22-Dec-2013

Personal Computers

Since the dawn of the personal computer (PC) in the 1970s, I have purchased a number of computers for home use. Computing technology has advanced over the years and I find myself upgrading my PCs over time.

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The first PC I bought was in the early 1990s running Microsoft Windows 3.1 on an Intel 386 CPU. Prior to that time, Microsoft had DOS and versions of the Windows operating system which were largely failures in terms of usability. The Intel 386 computer was around $3500 and the speed of the system was minimally acceptable for the user experience.

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At the turn of the 21st century, by way of Intel CPUs and Microsoft operating systems, the PC became more than adequate for home computing and gave rise to the development of software for many applications. Once such application was the Digital Audio Workstation (DAW) which allowed me to produce piano music.

After returning from a trip in August/2013 when I was away from my desktop computer for a couple of weeks, I discovered my PC started to falter with spontaneous reboots. To the best of my knowledge, it was not caused by malware and I concluded that the PC purchased in 2008 had run its course of usefulness, now confronted with ailing hardware.

I selected computer parts and built the 2008 desktop computer myself. In 2011, I selected computers parts for a server-class machine and paid for the assembly and setup of that system. That server PC has low-performance video support and no audio - it was accessed through Microsoft's Remote Desktop where I can operate the server (Windows 7 Professional) from my desktop computer (Windows XP). In hindsight, the decision to forsake audio and sufficient video support in the server machine was a mistake. The server machine's motherboard has PCI Express (PCIe) x1 slots but there are very few PCIe video cards made for the x1 slot. And what video cards I could find to fit into an x1 slot were more than double the cost of the PCIe x16 equivalent product.

Faced with the prospect of over $100 for the PCIe x1 video card after shipping and tax, plus the open question on compatibility (which I could only know for sure by installing the video card), along with the need to purchase a sound card ($40), I decided to pursue my latest and greatest 2013 desktop computer with these parts running Windows 7 Home Premium.

After a couple of months of using my current 2013 desktop computer, I continue to be impressed by its speed and performance. It is especially noticeable when I have the occasion to access my 2008 PC (which is still working albeit with spontaneous reboots) - I cannot believe how I could have operated with that machine for things such as Web development, smartphone app development, video creation, etc. Even the basic Web browsing experience is so much faster and now maximizes the advantage of the high-speed 50/30 Mbps FibreOP Internet service from Bell Aliant.

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I also have an Apple Mac mini which I purchased in 2012 for the development of apps for iPhone and iPad devices. Although not an entirely fair comparison (early 2012 vs late 2013 technology), the Mac mini cost $723 while the 2013 desktop computer cost $728 (both after shipping and tax) - the speed and performance are not even in the same ballpark.

$ All prices appearing on this page are in CAD.

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