A Perverse Job

We’re now hearing about all the pipelines the next-generation ATI and particularly nVidia video cards are supposed to have.

Makes you wonder how they’re going to cripple the lesser cards from that same generation.

I mean, if you knock out half of sixteen pipelines, doesn’t that leave you with as many pipelines as today’s latest and greatest?

You can cripple the width of the memory bus, but history tells us that at least one manufacturer putting these video cards together tends to be a bit . . . uhhh, negligent when breaking the card’s legs.

But maybe that isn’t the real story. Maybe there’s a human story hiding behind the silicon.

Not Only Video Cards Get Crippled By Crippling

It is psychologically offensive for the video card makers to do what they now do.

They spend tens, maybe hundreds of millions of dollars doing everything possible to make their product as fast as possible, then they have to hire people and spend money to screw up what they’ve just done for their best-selling products.

How can you make people do that?

It is rare indeed to deliberately hire somebody to screw up. (I know, you’re probably convinced most of the people at your job must have been hired for that reason, but forget that for now.

It must be a tricky thing to give such a person a bonus for “good” work. On the one hand, it’s bad if he doesn’t do a bad enough job. On the other, any idiot with a hammer handy can give you a 100% reduction in performance.

What do you do if the person you hire ends up improving the product? Do you fire him? If you just transfer him to someplace normal, won’t everybody worth anything in the unit want to be “punished” that way, too?

I mean, really, if you’re an aspiring hardware designer, you can’t possibly want the job. What kind of job satisfaction could you possibly get from it? What do you put on your resume? “I emasculated video cards?” How impressed will anybody reading that resume and thinking about hiring you be about that?

How much respect could you possibly get from any of your fellow co-workers, much less those killing themselves doing what you’re undoing?

What do you do when you go home and your little daughter, maybe sensing that Daddy’s pretty stressed-out when he comes home at night, asks, “Daddy, what’s your job?” Now you have to lie to your kid, too. What else are you going to tell her? “I ruin video cards?”

It makes you wonder what kind of people end up with this kind of task. It also might be an explanation as to why some of this crippling is so easily reversible. Either you have wastrels on the job, or people sabotaging the sabotaging to retain some shred of techie self-respect.

nVidia, ATI, please, stop doing this! You’re not just crippling video cards, you’re crippling souls! Think of the children!!

Slow Is The Way To Go

It’s not like crippling is the only way to produce a slower video card. You can achieve the same results by using slower parts. Maybe you can’t do much about the GPU, but you certainly can stick in slower memory to achieve the same effect. After all, when it comes to the $100 parts, that’s what they do anyway.

It has to be less psychically damaging to slow down cards that way than to deliberately neuter them. You can at least keep telling yourself that you’re saving the company money by letting them use cheaper parts.

If you think not, let’s make this up-close and personal. If you had a birth control problem, which would you choose for your equipment? Contraception or castration?

End of story. 🙂

How Serious Am I?

Not very, but I’m not exactly sure how little. No doubt some beancounter someplace can “prove” it’s a better way to go.

Nonetheless, there is a human cost that ought to be deducted from the financial savings. I mean, a beancounter might be able to prove that hiring somebody to lick the shoes of the execs would be cheaper than having them pay for shoeshines, but some savings just cost too much.

If nothing else, if you think you have a lousy job, remember those people who have to do this.

P.S. Yes, CPU makers have been known to do the same, but they usually don’t make a habit of it, and usually it’s to salvage parts that otherwise would be unsellable. Yes, there’s a few lost souls over there, too, but at least they normally have more excuses to justify what they do.


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