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The Next Big Thing

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Right now I have two desktops - 5 and 6 years old respectively. They are hopelessly obsolete by today's standards, but barring a hardware failure they seem perfectly capable of satisfying my needs for the foreseeable future. They have been upgraded, They are fast and powerful still. Good enough as they say.

It wasn't always like this. I can remember replacing machines every couple of years in the 90s just to keep up with the latest O/S release. No longer.

The last big thing that made older computers really obsolete was 64-bit technology - first the 64-bit processor, then the 64-bit operating system. SSDs, improved SATA, M.2 storage, better USB. DDR4 - all these have come along but because most stuff is backward compatible, you can still get by.

It has been my experience that given a few upgrades, you have about a 10-year desktop window before you really have to think twice about putting a machine in service - even if you install Linux. I wonder what the Next Big Thing might be that'll make my current machines ready for the landfill in 4 years.

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They are hopelessly obsolete by today's standards, but barring a hardware failure they seem perfectly capable of satisfying my needs for the foreseeable future.
I find that stately totally contradictory. I suppose by the strict definition, since that hardware is likely no longer in production, it is obsolete. But the fact is the "perfectly capable" of satisfying your needs, and not just today, but for the foreseeable future says to me it is not obsolete at all.


As for 64-bit, I understand what you are saying but 64-bit hardware technologies were around for many many years before it really caught on - long before XP even. There even was a 64-bit version of XP but it was rarely seen. Why? Because the software industry dragged their feet and refused to develop 64-bit versions of their products. They had no incentive since 32-bit software ran just fine on 64-bit hardware.


It was not until Windows 7 came out, with 64-bit W7, that 64-bit took off and that was in 2009. The Nintendo 64 game console had a 64-bit processor in it way back in the mid 90s and many servers had them years before that.


I wonder what the Next Big Thing might be
If you can figure that out before it happens and have a spare $1000, you can become an instant $billionaire overnight. I'll humbly accept just a measly 1% for the tip. ;)

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I know that 64 bit was around for a while before it went mainstream. Athlon 64 chips in the PC universe go back to before we had dual core - 15 years at least. I suppose you could go all the way back to the 70s Cray machines if you want - before PCs were even introduced.

My point is that there's no way you'd want to run a 2005 era 32-bit machine in today's computing environment. So in that sense, 64-bit was a disruptive force. And as you pointed out that was approx. 10 years ago now.

With 32-bit we started to reach the limits of memory technology. The hardware was capable of so much more. We seem to be reaching limits now in die shrink and maybe Moore's Law but my machines are far behind the curve now in that respect. That wouldn't be a reason to upgrade at this point. Maybe I need one of those 8-ball globes with all the answers inside. :whistling:

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I agree. But your 5 - 6 year old systems are much more advanced than those nearly 14 year old 2005 systems and more importantly, assuming your hardware makers are still maintaining compatible drivers, your old hardware is still able to support today's software. You likely cannot say that for the 2005 stuff.


Now if you were a hard-core gamer, this conversation would probably be heading in a different direction. The gaming industry is a key driving force in advancing the state-of-the art.

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Absolutely. You wouldn't want to be a real gamer and be 6 gens behind with your CPU and at least 2 with your GPU.

I can remember helping my neighbor set up the first 64-bit machine I had ever seen in 2009. Her brother had specced it out from Dell to future proof her desktop. It had a Core 2 Quad, I believe 6GB of RAM and 64-bit Windows Vista. I thought - Wow! Would she ever get the browser and other software she'll need for this beast? And how can she ever use that much RAM? It's funny what you get used to.

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I think I have to respectfully disagree with your statement about 5-6 year old computers being hopelessly outdated. Maybe if they were the lowest-performing value-oriented systems from back then with minimal configurations that hadn't been upgraded, perhaps. If they were mid-range or a high-end systems, or have been upgraded, they still might be usable today for a variety of tasks. As an example, I just recently upgraded an old server at work to 32GB of RAM; that would have added around $1,100 to the cost if I had purchased it with the server. It cost around $70 today, and I'm really hoping it helps improve the speed of the single task it is used for.


One thing to keep in mind is that the "system requirements" for Windows Vista, Windows 7, Windows 8/8.1 and Windows 10 remained largely unchanged (1GHz processor, 1GB or 2GB of RAM (32-bit/64-bit) and 15-20GB of free disk space. Of course, the numbers alone don't tell the whole story: Underlying technologies have changed, with multi-core systems, the emergence of DDR RAM (followed by DDR2, DDR3, DDR4 and DDR5 now being on the horizon), IDE HDDs being replaced by NVMe SSDs and so forth, the numbers themselves aren't as meaningful. But it does serve to point out how different things are than they were in the 1990s, when the performance of a computer's CPU could increase by 25% or more every year.


