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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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Dead Wrong
By rickon66 on 12/2/2007 8:48:23 PM , Rating: 2
Kris, I think that what you are seeing is a change in yourself and not in the computer technology enthusiast. I my view it is just the opposite, I have been building and hotrodding PC's since 1991 and now is the greatest time for that hobby ever. The performance available per dollar is mind boggling. I am having the computer time of my life.
I think that you, Kris have grown as a person and what was interesting to you 10 years ago does not necessarily mean the same to you now. You have also probably became somewhat spoiled or jaded over the years as more and more tech stuff has been made available to you from manufactures. There is something special about saving your lunch money in anticipation of being able to purchase that Q6600 as opposed to having all of the good stuff provided to you. I can see the difference in your blogs and articles, they are more oriented towards politics(somewhat anti-American at times) and other non tech interests. As new interests grow, often the old ones wither away.




RE: Dead Wrong
By KristopherKubicki (blog) on 12/3/2007 11:09:35 AM , Rating: 2
I'm certainly open to that possibility. Although you highlighted it yourself, "hotrodding" PCs. For a large stretch of the 90s, you had to have that hotrod knowledge just to get by.

Now the majority of PC users, if they do any research at all, its basically just to flip to the conclusion page of an AnandTech or TechReport review. I don't think that everyone changed, but the lowest-common-denominator sure did -- and not that that's a bad thing.


"Nowadays, security guys break the Mac every single day. Every single day, they come out with a total exploit, your machine can be taken over totally. I dare anybody to do that once a month on the Windows machine." -- Bill Gates

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