Faster Better Stronger More

We demand state-of-the-art games; faster technology on which to play them and better graphics capabilities for our computers and for our gaming systems. It is never enough, and just when we start thinking that it might be, a new game comes out that needs special hardware built just to support it, or there is some new breakthrough in computer hardware technology. And we seem to need it all. But really, unless you are someone who needs a dual-monitor system to make your job easier, do you really need a dual monitor video card? Unless you are planning on recording albums on your computer’s home studio software, do you really need a dedicated audio card to complement your current sound card, giving you the ability to record an extra 12 tracks of audio at once? As for hard drives, I cannot even fathom what I would do with 36 gig of super-fast reading hard drive space. I think once I was done paying for it, I wouldn’t be able to afford games for it anymore. That audio card sounds so nice… Sure, the surround-sound speaker system will make me able to hear my opponent sneaking up on me, but can I justify spending $500 on it? Honestly, we do not always need the newest and best available technology, but if you are like me, you cannot help but wish you had at least some of it. I am sure that everyone has at some point, like me, bought a new piece of hardware (a video card, let’s say) – supposedly the latest technology – only to learn two weeks later that something three times better has just been released by the same company for mere pennies more. How frustrating is that?

Right now, the processor I have is pretty good; it runs everything I ask it to (although I could use more RAM), but next to the new systems I read about, it seems small and weak, even though I know it’s not! I am always feeling inadequate, and I try my best to avoid even listening to those online discussions of “Oh yeah? Well my hard drive is bigger than yours!” and “Oh yeah?? My Video card has more RAM than yours does!” After a while, it starts to sound like an argument between kids at the playground over whose remote control car goes faster. It’s not surprising though – grownups need toys too!

But the question is when will we reach the ceiling? When will our systems be fast enough, pretty enough, big (or small) enough to keep us happy? We cannot be too far away from reaching the melting point of Silicon in our chips; some processor chips already need a cooling fan ten times the size of the chip itself! Will they just create some new material that will have an even higher melting point? Will they install liquid nitrogen cooling systems in our computers? I went on a search for an example of how many fans can be present to cool a single computer system, and this was the best answer I got: One of the people I game with told me that she has ten (yes, ten) fans inside her computer – 6 for the processors (she has a dual Pentium 550, three fans on each chip), two for the power supply and two for her video card. I guess now we could have a contest to see who has the most cooling fans on their computer. I know I cannot beat her; in fact, I did not even know you could fit ten fans in there.

Now, if you are just using a computer for word processing, you could be running a 486 and be completely happy with it (I was, all through college). And if you’re still addicted to the classic 386 and 486 games (it makes me feel old to call them classic, and I’m 23), then keeping one of the older machines around is a great idea because a lot of the newer machines cannot run the old games without some serious messing around with drivers. Sometimes a 386 is all you really need. For a serious gamer, however, that is not an option. You want to play all the newly released games, and you need a rather top-of-the-line type of computer to meet even the minimum system requirements. If you have got a Sony Playstation, you know that when the PS2 comes out you are going to have to get one, unless you have already bought the Sega Dreamcast; in which case you may pick up the PS2 anyway because both gaming platforms are going to have great games that are only available on that machine. And then, of course, you will need a Nintendo 64 as well for all those other games… The thing is, eventually consoles too will have to reach the ceiling or create a new technology to take over where the current technology falls short. What happens if they cannot find something to replace outdated technology? We have come to expect something new every couple of months, and if that suddenly stops happening, will we go into withdrawal or would the celebration be heard around the globe?

So here is the big question: Will we ever consider our computers or gaming consoles adequate for longer than a year? Chances are we will never be satisfied; people rarely are. I just think it would be really nice to be able to say, “I’ve got such-and-such system, and I won’t need to upgrade for at least the next five years.” Can you imagine having to go buy a new television or stereo system component every couple of months? Or upgrade your cat?

Gaming can be an expensive hobby, but I think it has become more of a lifestyle choice for Jay & me. We have committed ourselves to it for the long haul, and while I may not be able to imagine keeping up with it, I figure that I may as well spend my money on something that I am going to have fun with. I have friends who still use their Commodore 64 and Atari 1040st machines, and I would still be playing my original 16-bit Nintendo were it not broken. I swear, the next time I see any of those at a yard sale for $5.00, I am picking it up… some things, you just don’t outgrow.