To warn everyone from the get-go, this will be a rant. Therefore, hold onto your socks and pants, and watch the story unfold. And the gravy thicken…
Recycling computer parts is an extremely important aspect of keeping computers alive. It often lets you turn 5 broken computers into at least 1-2 that are still fully operational. Not to mention rebuilding, tweaking, expanding, etc. Theoretically, you could have a single desktop computer and just keep replacing its “organs” as they die. All is good even if a hard drive fails. We swap hard drive(s), restore the operating system and our data, and we’re good to go in minutes/hours. Since my very first computer was a self-assembled desktop PC, way before laptops were a “thing”, I got used to this workflow. Laptops required me to adjust, because each company would use different connectors and build schematics. Also, there were model lines like the early Dell Latitudes that had quirks one needed to know before opening up the case. That’s laptops, though. A complicated world of its own. I agree that no one should expect a mobile device to be tinkering-friendly. It’s supposed to be light, energy-efficient and just strong enough to get the job done. Fully understandable priorities! However, I would never in my wildest dreams (or nightmares?) expect these priorities to leak into and envenom the world of tower-sized desktop computers.
Imagine this scenario – you get a midi tower workstation computer from an acclaimed manufacturer like Dell or HP. It has a powerful Intel Xeon 4-core processor with hyper-threading. Marvelous beast! You can use it as a build farm or an efficient virtual machine host. However, years go by and you want to expand it a tad – swap in extra drives, a RAID card perhaps. Or maybe put in a decent graphics card to do enterprise-grade 3D modeling in AutoCAD. You open the case, look inside a bit and you instantly begin to cry. The workstation has a shamefully bad 320W power supply unit (PSU). You then wonder how was this PSU able to support both the power-hungry Intel Xeon CPU and the graphics card. You run web-based PSU calculators and all of them tell you the same thing – you’d fry your computer instantly with such a PSU and at least a 450-500W one is needed. Unlike many others, you were lucky to last that long. That’s not the end of the story, though! Your workstation’s current PSU cannot be replaced with a more powerful standard ATX PSU. HP decided to use fully proprietary power connectors. Also, a replacement PSU cannot be bought anymore, because this model line was dropped years ago. Now you’re stuck and need to buy a new server motherboard that would fit your Intel Xeon, a new PSU and a new case, because the HP case was designed for the HP PSU. You drop to the floor and wallow at the unfair world… Many more stories can be found on the Internet here and here.
I fully understand that manufacturers need to make a living. However, using low-grade proprietary computer parts in systems that are considered upgradable by universal standards is not only damaging to the market by introducing artificial constraints, but also a sign of bad design practices. Not to mention the load of useless electronic junk such attitude produces. I believe manufacturers should care more about common standards as in the end it’s beneficial to everyone.