I’ve been holding off upgrading my desktop computer for almost eight
years. However, after a few
operating system upgrades and
countless security updates, my
computer can’t even keep up with
my modest typing speed.
Even so, I’m considering
stripping the software and starting
over with a minimal system and a
few key applications in hopes of
regaining some performance.
So, why go through all that
hassle — especially since new
desktop computers can be had for a
few hundred dollars? Because of the
cost of software — and lack of
When I purchased my ancient
desktop computer, I also purchased
a half dozen key software packages
on CD-ROM — a word processor,
vector drawing program,
spreadsheet, and a couple simulation
Granted, the legal jargon on the
packages stated that I purchased a
license to use the software contained
on the discs and there was no
warranty of any sort as to its
usefulness for any purpose, etc.
Even so, there was the initial cost
of the software on CDs, amortized
over the life of the computer. In my
case, that initial cost was spread out
over eight years.
If you’ve moved to a new
computer system recently, you’re
probably painfully aware of the new
software subscription model, in
which you pay a monthly or annual
fee for a license.
Looking at my core set of six
applications, my annual software
costs — based on the new
subscription model — will come to
approximately four times the cost of
my computer hardware. That may
make for a great profit model for the
software companies, but it rubs me
the wrong way.
I understand the monthly
subscription model for phone
connectivity, news feeds, and other
services that require a company to
continually invest in supporting me.
However, the marginal cost for an
additional subscriber for the software
giants has to be measured in the
tenths of a cent.
What concerns me is the future
of electronics in general. Years ago, I
was among the proponents of the
coming wave of software radios and
other programmable hardware. Why
solder when you can reconfigure a
device in software? Well, it all makes
sense — unless, of course, every
electronic device becomes a
In a way, a multi-function
smartphone approaches this model,
at least to the extent that you need
an Internet connection for
I’m concerned, though, about
the evolution of my microcontroller
controlled devices. Heck, even my
hot air desoldering station could one
day require a monthly fee to keep it
live on the cloud.
Suddenly, the Internet of Things
(IoT) takes on a new meaning — the
possibility of a monthly “keep alive”
fee for everything — from my smart
clothes to my automated thermostat
I’m no Luddite, but suddenly, my
“real” electronics gadgets and
instruments look more appealing.
There’s something about the feel of
real components — components that
I can replace if defective — that
leaves me with a feeling of certainty
and control. Like my old fashioned
It may not have the Internet
connectivity of my iPad and iPhone,
but it’s worked just fine for 50+
years. I doubt that anyone will want
my iPhone in five years — especially
if they have to pay a fee simply to
turn it on.
What’s your feeling about “real”
electronics vs. the seemingly
inevitable wave of electronics
through programming? NV
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June 2017 5