It does not sound as exciting as “the leading edge” does it? I have been inspired for some time to build a PC. I do not think it will give me an intimate understanding of how a computer works. I do not think that it will make me a better programmer. I am not predicting a career change from software to hardware. It just seemed like a fun undertaking. Put that down to lots of formative years spent building Lego and a genuine interest in computing.
Whenever I have purchased a PC in the past, I have spent a fair amount of time researching and deciding what parts went into it. I blame my programming career for making me want the best equipment that I could afford. As a result, MTBNPC (Mean time between new PCs) tends to be fairly long.
As technology changes quickly, this means my home computers tend to be as long in the tooth as a sabre-tooth tiger. (And almost as current) Because they started out close to the leading edge, they do tend to age fairly gracefully, but in the end they are old and far below the spec of anything you could get off the “bottom end” shelf by the time I replace it.
My parents recently had a PC failure. Their current machine has had a myriad of issues. (Probably around 3 and 4 – but as it rarely gets used for more than hour or two a day, that seems quite a lot!) As I live about an hour away, most of the times it fails, they simply take it to their local computer place to get it fixed. From their dealings with the shop, it appears the shop staff are competent and parts are reasonably priced. If you lived in the area that my parents do, I would have no drama in recommending them. (Apart from the fact I don’t know the shop’s name!)
This time though, I have volunteered to fix it for them. Given that they run Windows XP, and an old version of Office, they aren’t exactly in need of a high performance system. As a result, the replacement parts I have chosen are at the “bargain basement” end of the spectrum. Exact specifications and prices do not date well, so if you discover this blog in twelve months time know that the components I have chosen represent the cheapest, what I consider to be decent quality, parts my favourite shop currently sells. A generic 500W power supply, 2GB RAM, 2.6GHz AMD Dual core processor and Gigabyte motherboard (with on-board graphics card) for under $260 AUD. Those stats won’t make any PC-gamer excited, but unless you are running something as “hard-core” as games do you really need any more?
I have never been much of a PC gamer. I can seriously appreciate the talent and skill that goes into games programming, but my other hobbies and family life are such that the time I have left over for such pursuits is somewhat limited. Given that a bit more RAM would probably see the PC comfortably run any developer environment I choose it has dawned on me that “the trailing edge” is really where I should be aiming my next home PC.