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An introspective, completely unsubstantiated view of the technology enthusiast, in late 2007

More than a few times someone asked me why does DailyTech cover all that global warming stuff, or defense tech, or automotive breakthroughs.  There's a good answer to that, but its not a simple one.

In 2004 I already saw the writing on the wall.  PC technology started commoditizing, and at a brisk clip as well. 

When I got my first K6 processor, it was not just the overclockers that cranked up that 66 MHz front-side bus.  Anyone who bought a computer had to know some of the essential differences between MMX and 3D-Now!.  A lack of knowledge, in those days, would set the up and coming computer user back hundreds of dollars if he wasn't careful.

Whether you agree with Karl Marx or Karl Rove (or anyone in between), a telltale sign of commodification occurs when the manufacturer stops focusing on tangible aspects of the product and starts pushing less tangible selling points.  This often occurs when competing products are too similar, or at least indistinguishable from the purchasers point of view. 

Where have we seen this before?  Well, my HTC Hermes did everything the iPhone did a year beforehand, but I'm pretty sure Apple sold a whole lot more iPhones.  Look at today's motherboards: any manufacturer would tell you its  all-solid capacitors are better than the next guy. And don't even get me started on the memory industry ...

I remember the exact instant when computer hardware became a commodity.  Steve Jobs got up in front of one hundred journalists and in less than 60 seconds, a million Apple zealots went from ardent Intel naysayers to hardened Intel devotees.  In that moment I realized it didn't really much matter to anyone which CPU was better than another, it only mattered what Steve Jobs told everyone to think anyway.

Other signs of the death of the PC enthusiast are littered across the Internet like the tattered remains of a kite breaking up on rentry.   The birth and demise of AMD's Quadfather, the ubiquitous lack of support (or interest) for quad-GPU graphics, failed physics processors and inconsequential sales of "killer" network cards. 
In a recent conversation with Jon Stokes, both of us agreed that while PC tech has seen some great growth over the last few years, this growth is not keeping pace with the Internet as a whole.  PC technology, as a journalistic discipline, is unfortunately niched to the degree you'd find with muscle cars. 

This leads me to answer the question I started out with: the PC industry, as a whole, just isn't as fast-moving or interesting anymore.   Attempting to debate the merits of largely intangible technology topics is a discussion more akin to politics than science.

You bet I'm excited about CPU-GPU integration and new OLED technology, but another unfathomably high frequency bump in the sea of JEDEC memory timings completely fails to pique my interest.  Analysis of Google Keywords would indicate those more mundane markers of progress in the PC industry fail to grasp even the smallest of demographics on the Internet as well.

That does not discount the importance of the tech enthusiast.  Those of us who grew up debating the merits of CPU architecture in the 1990's are the pioneers in virtual discussion.  We are what the majority of consumers will become over the next decade when new, broader forums come to be. 

Don't worry, I'm still the first person in Taiwan with Intel's next-generation roadmap.  However, as this industry withers and new ones blossom, I encourage you all as pioneers and enthusiasts to look beyond the chips and bits once in a while.

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RE: Inevitability
By sxr7171 on 12/1/2007 6:16:21 PM , Rating: 2
Thank you. Who in the enthusiast community even cares about AMD Quad FX? This is not 2003 when enthusiasts were buying AMD. Today you can take a really cheap Intel Core 2 Duo or Quad and overclock it to unbelievable performance levels. With 45nm Penryns coming out at prices that are like stealing them, watch people reach even higher overclocks at low, low prices.

Intel could easily sell their processors at higher clock speeds and charge higher premiums right now, but they don't because they can't afford to be "too competitive" right now and take the heat of being a virtual monopoly. So we benefit by paying less for these monster processors. We have almost unbelievable performance abilities in even $250 processors today.

This is great time to be an enthusiast. The board manufacturers are catering to us with high-end boards, even 600w power supplies are sitting below $100, and there are sicker and sicker cooling products coming out by the day. You can even watercool your processor for far less than before.

I don't see any reason to be whining about the state of affairs in the enthusiast market.

RE: Inevitability
By SavagePotato on 12/2/2007 4:34:36 PM , Rating: 2
I did Just that, I bought a core2 duo e6600 @ 2.4ghz and easily overclocked it to 3.4ghz. A 50% boost never hurts. I've been running this solution for about a year now and I've been thrilled with how well it has held up performace wise compared to my past purchases in the processor arena.

My last chip was a bit of a lemon opteron 175 that ran at 2.2ghz and wasn't "a cherry" so to speak in that it was only good for about a 2.4ghz overclock.

With this overclocked little core2 I got to enjoy beyond $1200 cpu performance for at the time about $300.

RE: Inevitability
By iFX on 12/3/2007 3:01:25 PM , Rating: 5
<<<This is not 2003 when enthusiasts were buying AMD>>>

Enthusiasts have been buying AMD over Intel starting with the original Athlon up until mid-year 2006. The FX-60 was king of the hill mid-year 2006 until C2D was launched. Don't try and say people didn't buy AMD but for one year.

"If you mod me down, I will become more insightful than you can possibly imagine." -- Slashdot
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