We can hardly stand the wait

All: “Want a plane that loops the loop!”
Alvin: “I still want a hula hoop!”
All: “We can hardly stand the wait!
“Please, Christmas, don’t be late!”

Everyone likes something shiny and new, at least sometime. Everyone wants things that they like to remain comfortable and familiar. The struggle between these opposing and seemingly contradictory desires can be used to explain just about everything that happens in the world of consumer activity, particularly in the tech industry. Though sometimes it is a bit of a stretch.

When I switched back to Apple nearly four years ago (after my switch from Apple to PC back in the late 80s), I made my plans based on those decades of previous experience in the computer world. I knew, for instance, that I didn’t like doing a major upgrade of my personal desktop more often than every three years. Because in my experience, it usually took me about a year after switching out a machine to both get familiar with the new system, experiment with both new equipment and software, and to get everything the way I liked it. Having made that investment, I wanted to then enjoy the familiarity and predictability for a couple of years before contemplating the next switch.

My husband, on the other hand, starts getting itchy for a new system a bit over a year after getting the old one. He disagreed when I told him this. So, after we’d had this discussion a few times, I started putting labels on machines when we bought them, listing the exact date they were purchased. He would say, “It’s been over two years since we replaced that—” and I would show him the label indicating that it had only been fourteen months. He would frown and genuinely be surprised that it was only that long.

It was my reluctance to change out systems so often which I used to rationalize my decision to buy a Mac Pro tower for my desktop system. My other reasons are that while I don’t like to change the system out very often, I like having the option to upgrade monitors, hard disks, and other peripherals along the way, and the Pro tower is the Apple machine most suited to that task.

It was also fun to buy a machine with two four-core CPUs and all the other high-end options.

The truth is, I didn’t need all that power. Sure, because I have this bad habit of leaving open scores of documents in dozens of programs at the same time as I work on projects, and several of those programs will be resource hogs such as InDesign, PhotoShop and Illustrator (yes, always at the same time!), the extra computing power of the pro-level machine comes in handy.

Also, during the first couple years of the switch, I would more than occasionally have to fire up the virtual windows machine to access something from the clone of my old PC, or to use one of the programs that I hadn’t obtained a Mac-replacement for, yet. The extra power made it easier and faster to run a virtual machine within my Mac environment and move data back and forth between the two.

But, even with the massive memory upgrades, larger and faster hard disks, and improved video card I’ve installed, at not-quite four years old, it’s performance is not significantly better than my nearly new laptop. Its newer 2-physical cores multi-threading i7 processor can actually beat the tower’s 8-cores on some benchmarking tests.

The laptop’s close enough in power and so much more convenient to use anywhere I’m comfy, which means the vast majority of my work is done on it. The tower is used more as a support server than a workstation. I only do things on it when I really need both the big screen and the extra graphics oomph. Even the iPad is used for more serious writing than the tower.

So, on one hand, I have a lot of sympathy for the folks who are irritated that Apple hasn’t released a significant update to the tower in a few years. On the other hand, I seriously think that when I next update my laptop, I may find that it, a docking station, and some well-chosen peripherals will meet all my needs.

Though I do still hold out hope that Apple and others will leverage the bandwidth of the Thunderbolt connection to give us a way add additional CPU and gaphics processing power to any computer. Soon.

That would be even cooler than Alvin the Chipmunk’s hula hoop.

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