For years now, I have gradually gotten more and more adept at taking care of the physical parts of my computers. I had a computer in high school, and I got another while in grad school. It was, of course, a gradual thing. I learned about adding memory, then swapping out video cards. Then I graduated to installing CD-ROM drives, then hard drives.
For a long time I wasn't quite ready to put everything together myself, but when the time came to change out everything instead of a part or two, I would spend weeks going over part reviews and pricing, trying to get the most bang for my buck and be placed so I could upgrade easily (for you non-hardware geeks, hardware upgradeability is the single trickiest part of building a PC). Then I would order from the outfit that could provide most of the gear I wanted, and I'd put the finishing touches on myself. I stayed at that level for a while, but a year or two ago I bought the parts and put together my current machine myself. It took a lot of fussing but in the end I was pretty proud of myself for pulling it off. I was sure I had a machine that I could just slot parts into as needed for years to come. Hah.
What got me was this: I was playing the recent RPG release Oblivion (not a bad game, BTW. It was technically very proficient, but ultimately a bit of a let-down) and decided I really needed to get a better videocard. I don’t mind running newer games with some of the visual bells and whistles turned down, but this time it was really bad.
So I start checking on newer mid-range cards only to discover Something Awful.
Pretty much none of the better mid-ranges would fit in my machine. In the two years since I built my current box, a new interface had arrived and pretty much taken over in the video world, an interface that as far as I can tell had not even been on the radar when I made my choices. Sure, I had read about the new interface as it came out, but what I was unaware of was the degree to which it had pushed the old one out. And yeah, I know two years can be an eternity in the computer world, but trust me when I tell you that interface changes don’t usually go that fast.
I eventually managed to find a video card that would serve, but it was still quite a shock to me, and I couldn't help but wonder if it was something similar to what my Dad felt as car engine technology advanced and got all fuel-injected and computery in the 80's. Dad had been a mechanic in the Army, as a teenager he used to soup up his cars to the limit, and he remained a fair shade-tree mechanic for a long time. But I noted as the 70's petered out and the 80's wore on he spent less time doing repair work himself, eventually stopping altogether.
I don't think I've quite reached that pass. And maybe this is more just one of those things, like buying a Betamax VCR, or a laserdisc player. You know, just a bad move. Still, it was startling, and not in a fun way.