You don't need a modern computer!
- Are you broke?
- Are you trying to heal our damaged planet?
- Are you a minimalist hipster?
If you answered 'Yes' to any of the above...
... then don't buy a new computer! You really don't need anything modern to have a great computing experience. I should know, pretty much all the software I have written since the beginning of 2022 (including this very website) has been done using hardware from 2012! Normies who just poke around in a web browser all day can get by on something even older, like my Mum who uses a repurposed media PC from 2008 as her desktop. Of course, this is only possible if the hardware in question has been liberated from the shackles of Microsoft/Apple, i.e running Linux. Unfortunately normies usually aren't aware of this so they trash their perfectly good hardware without realising its true potential. Think of the amount of e-waste that could have been prevented if Linux on desktop was the norm.... Where is Greta on this? She likes penguins right?
"But I'm a soyftware developer! I need 64 CPU cores and 128GB of RAM and 32GB of VRAM and raytracing cores and...."
Depending on what you're developing you might need modern hardware, but I'd like to posit that most developers are web developers, and web applications are usually deployed on some flaccid single-core EC2 instance with 1GB of RAM anyway. Trust me, if you pick your development environment correctly and stay away from bloated IDEs and other soydev hallmarks, you probably wont even be able to tell that you're typing on something pre-Trump.
Other reasons web development works well on old hardware
- Most web frameworks support hot module reload.
- No need to restart the entire project.
- Fewer system resources are needed to provide a tight feedback loop because only code that has changed is reloaded.
- The web is supposed to work on old hardware
- What better way to ensure your site runs on old desktops/entry level mobiles than developing and testing using said hardware?
You really don't have to give anything up either, my GPU from 2013 can support 5 displays with a max resolution of 4K, my motherboard supports 32GB of RAM, my CPU is quad core with hyperthreading (I stress the hype). There really isn't much I would gain by shelling out the big bucks on a new workstation.
What about Laptops tho?
First of all, laptops suck. They are less powerful, more noisy, and more fragile than desktops, not to mention they are way more expensive! And that's without the physiotherapy you'll need to correct your neck posture after a decade of using them.
"But my (work/school/oppressive entity) requires that I own a laptop!"
The cold hard reality of life strikes again. Laptops are less straightforward, generally you can't upgrade them. The tide might be turning on this however, see framework for example. If you find a framework laptop going for a reasonable price it might well be worth the investment. A safer bet would be to find a Thinkpad on Ebay or FB marketplace (eww), nice and cheaply. No other laptop brand has a better reputation when it comes to longevity and repair-ability than the humble Thinkpad. Unfortunately the modern Thinkpad is not quite as maintenance friendly as its ancestors were, but it is still considered the default choice for people who have principles/value their money. You can even find boomers on youtube who still use the Thinkpad X220 from 2011!
My Hardware Specs
- Gigabyte Z77-D3H
- First released: 2012
- Intel i7-3770K (8) @ 4.400GHz (Overclocked from 3.9Ghz)
- First released: Q2 of 2012
- AMD ATI Radeon HD 7990
- First released: April 2013
- Memory (32GB)
- (4 x 8GB DDR3 from varying manufactures)
- This is total overkill btw
- Various years
- Storage (1.75TB)
- Kingston SATA M.2 SSD, Sandisk Sata SSD, Samsung NVMe SSD (PCI adapter).
- Various years including pretty modern ones
Notes on hardware
For the CPU we have the i7-3770K, famous for being the best money can buy (in 2012) and being a great overclocker. I managed to get her up to 4.4GHz without having to fiddle with any scary voltage settings.
The Radeon HD 7990 is more than enough for my usage, in fact, since it technically has 2 GPUs running on the same graphics card I could probably even pass one of them through to a VM if I wanted to.
I have 32GB of RAM installed but to be honest this is totally overkill for what I do, I rarely break 12GB while developing.
It goes without saying but, GET A MODERN SSD! They are cheap and really do make your system start up a lot quicker.
Notes on software
I have found things like Electron apps to be pretty bad when it comes to hogging resources. When using old hardware I would say never use Electron based apps when an alternative exists. Things like Slack or Microsoft Teams will offer a web version which I have found to not only use fewer resources, but to be more reliable too.
Leave a webmention or let me know about your vintage hardware specs and we can waste time comparing gigahertz and terabytes.by Tom Oliver