The Upgrade Treadmill
If you're a long time computer expert, that is, a geek, you've probably thought about upgrading your PC. Back in the old days, when the mighty C:\> prompt ruled the screen, you bought a PC and it took a year or two before you even thought of upgrading to a new model. Now through the miracle of pre-announcements, your PC is obsolete even before you finish paying for it, an achievement previously only found in the automobile industry. On the positive side, there have been few reported cases of spontaneously exploding PCs, and the likelihood of it happening is far less than that of Windows XP toasting your hard disk.
You should assume that the minute you order a new PC, Computer Potrezebie Monthly will have a cover story on the new unannounced 80666 processor (also known as the Damium) that runs infinite loops in half the time. Of course, it'll run so hot, it'll have an on board espresso maker too.
And it pisses me off! I've been using PCs for years now, and every time Intel comes out with a new processor, I have to pay full price. I've written letters to IBM, Compaq, Dell and a dozen other PC vendors telling them all that I'm willing to be a loyal customer if only they'll upgrade me to a new Itanium for $99.95. But they obviously don't understand the value of PR and aren't going for it.
Luckily, in the software world, we've been doing upgrades since day one. Or rather, day 1.1 which came a few hours later and was much improved. It's a constant balancing act to achieve innovation, compatibility and competitiveness while maintaining performance, ease of use and really cool acronyms. There's always going to be innovation in hardware, software, firmware, heck, there's probably even in innovation in Delaware, if you can find it.
The important thing is to upgrade your system only when it will increase your productivity. Or when your spouse is out of town, which is pretty much the same thing.
In my case, I have a two year old Pentium machine at home and if I actually used it to run Windows productivity software, I'm sure it wouldn't be fast enough. Ok, I admit, if it weren't for the delays in running Return to Wolfenstein, I wouldn't even consider parting with this sucker. If Intel ever puts in mutant attack dog optimizations in a CPU I'll be first in line. There could be a whole slew of Wolfenstein-ware productivity tools and utilities. Need to delete a file, just use your gattling gun. Heck, you can wipe out the whole hard disk with a couple of mouse clicks, which is much easier than Windows 98 where it can take up to an hour. Think of it: WolfenBase... WolfenCalc... Wolfenstein Office... But I digress.
Since I live in California, the problem is what to do with the old machine so I can feel really good about spending all this money on a new one. My therapist, Izzy Sharp, author of "Beyond Co-Processor Dependency", has come up with an object-oriented model of "reverse inheritance". Namely, give the old PC to your father. My father, who claims to know less about computers than anything else, is now retired. Although Mom is keeping him busy cleaning the garage two or three times a day, Dad's realized that if he had a computer he could run SimGarage and try out various scenarios without having to lift a finger. Ok, he might have to click the mouse a few times, but we're not talking garage-aerobics. And if Dad had a computer, he wouldn't have to call me to check on the stock price every fifteen minutes. After all, that's what the Internet is for.
So I figure even if I lose a couple of grand on the deal, I'll be able to justify buying a new 1 Gigahaertz Pentium, because, in effect, I'd be spending that money for my Dad. Not that he would get the 1 Gig machine, heck no, he gets the slow-poke 233 Mhz machine. But when I upgrade to an Itanium, we'll talk.
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