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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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We're asleep, not dead.
By gochichi on 12/3/2007 5:50:40 AM , Rating: 1
If we were dead, the 512MB 8800GT would be in stock and readily available for $149 at Walmart. Same goes for the HD3870. The scarcity is a blatant sign that enthusiasts are all over still.

You can't honestly expect people to shell out cash for outdated stuff at outdated prices for an indefinite amount of time. The people have voted, whoever was going to pay $500-$600 on a 8800GTX did so. I and probably a lot of other "enthusiasts" jump on a new product.

I think that as we age, and remain concerned with childish things, (like video games and junk) we often project this gloomy view of the market. "Things aren't like they used to be"... when really, we're just jaded from so many iterations of hardware and software. I have Halo 3 but was having a better time playing Golden Axe on the 360. Is it b/c the games have gotten worse? HELL NO!

Frankly, the harware situation is exciting and affordability is great. I think that PC gaming is going to trump console gaming around January or February. The PC game industry will never die... video games are made on PCs by geeks... so I just can't see an end in sight for PC gaming. When you look at the total numbers showing up to conventions, it's pretty clear that PC gaming is only getting bigger and bigger. This makes sense too, b/c unlike consoles, old games keep their user base, and keep getting better over time.

Meaning, when you buy a PS3, it's not b/c Grand Theft Auto 1 will look any better. That's not the case on Windows computers. Quake 2 on my computer, using no 3D acceleration is running at hundreds of frames per second running at 1920 x 1440.

Right now, we are dormant still. Starcraft 2 will come out and all bets are off.

In terms of hardware know-how... I do fear much of the Vista crap is b/c people that have no business building a computer are doing so. But this only points one more time to the increasing numbers of enthusiasts. A lot of us just wince at over-clocking not b/c we don't know, but we got to know the procedure in hard-times, when stability wasn't that great to begin with.

Is it b/c there are less enthusiasts that there is now a Dell XPS line, Voodd PC, etc. from companies that used to sell beige computers?

"Game reviewers fought each other to write the most glowing coverage possible for the powerhouse Sony, MS systems. Reviewers flipped coins to see who would review the Nintendo Wii. The losers got stuck with the job." -- Andy Marken
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