Tech – for Everyone

Tech Tips and Tricks & Advice – written in plain English.

When to buy a new computer, part 1

There are many different kinds of people, and some of them have no problem at all with old, slow machines. They seem to be perfectly content with eating breakfast while their machine boots; clicking the Quick Launch IE icon and walking away and doing some other task while IE launches; returning later, typing in their email and walking away to perform some other little task while IE tries to open their mailbox; returning later, looking over their inbox, deciding which is the most urgent/interesting letter and double-clicking it, walking away to perform some other little task…
I have a name for machines this slow: “boat anchors”. Other popular descriptions include, “museum units”, “dinosaurs”, and “legacy” … but I like “boat anchors”.

You may have never heard of Moore’s Law, and if you have, you may not give it much thought. The Cliff Notes version of Moore’s Law is that the computing power of machines doubles every 18 months.

What this means to you is the machine sitting on the shelves of the computer store are already somewhat obsolete. If your machine is roughly three years old, apply Moore’s Law and you’ll realize your machine is a Senior Citizen … a “grandpa” to today’s. If it’s four and-a half, to five years old, you’re computing with a “great-grandpa”. If it’s older than that … well … shoot, why are you still forcing great-great-grandpa to punch the timeclock? Let him retire!
In computers, as like in humans, great grandpa’s simply aren’t as spry and nimble as the kids are. They do 45 on the freeway, if you know what I mean.

Whenever I run across these folks running on these old machines, (which happens more often than you’d think) I always ask them, “how can you stand working on something this slow?” I can’t help myself. I am a curious sort.
The most common answer I get is, “it’s always been this way.”
I kid you not.

Of course I know that this isn’t the reason they haven’t purchased a new(er) machine. People are naturally resistant to change. Some of our more seasoned citizens were trained from birth to never throw anything away simply because it has grown threadbare (and they think our “disposable society” is a form of insanity [and they may be right]) and they will use bubblegum and bailing wire to patch a thing together and keep it working. Why stop using this 13 year-old PC? It’s working perfectly.

And some folks are scared. They’re scared that something will go wrong (during the data transfer) and they will lose all the photos and writings that they’ve collected over the years. That these worries are pretty much baseless is irrelevant … it’s just added to the reasons listed above to avoid confronting something “new”. (There are many tools and programs to help with PC-to-PC transfers.)
And, there’s economics: you should plan on spending at least $600 on a new PC, and to really do it right, $1,000-1,200.

And some folks tell me they simple have no use for dual-layer DVD burners, or “Blue Ray”, or Terabyte storage, or some other “latest gizmo”. And there is a certain sanity in not rushing out and paying top dollar just to possess the latest doohickey. I grant you that.

But what about speed? Are you really satisfied having to find little chores to do while waiting several minutes for Word to open? Does it ever cause you to mutter, and shake your head? Do you ever have to close a window/program so that you can open a different one … otherwise your machine will “freeze up”?
You don’t have to live that way. Even a $399 “student” machine is capable of doing 90 on the freeway these days. Never before have you been able to get so much power for so little. And in another year and-a half … I’ll be saying the same thing about the next generation of machines.

Tip of the day: if any of what I wrote above strikes a chord with you — or you are simply curious about what Vista and the ‘new kids’ can do — take a minute the next time you’re in Target, or Best Buy, or Staples (where ever) and walk over to the gizmo department. There will be machines that you can “test drive”. Go to one and look at your watch; then click IE Quick Launch, Launch Word, and then Excel. As soon as they all open, look at your watch again.

To read Part 2, click here.

Today’s free link: If you’re already considering purchasing a new machine, be aware that there’s an over-abundance of review and comparison and “shopper’s aid” sites. You can quickly become swamped with too much information. However, it is wise to do a little research before plunking down several hundred dollars — the place I recommend you start is the venerable PC Magazine shopping site. This recently revamped and thoroughly searchable resource combines reviews and the latest pricing to give you a real feel for what is available in your price range.

PS–I apologize to you readers for posting yesterday’s article so late. If you missed it, click here.

Copyright © 2007 Tech Paul. All rights reserved.

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August 11, 2007 Posted by | advice, computers, hardware, how to, PC, shopping for, tech, Windows | Leave a comment