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.

Print­ing
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.

Stor­age
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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