It's also important to remember that In some instances, early 64-bit systems cannot run the latest 64-bit versions of Windows today because their processors or chipsets do not support specific CPU instructions, limiting them to remaining on older versions of Windows, or running 32-bit versions. So, 64-bit is not a panacea if it's not the right 64-bit intruction set.


These days, that cycle of year-over-year performance improvements has slowed to a trickle, whether due to physics, Moore's Law, the move from local to network computing (called by various names such as the Web, the Cloud, etc.), the economy, prioritization of power consumption, etc., and I think it means that there is less of a dependence on having the newest hardware for most users, aside from some categories like gaming and content creation.


For quite some time, people have been upgrading HDD-based systems to SSDs, because this results in a noticeable performance improvement. It also shows that processing and memory have improved so much over the years, that it is the speed of the storage which often becomes a bottleneck.


As for 32-bit CPUs, Microsoft committed to ten years of support for 32-bit versions of Windows 10 back when it was released in 2015, which means we can still expect 32-bit systems to be used for at least another seven years, if not longer. I believe some of the low-end tablets that ship today still run 32-bit versions of Windows, due to RAM, chipset, firmware and power considerations. And cost.


Just as a coincidence, just before opening this message thread, I started to burn a CD of documentation and drivers for a Hewlett-Packard Vectra XA6/200 MT, which has a 200MHz Intel Pentium Pro processor in it an 64MB of RAM. It is a system that I am giving to a friend. He wants to use it as a "retro gaming" machine on which to play Windows 95/98 games with his son¹. I believe the machine is from around 1997… about 21 years old. So, for that kind of use, the old hardware works best.




Aryeh Goretsky


¹His son was born earlier this year, so I think it may be a while before they are ready to play games together, but I think it is great that he's planning on doing this.

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OK perhaps obsolescent might have been a better term. As I said, with the upgrades the desktops are still useful and performing well. The Acer which runs Windows 10 has only USB 2.0 capability and only a couple of SATA 3 ports, but upgrading RAM and adding an SSD has improved matters dramatically. The home built machine is based on the much-maligned AMD Bulldozer technology but it works great with Linux. In fact, it's been my experience that the "latest" AMD technology isn't always the best Linux choice.

We have a member of this forum who has upgraded a system which featured a processor 2 generations newer than my Sandy Bridge i5. He's more of a geek than I am, but hey..

As far as 32-bit goes, I have phased out the last netbooks I had that ran it. I have one Toshiba netbook left and it has 64-bit capability - but the mobo supports only 2 GB of RAM. It runs Arch Linux well, and I use low resource browsers like Midori with it.

I'm not really a gamer and my hardware supports the earlier generations of Train Sims that I enjoy. The next generation though will require an upgrade in CPU and GPU for best results. Right now I have a fair bit of time and money invested in the older sims - which have OK graphics but nothing like the realism of the latest ones. So maybe I'll make a decision based on that. In that sense, the newest train sims would be the Next Big Thing for me. :yes:

Edited by raymac46
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Heh... obsolete? Nah...


My main system's mobo is from 2010. I don't consider the system I built around it to be obsolete, but then... I tend to stick with old things that work well. ;)




ericsbane07 - Built Nov/Dec 2016




Gigabyte 890FXA-UD5 rev. 2.1

AMD Phenom II 1090 6-core cpu

Cool IT ECO r120 water-cooled cpu cooling system

12 Gig RAM

WD Blue 500G SATA III (Slackware64 14.1)

Maxtor 500G SATA II (Slackware64 14.1 rsync backup)

Seagate 320G SATA II (MS Windows 7 Enterprise SP2 + common storage)

Seagate 320G SATA II (MS Windows 7 Enterprise SP2 + common storage - mirror)



Rosewill Multicard reader and USB 2.0 hub

Antec Continuous Power 750W - Modular

Nvidia GeForce GTX 560 vid card




Samsung 22" LCD monitor (native 1680x1050 resolution)

Logitech 5.1 sound system

Logitech G610 mechanical keyboard

Logitech TracMan wireless mouse

HP Envy 5643 All-In-One printer/scanner/fax/copier


--updated 082018

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