If it’s Saturday, this must be the home computer.

I was just contemplating the purchase of a new keyboard. It would be the third for this machine, which is now going on seven years old. It’s a Gateway (800 MHz Pentium III), that originally had Windows ME when we got it in September of ’99 to help my wife with some college work. I added 512 MB of RAM a couple of years later, not too long before upgrading it to XP.

Since we got it, the only hardware problem has been a hard drive failure at a little over two years… and now a second worn-out keyboard. I’ve re-installed XP three times, first because of the HDD failure, once due to an unknown problem that was probably a virus, and once just because I like the way a nice clean OS runs. I may do so again pretty soon. It’s a pain in the butt, though. Because this installation is an upgrade, I have to reinstall ME to get the legacy programs, then install XP on top of it. Maybe I’ll put it off a bit longer – and this time I’ll image the drive while it’s all new and squeaky-clean, so I don’t have to do it from scratch again.

Ol’ “Elsie” is still perfectly adequate for most of the things we need in a home computer. She’s a bit slow opening programs like OpenOffice and Firefox, and processor-intensive tasks like noise reduction for digital imaging take longer than I’d like. Generally speaking, however, there’s little to complain about.

Multitasking? Right now I’m running Firefox, WinAmp, Gaim, ZoneAlarm Pro, NOD32 Antivirus, Weather Pulse, Memorizer (a clipboard management tool), and Yankee Clipper (another clip manager that I use as a sort of archive to keep from having to maintain a long list of clips in the other one). Folding at Home is humming happily in the background, eating up the unused Hz, but I’m getting ready to shut it down because the text on this page is running a teensy bit behind my typing now and then. I’ve still got 154 MB of RAM available, and the little ol’ Intel 815E is having no problem distributing the input from the 6 MB Internet connection, even though the channel I’m listening to on WinAmp is 200 MHz all by itself.

You just don’t need a fancy high-speed machine for most stuff. If you’re a serious gamer, or do video editing, or a lot of image manipulation (or watch DVDs on your computer), that’s another thing, but the idea that you have to have a 4 GHz gamer for everyday home use is a marketing ploy. Trust me. I’m proving it as I type this.

There are perfectly good reasons for upgrading a computer – if you can’t do the everyday maintenance that it takes to keep an older one operating, for example. But if you can open it up, clean cable connectors, blow dust out, replace fans and drives – and if you back up your files religiously, most of the time there’s no reason a home machine can’t last for – well, for six and a half years (and counting).

Of course, now that we can run Windows on a Mac…

[tags]computer maintenance,computer upgrade,making do with old computer,multitask,intel 815e[/tags]