2. August 2006, 13:38 | by WD Milner | Full Article |

I generally flip through a few trade magazines while having a morning coffee and grabbing my e-mail. An article and a sidebar seemed to stand out today for some reason. The side bar read “500M PC’s expected to be obsolete by 2007” according to the US National Safety Council. The same sidebar indicated that the average lifespan of a computer in 2005 was 2 years (down from 4.5 years in 1992) according to the EPA.

Now when I read things like this I have to shake my head. Are the only people they survey power users and those companies with money to burn that get new machines every year or two? Most people, real end users, that I know keep their machines for considerably longer than 2 years. Many are using Pentium II/K6-2/3 and Pentium III class machines and a good number, who have no needs beyond e-mail, a bit of web surfing and a bit of word processing are still happily chugging away on the last 486's or Pentiums (before they started numbering them).

Others, such as myself, still have and use our older machines for things which they function quite well despite not being state-of-the-art. My old 40MHz 386 makes a perfectly adequate router/firewall/gateway for my home network. It has more computing power and memory than many of the consmer level firewall routers on the market and is infinitely more flexible. My 350 MHz k6-2 makes a perfectly adequate personal DNS cache and web server. Another k6-2 at 500MHz servers as a file server and data vault. This article is being written on a 550MHz K6-III. My old XT class machine witha speedy 8MHz 8088and 8087, a huge 640 KB of RAM, and a massive 80 MB SCSI hard drive serves as a bulletin board system and smart terminal for my amateur radio station.

Some of the most popular servers used in web hosting are still the Cobalt RAQ series sold by Sun. The most popular series, the RAQ 3x, 4x, and 550 are powered by K6-2 300/350Mhz, 400/450MHz and 500/550MHz processors respectively. While under a heavy scripting load from many dynamic websites they can be a bit sluggish they are in widespread use and quite capable. Funny then that this class of machine is obsolete for the desktop

These machines are not the newest of fastest, and for some things are very slow. They will, however, do 95% of the jobs requried by 99% of computer users. While I do not have the source ready to hand it has been reported that most PC’s spend over 90% of their computing time sitting idle, waiting for user input. What then does this say about obsolete?

Obsolete in this case simply means that they are not the newest, and no longer fashionable - not that they are somehow incapable of performing the job. If more machines were used appropriately, there would be less junk in the landfills. But in a "disposable" society, especially in North America where corporate push and the latest and greatest is the rule, perfectly capable, inexpensive and functional machines are discarded. It isn’t that they are obsolete - but that companies have decided to sell something new and the marketing folks have told everyone they are obsolete.

Considering how much time the computers spend waiting for the real bottleneck in data processing I wonder how long it will be before we humans are declared obsolete as well.

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Categories: ,
Keywords: obslete,486,pentium k6-2,computer lifespan



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