My Computer Evolution

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I found my receipts for my first computer, a Gateway 2000, which resulted from a thorough search of vendors in Computer Shopper magazine, a phone book of a magazine that came out monthly primarily with ads for companies that tailored computers in seemingly infinite varieties though using a very limited number of variables.  In other words, the cases looked different.

I had intended to buy a formidable Gateway 2000 tower unit with a 486 Intel processor. However, when I called to place the order, the service person said, “Well, that’s now $300 less than our advertisement, but for the same price, you can get our 486dx250...” Something about clock doubling and 30% faster.

Well, duh.  Faster = better!

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Click it and it will expand.

Some highlights: 

    • $3,290.  Ouch!  And it didn’t even include a fax/modem, which would cost me a couple hundred bucks for each of the next several evolutions of modem speed.
    • MS DOS 5.  Living life on the cutting edge. (That’s Microsoft’s Disk Operating System...)
    • 15” Monitor – truly state-of-the-art for 1992.
    • Windows 3.  Ain’t that cute.  Bill Gates was just a millionaire then.  DOS booted first. Then you started Windows.
    • Hard drive:  200MB. 
    • RAM: 8 MB – Ram was $200/MB in those days.
    • Manuals – yes, there used to be printed manuals for hardware and software.
    • Disks – lots of them.  51/4”, though that computer also had the newfangled and vastly superior 3.5” “floppy disks” drive.  It might take 10 – 15 disks to install a program.
    • Included Microsoft Word – which would be quite the professional benefit for getting ahead of the workplace curve, which was stuck with IBM’s DisplayWrite at the time.

My computer today has some ungodly stats, and it’s already 2.5 years old.  Intel i7 2.80 GHZ processor, 16 GB Ram, 1.3TB hard drive... whatever.  It cost half of the Gateway (less given inflation) and it was still more than I had to buy.  But, I still hold to a general opinion of buying the best I can afford and letting it run a longer useful life.

Between the two computers were, hmmm.  Well, that Gateway tower had tons of space in it, and I upgraded it quite a bit.  It made me feel all technically proficient and everything to add a sound card, replace video cards, upgrade the power supply, connect CD drives, tweak the software...   Later, there were 2 Hewlett Packards and a locally made machine.  Maybe there was another. 

Eventually, the frustration and the cost to keep my computer current with video games drove me to platform game systems. Plug the game in, it works. Bingo!

    • Nintendo > Nintendo 64 > GameCube > Wii
    • Xbox > Xbox 360 > Xbox 360 whatever-it-was I bought because it was “better”

Well, that idea of a “static” system didn’t work so well, did it?  Looking back, instead of saving me money, I was now upgrading both computers and gaming systems.  You’re welcome, kids.

I like the computer that I have now.  It does the things I want to do very capably.  That said, I won’t be surprised when I have to upgrade again.  The expanding capacity and low cost for data ($70 for a 1 TB hard drive) is kind of like the nation’s debt limit.  Keep spending and when you hit a barrier, just boost expand the limit.  There’s no need to spend more wisely or, in context, code more concisely.   (Kids, just think a bit about a 200 MB hard drive, on which I could balance the checkbook, write documents, AND fly a large number of World War II aircraft using a joystick.  Efficient coding...✓).

The nature of computing has changed.  Desktop PCs were king, and then R&D went into laptops.  That was the growth area and continues to have great traction.  Today, it’s all about portability with pads and cell phones.  Rightfully so.

My iPhone 4 does vastly more than my first computer.  Or, my third, for that matter.  It’s already old.  Do I need a 5?  Well, no.  And that’s an interruption to my purchasing history.

That history shows that I’m a sucker for more = better.   Advertisers know this, like AT&T’s current fun-with-kids spots asking kids whether two things are better than one (talk and surf at the same time).  But the iPhone 4 does everything I need well enough.  Would I like a better camera?  Well sure.  Would I like it to be faster?  Of course.

But here’s the thing.  The phone is built for a short term use.  The games I play are meant for playing a few minutes at a time.  All the apps are function specific where I get what I want and quit.

The pads are interesting.  They’re certainly bigger and suitable for aging eyes, but their attraction remains their portability – not their inherent usefulness for projects that take time.

And that’s why I like PCs.  (Don’t rule me out for a iPhone 5s, though.  Maybe.)

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