Upgrades: My Love/Hate Relationship

August 26, 2016
Eric Postal, MD

Upgrading technology used to be fun.

I’m far from a Luddite. Always have been.

That said, I’m much less of an early adopter for tech than I used to be. Once upon a time, if there was a new gizmo on the market improving upon what I already had, chances were I had plans to get it sooner rather than later.

With computers, it wasn’t quite that abrupt. Practically the day after I got something new, willing as I was to pay a premium for all the best, fastest, most powerful components, something better would be available. My new technological marvel would then undergo a gradual slide from miracle machine to glorified paperweight.

For me, the cycle averaged about four years…not that I clocked it by calendar, or kept a watchful eye on new specs gracing the shelves of local stores (this routine began before the Internet came along to make such things that much quicker and easier). No, I simply knew upgrade time was coming close when my machine’s limits were being reached: New software would run grudgingly slow for me, if at all (sometimes even if my system still met the “minimum system requirements” on the side of the box).

Back then, finally taking the plunge and upgrading was a joyful, if expensive, event. I would suddenly be able to use all sorts of software my previous system could not (most importantly to the me of yesteryear, more sophisticated computer games). Invariably, I’d wind up with a better monitor and/or speaker set in the process, too, so my A/V experience would take a leap forward. It was like getting a new car after hanging onto an old junker for a little too long.

At least, that was how I imagined it…I didn’t actually have the new car experience until I was several iterations into my computer owning life. Perhaps not so coincidentally, I subsequently came to be a little less eager about upgrades, for both.[[{"type":"media","view_mode":"media_crop","fid":"51366","attributes":{"alt":"Upgrade","class":"media-image media-image-right","id":"media_crop_4202812312253","media_crop_h":"0","media_crop_image_style":"-1","media_crop_instance":"6333","media_crop_rotate":"0","media_crop_scale_h":"0","media_crop_scale_w":"0","media_crop_w":"0","media_crop_x":"0","media_crop_y":"0","style":"height: 173px; width: 170px; float: right;","title":"©sarahdesign/Shutterstock.com","typeof":"foaf:Image"}}]]

The reasons I try to avoid getting new vehicles aren’t worth going into here, although I will say I perversely enjoy the numerous dings on my 10-year-old SUV as any additional blemishes on it would be far less conspicuous than on a flawless new 2016 model.

Upgrading a computer, however, has gotten to be much less fun and far more of a chore than it once was, and I find myself not quite dreading the inevitable process, but certainly putting it off as long as possible. And however burdensome a simple desktop PC might be to upgrade, replacing something like a CT or MR unit must be-what, triple, quadruple the hassle? Even more? (Not even considering the much heftier associated cost.)

First comes the matter of figuring out what you’re going to be upgrading to. It used to be a simple enough matter-models A through E are on the market, here are their features and prices: pick one.

Then, it started getting more granular; while you could still buy ready-made machines, it became doable to mix and match components. Some websites had neat setups where you could select from drop-down menus for everything: CPU, cards for graphics and sound, hard drives, you name it. The sites would either prevent you from choosing incompatible hardware, or at least notify you so you could make changes.

Last time I tried doing this, I found that the complexity had leapt beyond my comprehension. Maybe the websites were still trying to save me from myself, maybe they weren’t; I couldn’t even tell. Did I need a multi-core CPU? Did I want to over-clock? Did I need a RAID hard-drive array?

Thank heaven, for work at least, we tend to have paid professionals whose job it is to advise us on these things-tell us how/when it’s worth to spend extra, how various options will benefit us (versus not being worth the additional cost), and most importantly break it down into lingo we less-savvy folks will comprehend.

Assuming all that goes well, it’s far from the end of the upgrade game. Really, it’s just the kickoff, and even halftime nowhere in sight. More on this next time.