Re: Help! Caught in the upgrade treadmill...

Subject: Re: Help! Caught in the upgrade treadmill...
From: Robert Whitsitt <rwhitsit -at- TEACHERSOFT -dot- COM>
Date: Thu, 20 Jul 1995 17:43:49 PDT

> Here's a problem that concerns us all, at least to some extent: When
> do we stop upgrading our hardware and software and say "this is good
> enough... I don't really need more"? Can we do this? The question is
> relevant to the list in the specific context of publishing,
> particularly for freelancers.


> --Geoff Hart #8^{)}
> geoff-h -at- mtl -dot- feric -dot- ca

> Disclaimer: If I didn't commit it in print in one of
> our reports, it don't represent FERIC's opinion.


I think there is another reason to upgrade: efficiency.

In 1984, I got an IBM PC XT, an 8088 with 640KB of memory and a 10Mb hard
disk. It was wonderful! It did everything I needed at home. At work, the
company provided me with a new computer every year or two. After a while,
the XT didn't get much use.

In 1991, I went freelance, so I got a state-of-the-art machine: a 486/33
with 8Mb of memory and a 200Mb hard drive. A couple of years later I
upgraded it to 20Mb of memory and added an additional 350Mb hard drive.

This spring, I got a Pentium 100 with 32Mb of memory, a 1Gb hard drive,
28,800 modem, etc. I networked it to the 486 so I could use its 550Mb of
hard drive and so my wife and I could work at the same time and share the
printer. I also got a 17" monitor so I can run two applications side by side
(the one I'm documenting and Word, for example) instead of flipping back and
forth between them. And I'm now running a version of Windows 95 that takes
advntage of the Pentium. I expect to update to 32-bit versions of the
applications that I use as they become available.

With the Pentium system, I find that I am about 10% faster overall at the
things I actually do. Word runs faster, I can run half a dozen large
applications simulaneously, and I don't have to worry about the hard disk
filling up (for now). My daily backup is to a hard drive on the 486 instead
of to a bunch of floppies. When a piece of beta software I'm documenting
crashes, it doesn't take my entire system down.

That 10% more efficient makes it worth it. According to my calculations,
I'll make back my investment in about a year as compared with staying with
just the 486.

I suspect that in another three to five years, I'll get a 786 running at 200
MHz, 72Mb of memory, and a 10Gb hard drive. And it'll be worth it

The same kinds of considerations apply to the software. Every generation or
two, they get a lot better and take advantage of the improved hardware.

I don't think of it as an upgrade treadmill: I think of it as an investment
in the tools I need to do my job.

Besides, I just love all these toys!

Robert Whitsitt (bob -dot- whitsitt -at- teachersoft -dot- com)
Member: Society for Technical Communication

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