When Best Buy first moved into town maybe 15-20 years ago I was excited. I could spend hours in there looking at gadgets, components, routers, TV’s, and had thoughts and dreams of tying them all together. Later, Fry’s opened up, and you could walk through the aisles and buy all the pieces to build your own PC out of parts and make it the hottest gaming platform in town.
Recently I saw this article in Business Insider (I really like that app / site / etc…) about how to upgrade your MacBook pro (the machine I am writing this blog post on). If you have an earlier model (2011-2), you could spend less than $200 to upgrade your RAM and install an SSD drive (one without moving parts, essentially a big memory chip) and pull out your old (mechanical) hard drive and your machine will then give you many more years of excellent Apple service. Apple’s integrated operating system / hardware plan means that my older machine takes advantage of all the new features in every software upgrade of the operating system (now my Mac “rings” when I get an iphone call and that is a bit annoying but who’s complaining) as long as it has the horsepower to keep up.
So I took the (minor) plunge and went on Amazon and bought an SSD drive and upgraded RAM and it arrive in a couple of days for less than $200. I am going to take this over to my friend Brian’s house since he’s better at this than me and we are going to take apart the machine and put in the new drive and memory.
The real point of this story, however, is that the implicit industry of “taking apart devices and rebuilding them” that existed on the consumer side for the last 30 or so years (that I have been part of, at least) is dying. You can’t take apart newer Apple machines and upgrade them. While you can theoretically “jailbreak” your iPhone, fewer and fewer people I know even think of that and instead they are part of the world that views them as integrated devices that you can either use, take to a tech, or replace.
On the Windows side you can absolutely still take it apart, but the stakes are getting to be so low that it makes little sense. By the time you fix up / build your old system, you could have just bought a new Windows machine for almost no cost. There are excellent Windows machines that are very cheap and you will have to get used to Windows 8 anyways or Windows 10 (soon).
The new Chrome Books take this to an extreme in that you get a completely integrated device with OS for $200-$300. These devices have made a giant splash at schools and they are all SSD and so cheap that there is no economic point to pulling them apart, either. At least on the windows machines you might have some incentive in order to “save” the operating system or expensive version of MS Office that you bought.
It isn’t that “tinkering” is dead – look at the Rasberry Pi machine that you can buy for almost pennies – but that it is pretty pointless economically. There was an entire industry of people that opened up machines and upgraded with strange screwdrivers and this industry is mostly in our rear view mirror.
Cross posted at LITGM