Is it time to buy just an OK computer?

Is it time to buy just an OK computer? After the break…

Is it time to buy just an OK computer?

My father grew up during the golden age of automobiles. During that age, there was a rule that emerged when concerning the purchase of a new car – Get the biggest engine that you could for the car without putting yourself into bankruptcy.

The times changed but the philosophy did not.

In the computer age, the philosophy was similar – When buying a computer, get the best computer that you could possibly purchase: The fastest CPU, the most memory, the largest hard drive…

Throughout my family’s history, the computers that we purchased were fairly robust for their time. Top of the line? No, but pretty close to that.

We also purchased our computers fairly often. A half-decade wouldn’t go by without a new purchase and, everytime we bought a new computer, the capabilities of the new computer far exceeded that of the older one.

Part of the motivation for buying a fairly robust computer was that the amount of growth in the industry was staggering: A seven-year old computer might as well have been a paperweight compared to one that just arrived on a store shelf. Computer games were constantly pushing the graphical, audio and hard-drive envelope of what was possible. I remember that one computer game that I wanted to purchase required 250 megs of hard drive space in order to operate. 250 MEGS! I don’t even think NASA had that much hard drive space back then, much less the average consumer.

All of those robust computer components, though, came with a cost: It wasn’t unusual for the family computer purchase to top over at $2,000+ dollars. When you bought the near-best, you paid nearly the top price.

Yet times have changed.

Computer games aren’t what they used to be. There are only so many polygons that you can pack into a 3D model before you shrug your shoulders and exclaim, “Good enough.” How high must the resolution be on textures before the typical gamer can’t tell between one set of textures from another? Or to tell the difference between music encoded with MP3, OGG or FLAC (Yes, I know that OPUS has since succeeded OGG & FLAC but not everyone is an audiophile…)?

Also, computer games aren’t all that accessible anymore. The kids might be satisfied with being chained to the Steam tower, but there are those amongst us who enjoy their computer games unshackled by intrusive copy protection regardless of the incidental perks that might be attached to them. Remember when game companies trusted us with their games without Internet-based copy protection? I sure do and, no offense to those who love being shackled (Different strokes for different folks…), I’m not ready to concede that part of my freedom just so that I can play games such as Skyrim.

At some point, computers went from being in a “space race” to merely being “good enough.”

Has the era of always eyeing the best finally ended? There’s no reason for it to continue. I’ve been able to play Quake 1, silky smooth, on the last three computers that I’ve owned. I’ve played Titan Quest without the slightest bit of lag. My 3+ year old computer can play Oblivion and Fallout 3 without so much as a flutter. Civilization 4 runs flawlessly quick. Doom 3 & The Dark Mod play without effort. And those are the GAMES… The programs that are the most CPU intensive. LibreOffice, SeaMonkey, Scribus, Foobar2000… All of the other non-game programs that I use don’t even cause my computer to break into a proverbial sweat.

There may be a magical day when Steam just releases their catalog of computer games into the wild. Skyrim for free; No strings attached. Black Mesa for everyone, no Steam required.

I doubt, though, that such a day will ever occur and even if it did, my future “OK” computer could probably run those games without so much a glitch.

6 Responses to “Is it time to buy just an OK computer?”

  1. qrackerjackquake Says:

    Hi Lutonaut 😀

    I went with a friend to boy her a new cpu the other day… it was cheat but pretty cool FOR HER NEEDS.

    Found one I might buy for myself… now only if it was a touch screen 😦

    Acer 11.6″ (16GB SSD / 2GB RAM) $129

    • Lutonaut Says:

      Hi Qrack and thanks for reading my blog.

      I must admit that I do not have the reverence for touch screens that others do. Again, I show my age by just not “getting it” – Yes, swiping your finger across the screen and seeing the screen react is nifty for the first few times but then it just gets monotonous and annoying. I grew up in the “keyboard and mouse” era (actually, even before THAT…) and find that combination works just fine for me.

      What would be really nice would be a machine that held multiple Windows operating systems so that one could play classic games without a litany of hacks, workarounds, emulation and prayers. Obviously, having game companies open source their engines so that the public could assist in having those games be playable on modern operating systems would also help. Until then, though…

      Again, thank you for reading my blog.

  2. qrackerjackquake Says:

    Sorry for all the misspelling… can’t ‘edit’ sorry to see that!

  3. qrackerjackquake Says:

    Hi Lutaunot 😀

    Well I had a C64 for 1st cpu and believe it or not I don’t see a very very big difference with Today’s cpu.

    Virtubal Box is good for operation simultaneous system!

    I’m also a big fan of MAME for classical arcade games from 80′.

    Keep the good work it’s kind of “refresing” to read you… thanks!

    • qrackerjackquake Says:

      LUTONAUT … really sorry hehe!

    • Lutonaut Says:

      Hi Qrack and thank you for reading my blog.

      What is great about the Internet is that it allows niche groups to continue development on systems that are no longer dominating the market and this includes all industries (games, music, books, etc.). As a result, we are seeing a renaissance of projects attempting to re-vamp existing products to make them more available to both existing customers (“hardcore fans”) as well as new customers. In the instance of computer games, though, nothing can substitute for releasing the source code of a game so that a game may be thoroughly modified to exist with present and future operating systems. This is why Quake 1 is so remarkable; It is an 18+ year old commercial game of relative complexity that is perfectly playable from Windows 95 all the way up through Windows 8 without the use of virtual environments, emulation or sophisticated hacks. How many games can make that claim? Sadly, not enough.

      Again, thank you for reading my blog.

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