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The PC's High Water Mark

Something big just happened, something so imperceptibly big I almost didn't notice it. 

I just upgraded a computer with one that is less powerful, not more. For as long as I've been using computers, which is about thirty years, each time I have replaced a computer, the disk or the memory or CPU has gotten bigger or faster. But this week I replaced a 2.4GHz Core 2 Macbook Pro with a markedly less powerful 1.6GHz MacBook Air with less disk capacity.

That's significant.

It means that after decades of continuous and linear performance upgrades, a high water mark has been reached and the classic, monolithic characteristics of processor power and capacity are no longer the principal influencing factors for personal computing experience.

And while I think we all implicitly get that; that we all accept that the smartphone and tablet form factors are relevant and important supplementary or complementary device subsets that are permanent deviations, and that time spent on web apps is increasingly displacing and replacing time spent on local runtime software, these are progressive and almost imperceptible shifts.

Like noticing one day that your kids seem to have grown three inches overnight, in spite of the fact you spend every day with them and clearly they haven't.

Sometimes you need to take a step back to see the big changes.

Reader Comments (4)

Gary, that's a very astute observation. I was thinking something similar when contemplating a Mac Air. I kept thinking "but am I downgrading in order to be small." Your point in valid... I AM downgrading... kinda. Downgrading something I have in spades in order to get more of that which I value more (size & weight). As an economist this should have all been very obvious to me as well... but it wasn't.

November 12, 2010 | Unregistered Commenterjd long

The world has not changed, you just bought a glorified netbook.

November 12, 2010 | Unregistered Commenterkenem

I've had this driven home to me recently at my work of all places. We are just finishing up on a hardware refresh and all the new PCs have been docked tablets. This was done as an effort to keep employees in touch with work in the advent of the pandemic not because some bureaucratic manager actually had the where with all to understand this is all that was really necessary. About 10% of my users have had issues though; CAD/CAM, SAS, Oracle/MsSQL databases, basically users with apps that require all the horse power they can get. Myself, I guess I'm just greedy ... I want TO MUCH.

November 12, 2010 | Unregistered Commentercjeight

Or your needs changed. For many of us, our MBP's are hardly powerful enough.

November 12, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterRobert
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