Quo Vadis Computing?

35373Some time ago I took up a new hobby – dumpster raiding. I once randomly figured out that people throw away a lot of electronics and at least some of it is in mildly good condition. Of course most of it is damaged beyond repair and I am too mean to invest into this new business of mine. However, from time to time I find actual treasure. Roughly a month ago I found a completely fine desktop computer, just without the screen and keyboard. I was shocked, because everything was inside – RAM, hard drive (HDD), graphics card, etc. All I needed to do was plug in the monitor and find a keyboard + mouse to get it running. The desktop had a 80 GB HDD, 4 x 256 MB RAM and an old Pentium 4. I set it up with 32-bit Debian and…it was fast. Using only 100 MB RAM with a fairly light window manager (IceWM) I could do a lot. Everyday tasks felt like a breeze, especially thanks to hyper-threading (HR) supported by the CPU. Then I realized Pentium 4 is ancient. It’s early 2015 and the market offers computers with several CPU cores, tens of GB RAM, 6+TB HDDs and what not. However, what for…?

I was born in the 8-bit era and began my computing adventures in the 16-bit era. Until a certain point in time I could feel computers were getting better. My Matrox 3D wouldn’t handle newer games, the HDD was overloaded and the computer would often cry for more swap space due to insufficient RAM. However, Pentium 4 was a milestone. 4 GB RAM was enough (worth mentioning, it’s the current low-end standard) and disk space became relatively cheap already. For everyday tasks – browsing the web, doing homework, paper work, etc. – one didn’t need more…

Of course, 4 GB RAM nowadays is much faster than 4 GB RAM back in Pentium 4 days, especially when comparing high frequency DDR3 with low frequency DDR2 RAM. That’s fully understandable. However, I feel computer retailers are often doing a rather dishonest job, pushing high grade gaming hardware into the hands of clueless shoppers, who usually need a computer to browse the web and write some documents. ‘With our new core i7-8000K Ultra Hyper Book X you will be able to browse the web a thousand times faster!’ Honestly, we know that is not true!

Every year we produce more and more electronic garbage. We generate more than we actually need. Food for thought – this is exactly where Linux comes in. Linux can turn this garbage into treasure…

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