When I hear stories of students living at home and still graduating up to their foreheads in debt, I get angry. For me, university was 3 years of being given money (not very much admittedly) to avoid my mother. I spent that time in a provincial northern town, drinking far too much beer, having far too much fun and doing far too little study to justify the investment involved at the point of sale, but have I not more than made good that outlay in tax and sundries? My university years were a glorious interlude. Isn’t it the basic right of any Britisher to have a glorious interlude at some point in their lives? The introduction of tuition fees was the issue over which I cancelled my direct debit to Walworth Road (as it was then). Since then, that same political organisation has done sweet Felicity Arkwright to ensure anything more than a grudging X at election time, where it once had my whole-hearted support.
Has the pace of technological development slowed down or have I just become easier to please? Normally, every 4-5 years or so, I get an itch to buy a new computer, but the itch is completely absent. My current machine does everything I need from a computer at decent speed.
Some historical background. I bought my first home PC in the summer of 1997. It had a 200MHz processor (an AMD, I seem to recall, having taken advice from mates in the IT department at work, one of whom even drove me to collect the machine and helped me set it up at home), a 2.5GB hard drive – big and bold at a time when 1GB was the norm, and 32MB of RAM (for added performance). With a 15″ monitor, it cost £1,100. It served me very well for a time, but by summer 2000, it was starting to creak. I wanted to add a CD writer for the purposes of transferring some of my analogue audio stockpile, and I thought that it might be just as well to get a newer, faster machine. So, I bought an HP with a 500MHz Celeron processor, an 8.4GB hard drive and 128MB of RAM, for a mere £500. I added a second hard drive – a 40GB – for all the audio I was processing, but I kept the 15″ monitor from my original machine until a year later when it went up in a puff of blue smoke one Sunday morning, resulting in a hurried trip to the Mile End Road PC World on the number 25 bus to pick up the Philips 17″ monitor I’m squinting at now. That old heap served me well too, until I decided that I needed a DVD writer.
So, in 2004, I bought an external USB model, but soon I realised that I’d put go-faster stripes on a horse and cart, and decided a new machine was in order. Early in 2005, I looked on eBay and bought a refurbished, fully guaranteed Packard Bell with a 2.67Ghz Celeron, an 80GB hard drive, 512MB of RAM and a DVD rewriter for a piddling £180. Apart from the addition of a 250GB hard drive, another gig of RAM and a second rewriter bunged in the case, not to mention the 2.8GHz Pentium 4 that I put in when I replaced the old, fried motherboard, that’s my current machine. When I replaced the motherboard, I was told, almost universally, that I’d be as well starting from scratch. I ignored everyone and got the machine going again for £30.
It’s not just a glorified typewriter. I do some fairly intensive audio and video work on this machine, and it just keeps going. I suppose my attitude might be different if I were a gamer, but would I gain anything by buying a state-of-the-art machine? I suspect not.
Where’s my credit card? I have a sudden urge to buy a golliwog. Anyone who takes offence clearly has too much time on their hands.