Just how fast does a PC need to be?

Estimated reading time: 2.5 minutes (plus 4:13 if you watch the video all the way through)

In an effort to get myself back into blogging habits, and to make sure I’m up to date with everything I need to be up to date with, I’ve decided to set myself a schedule. So, today is tech day – that is, I post about something a bit techy, a bit digital, a bit wey, a bit wah.

So, PCs. How fast do they really need to be nowadays?

I ask this because I was looking through my bookmarks the other day and found a video of some guys at Samsung putting together a PC that used Solid State Drives (SSDs).

In one respect this is a very cool thing. Hard drive storage tends to be a big bottleneck in most systems, so if you can speed up data access, you speed up the whole system. Hard drives are fairly clunky old things, in that they need to find data on the (rotating) physical medium, and this takes time. But SSDs are, as their name suggest, solid state: nothing in them moves, and the data is accessed directly, exactly as it is with your PC’s memory. Which, in fact, it pretty much is.

In another respect, it’s not a cool thing. But take a look first:

Apart from the slightly self-congratulatory nature of the video, it’s pretty good. And the speeds are astonishing (although they’ll be commonplace before too long).

But the reason I’m not sure about it is this: do we really need those sorts of speeds?

Before you accuse me of being like the guy who said we only need four computers in the world, or the other guy who said everything that could be invented has been invented, or the guy who said any given program will expand to fill all available memory (I think his name was Moore) I do have a reason for saying this.

And my reason is: everything is going into the cloud. Already I have access to a super-fast computer with super-massive storage. It’s called the web. I can run seriously complex queries online through systems like Pipes (or at least I could before it went a bit crap, and I’m hopeful that it’s going to get better soon). I can – and have – uploaded spreadsheets that freeze my PC but which Google Spreadsheets handles easily.

So given the choice, I’d rather have greater upload and download speed, but do I really need a faster PC? I’d argue my PC is fast enough now. I wouldn’t have argued that about five years ago when everything was local and I needed oodles of power and storage at my fingertips. Yet today, the power and storage exists ‘out there’, in the stuff of the web.

So, it’s an impressive video if you’re impressed by that sort of thing (which frankly I am – I’m never happier than when up to my elbows in bits of kit). But do we need it? Do we? Do we really? If you’re one of my three regular readers, let me know what you think.

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