The Christmas Junkyard Sale . . .

This is turning out to be an amazing Christmas season, and I mean that in a bad way.

What is happening in the PC world is that we’re transitioning into a number of generational changes.

Generational changes are changes in standards that happen only once every number of years. There’s two types: evolutionary and exclusionary.

An evolutionary change is one that improves new systems, but doesn’t exclude old systems.

DDR2 is a good example of this. No computer program requires DDR2 memory to operate; a new system may run faster with it, but an old system can run anything the new system can run. Socket changes are another; an AM2 system runs everything a socket 939 system can run, and no more.

An exclusionary change is one that improves new systems and excludes old systems. For instance, you need a 64-bit CPU to run a 64-bit operating system. It’s not a matter of a 32-bit CPU running a 64-bit OS more slowly; it just won’t run at all.

DX10 is another such exclusionary change. If you buy a video card now, it won’t run DX10 more slowly than next year’s card, it won’t run it at all.

Despite this, there’s going to be a huge amount of equipment sold the next few months that effectively have built-in obsolescence.

For instance, most Intel-based notebooks that will be sold the rest of the year will be 32-bit processors. Yes, you can now get a 64-bit processor for an extra $100, in fact, I have such a beast I ordered for someone else upstairs at the moment, but most Intel notebooks will have to be 32-bit CoreDuos rather than Core2Duos.

Look at video cards, and the manufacturers not only haven’t come out with DX10 cards yet, they’re coming out with new product lines of very expensive cards that still don’t support DX10.

Yes, very few people are going to need Vista or DX10 on day 1 or 100; most probably will be fine even on day 500.

But if you buy X and expect it to last you three or four or five or even more years, not having these things is going to start crimping your style after about two years or so, simply because people decided to save $100 on a notebook or couldn’t wait for a video card.

You may say, “I’m never going to get Vista.” OK, and if you used Windows 98 until fairly recently, I’ll believe you. If not, well, people have been known to change their minds. 🙂

Obviously, someone who last played a computer game in the Pac-Man Era isn’t going to need DX10, but I’ve had to tell people with integrated video that if they wanted to play some dinky little game they found on the Internet while allegedly working at home, they had to replace the computer.

People are often odd when it comes to system longevity. They want to go to heaven, but don’t want to die. One of the big concerns the average person has about a new PC is and always has been, “I don’t want to have to replace it for a long time.” However, when you tell them that they’ll have to spend more or wait a while longer to get such a system, the tune changes.

Then there are those who get downright mad at you for even suggesting that there are better and worse times to buy a computer. I suppose they take it personally as a negative judgment on their judgment (which it is), but invariably, the answer I get from people defending “buy on marketing contact” boils down to “I don’t want to do the extra thinking and homework.”

Well, for those who don’t want to put any more thought into buying a computer than buying a cold drink on a hot summer day, the PC and components makers see you coming. They’re just waiting to take advantage of that and you to shovel out the old stuff to folks like you. To some degree, they do that every Christmas season, it will just be more so this time around.

It’s a game, and if you (or those near and dear) don’t want to be played, maybe you ought to change your approach.


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