Sometimes it amazes me to witness just how far computers have come. Being born in the 80s, I am a product of the generation that grew up with the home PC. I remember when I got my first computer, when we first got dial-up internet, and when we made the switch to cable internet. Now I work a job that is only possible through the use of computers, surrounded by other people who only use computers. For awhile there, the thing about computers was all about how much faster they were coming. The famous Moore’s Law prediction showed how computers were doubling in speed approximately every two years. It seemed that as soon as you purchased a computer it was obsolete, to the point where your old hardware could no longer do the tasks that it needs to do.
The computing landscape has changed, however, in the move to online based applications and storage. The computer I use at work, for example, is approximately six years old, and it is running a web browser that debuted in 2001. While I severely dislike the speed at which it completes tasks, it is still able to do so because the majority of the work that I do is online, and is not dependent on the speed of my computer. Likewise, the majority of the work that I do at home is online – whether that be through Gmail, or Evernote, or by using Dropbox and a localized word processor. In reality, most of what I use my computer for I can also do using my iPhone. I am no longer limited by the speed of my computer.
In that regard, as the barrier to home computing has dropped, buying a new computer has never been cheaper. The rise of netbooks and tablets has shown us that home users are really not interested in high powered computers anymore. Where once you had to purchase top of the line equipment just so that you had something usable in 18 months, you can now surf the web just as easily on a machine from 2006 as one from 2011. It is a fallacy to think that you need to spend a lot of money on a computer in order to do web browsing, word processing, and photo sharing.
Being a bit of a computer geek, I know that if you want to save yourself some money, you have to build your own computer. It is far cheaper to get a powerful computer system by buying the parts individually rather than have someone else build it for you. Beyond that, you can also control exactly what parts go into your computer, and you won’t be stuck with getting a great computer processor but having poor quality RAM or a slow hard drive. I have followed various computing trends for a couple of years, and recently have dug deep into the world of recent computer hardware. I know exactly what type of computer that I would purchase for myself – yet whenever I get asked about what type of computer I would recommend to purchase, I simply tell them to get whatever is on sale at FutureShop or BestBuy. For the most part, mass manufactured desktops and laptops are going to be approximately the same. You might get a slightly older processor in one machine, or a slightly larger hard drive in the other, but unless you want to take the step of individually selecting computer hardware and building the computer yourself, then you are better off simply buying whatever works at the store. I hate to say it, but it is going to be cheaper, and just as reliable as buying a high end machine from a high end manufacturer or building it yourself.
As an example, consider this desktop computer from FutureShop. If I was to build that computer, I would barely be able to purchase a case, power supply, and a copy of Windows 7 for $300. This is not a fancy computer, and will not play very many video games (outside of Farmville), but it will do all the basic computer tasks that most families require of it for a very low price.
Where do you get your computers?