I think I’ve bought my last desktop computer

A couple of years ago, I was all into and enjoyed building desktop computers, picking out the right video card, selecting the best motherboard and generally digging deep into the innards of my future computing platform. And designing the perfect ‘office’ computing environment with short cable runs, ample power for my accessories and lots of desktop space. Yes it was complex and involved and detailed, but it was a hobby — building computers.

These days, I’m not so concerned about it. What I need to do on a computer hasn’t changed, but the computing industry has matured, my needs are now becoming much more mainstream, and the significant differences between one component and another aren’t quite so significant any more.

Put another way, what I have been doing and want to do on a computer, is now much more in demand by everyday consumers. And the hardware, is becoming much more homogeneous. They’ve caught up. Welcome to the future.

Honey, I shrunk the CPU
Moore’s Law has also caught up, to the point where the hardware is smaller, lighter, faster, and cheaper to make. On today’s hardware you can have full audio and video editing studios in the software that runs your phone. You can remotely pilot vehicles with your phone or mobile computing device, and you can easily communicate with anyone on the planet using any number of mobile technologies.

Any of the modern notebook computers have all that stuff in a very tiny package.

Home file sharing
It used to be that you had files on one computer, and you shared them with the other. Both computers had to be on to share the files. Now, with ubiquitous WiFi and home network storage appliances (basically network-aware hard drives) in your household, any computer or compatible device can access any document, video, mp3, at any time. No need to have a big Master Server.

The same goes for network-aware printers. Most manufacturers have WiFi models available that know how to play nice with your home network environment. Again, no need for a computer directly connected to a printer.

I mentioned home network storage above, but these days storage devices are dirt cheap. So much so that it’s become possible for commercial business to be built up around the concept of offering you free online storage of your documents, photos, music, whatever…for free.

And they won’t only store your files, they’ll give you free access to applications and tools to create and edit your stuff. Again, I no longer have a need for a huge drive attached to a big desktop box — all this stuff is in the cloud.

One caveat
There’s only two real reason that I can think of for needing a dedicated desktop computer these days; high-quality media creation, and gaming.

If you’re into music making, video editing, photography, art, design, anything that needs you to move masses of pixels or gigs of data around, the architecture of a desktop computer box is more suited to that than many of the notebook computers on the market. And you’re likely using the computer in a professional setting as a photographer, composer and the like.

Gaming also is a hardware resource hog, and falls into that category as many of the same computing tasks in media creation are also necessary in game creation and playing. Of course, there are exceptions — I’ve seen some very powerful (and pretty) gaming laptops.

Interesting, but not enough
But gaming isn’t enough for me to build my desktop around it, any more. Console gaming systems have edged in with comparable graphics and gameplay, on much bigger screens than could fit on my desktop.

So it looks like my next new system, likely in a year or two, won’t be a power-sucking behemoth that sits under my desk. Rather, it’ll be something small, light, can connect to desktop monitors, mice & keyboards, and the home net, yet is still portable. And I think the same holds true for most of you too. Yes, welcome to the future 🙂
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6 Replies to “I think I’ve bought my last desktop computer”

  1. I also used to love assembling desktop computers – I grew up with a father who still meets occasionally with his programmer/user group from the 1980s, so half-assembled computers on the dinner table was just a norm – but also made the switch to a notebook and never looked back. Even more, when it comes time to replace my early 2010 MacBook Pro in a few years, I think I’ll go with something even smaller: a MacBook Air. In another update cycle or two, I can absolutely see myself needing nothing more. Hell, I can’t remember the last time I used the optical drive on my computer.

    The fun thing, though, is that I can still get the same satisfaction I used to get from assembling desktop setups; instead, I get it from trying to assemble an efficient, organized wireless home and office setup.

  2. Yeah, there’s a place for nostalgia — I have a couple of old computers carefully packed away, and I do intend to get them out and play with them again some day 🙂 Really!

    But yeah, working on a good, fast wireless home/office networking solution that moves your media/content around and lets you compute from any room in the house is a pretty good challenge. And one that, just like building a desktop from scratch, requires a fair bit of creativity to get it to work well.

  3. Exactly why I switched to a Mac. I got tired of being a mechanic. Mac laptops were everything I needed, and now what I use is a Mac Mini, with a 250G external hdd for backups. My ipad works for travel and notes at business meetings. Gaming is fine with vbox (free from Sun/Oracle). Here’s to the future. 🙂

  4. @Lloyd: Totally understand your perspective — I too am at the stage where I prefer using rather than fixing issues.

    On VBox, how’s that work with modern games? I’m thinking Lord of the Rings Online, etc…

  5. There’s a third group of users who need a desktop – software developers. I don’t think a laptop will have the desktop real estate or the horsepower to view tens of pages of source code, host an IDE, and run multiple copies of a single application under development, not to mention access to source code control repositories (hello git!) and large data sets (for scientific computing or multimedia programming).

  6. @Allan, good point. Folks with the need to have lots of reference material open at the same time will benefit from a multi-monitor setup. And developers who create advanced software are likely working on the latest and most powerful hardware they can afford, staying ahead of the customer upgrade curve…

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