You have two computers at a desk in front of you, both are using the same case, both are running the same software, both are performing equally to the naked eye, and both are crunching away quietly at the tests tossed at them.  The only difference between the two is the $500 separation between the price tags. Budget PC's

The definition of a "High End User" is a bit shady, and in the end it is up to the users' discretion as to whether or not they consider themselves High End Users.  For the most part, however, the computers we are amazed by and infatuated with are overkill for our common everyday computer tasks.  We all want the fastest and best thing out, if it weren't for this desire then we wouldn't see products like 3Dfx Interactive's Voodoo2 or the Intel Pentium II grow in popularity.  Unfortunately, often times this addiction to speed can be hazardous to the health of our bank accounts, a simple memory upgrade can turn into a need for a new motherboard, processor, and video card.  

If you happen to have an unlimited PC Purchasing Fund then the price-tag all of these expenditures carries no weight in your mind.  In the lives of most computer junkies however, things aren't so immaculate.   Upgrading your computer to the max no longer means just tossing in a Math Coprocessor and playing Wolfenstein at a smooth 30 frames per second, it now carries the definition of basically upgrading everything short of buying a new system.

The Driving Force

In order for a reaction to occur, there must be a driving force, or something that causes the reaction to take place.  This basic chemistry principle extends past the Oxygen atoms in our air to the computers we surf the net with.  Well, what drives this upgrading frenzy?  The Software Industry.

The software industry, especially the gaming industry, is constantly producing newer and more 'advanced' programs with added features, all designed to make our lives easier or more enjoyable.  With all of these software upgrades, dealing with everything from your favorite digital pinball game to your computer's operating system, the bar is constantly being raised for a base level of performance.  More advanced features means more lines of code behind the pretty windows of the applications you're running.  More lines of code generally means that you'll need a faster system to process the code, and since a faster system can't be provided for in software that burden is shifted over to the hardware world.

Relieving the Pressure

How does the Hardware Industry deal with the pressure to perform placed on it by the Software Industry?  The only way it knows how to, by releasing newer, faster, and 'better' products every so often in order to keep up with the now absurd pace of the rest of the industry. 

A wonderful example of this would be the evolution of the PC gaming platform.  At first, the PC wasn't considered to be a viable gaming platform, however the theories of the very first Computer Scientists who were blessed with the punch cards in their hands seemed to be put to death by the increasingly popular, yet incredibly simple, PC games.  Evolving from titles older Apple II and Commodore users may be familiar with, the PC gaming scene, at first, consisted of entertaining text based games with a few graphically pleasant titles appearing every now and then.  Games like Dig-Dug and eventually Pac-Man became common place on the home PC.  Times were good, performance demands weren't too incredibly unreasonable and just about everyone with a PC could enjoy both the productivity and entertainment features their unique investment could provide them with.   Soon the demand for more graphically intense titles became apparent, as games moved away from the barriers of text into an interactive graphical environment, then on to ray-traced 1st person shooters.  Over time, the 2D games we had learned to love were knocked out of their positions in our minds by the new wave of 3D games that were more pleasing to the eye, and at the same time, were more demanding on the hardware side of things.

In order to keep up with the demands of gamers, graphics cards took on a new function in addition to their standard DOS/Windows acceleration duties, the 3D Gaming Universe came into existence faster than any big bang could have taken place.  It wasn't long before 3D only cards, like those from 3Dfx, became part of that "home PC" configuration.  It is very interesting that the standard home PC configuration of a computer in 1998 seems to be much more than should be necessary for a computer whose primary function is nothing more than general use.   This calls for the need for general computer usage to be defined, does it mean business tasks or gaming too?  Just like the definition of a "High End User" the definition of what General Computer Usage is falls under the discretion of none other, than the users themselves. 

Introducing the Budget PC

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