems every 18-24 months or so. Forever, it seems this would last. And I loved it. I spent time off from work and First-person shooters, benchmarking and over-clocking my systems. Often times spending hours just trying to squeeze that little bit extra from each CPU, GPU, RAM stick, etc… I even fried a few components along the way. One year I had a system that I had to keep open air(no case!!) just to keep it running.

As I grew older, and hopefully wiser, things both within me and in the PC world changed. Hardware became so powerful that software developers stalled on upgrading their games every year. Consoles took over, and they would last 5+ years without hardly any upgrades, so developers would focus on game-play improvements over better graphics on each new game made. And eventually hardware companies ran out of wiggle room with Moore’s law. Technology would need more time to catch up.

And now with portable devices taking over, I think that the old days were PCs were king are gone. AMD has just released a new 8-core Processor running at 5 Gigahertz, and guess what, it’s not much faster than the 4 Gigahertz model. Intel, whose hardware development seems a bit more mature than AMD, is putting more effort into efficiency instead of raw processing speed. Both companies can’t go much father anyway without a new type of processor, maybe organic diodes?! And prices are coming down reflecting this loss of market demand.

I, for one, am grateful. I can admit, and probably many others can too, to spending thousands of dollars on new components just to gain a few extra (F)rames (P)er (S)econd while playing Quake III or Unreal Tournament. And looking back, boy was that fun.

But, now as I sit here as a 40-something year old typing on my keyboard, hooked up to a system running AMD’s 8-core 4 GHz CPU and my dual 22″ IPS panel monitors, I can honestly say that I’m completely done with all that nonsense.

5 GHz they say, that must be something?!