I have an interesting relationship with technology. It is a huge part of my day-to-day life, but at no time am I anywhere on the bleeding (let alone cutting) edge. My laptop is five years old, and I used my previous one for six years before upgrading (there was a three-year-old used desktop in there as well). I don’t have a smartphone, and I feel no need to upgrade my table to this year’s release. I didn’t get an HDTV until a few months ago. Until late 2010 my most powerful gaming console was a GameCube, and I didn’t pick that up until 2004 or 2005. I can’t bring myself to spend $60 on a video game on release day. I don’t have a Blu-ray player, and my primary camera (when I bother to take one anywhere) is a 3.1 megapixel point-and-shoot I got for my birthday before I left for France (again, around 2004). I have in the past described myself as “a technophile on a budget,” usually out of choice, sometimes out of necessity.
But none of that protects me from the dreaded scourge that is Tech Envy.
Tech envy is the small, nagging voice in the back of your ego that says “man, I really want to upgrade.” It can come from many places, such as reading about new releases, playing with a friend’s new toy, performance issues in existing resources (whether actual or merely perceived) or something as simple as boredom. It settles, somewhere between the ego and wallet, and begins to eat away at your resolve unitl such time as you give in to it or get distracted by something else.
For me, this recent bout of tech envy has been brought on by several factors. As I talked about previously, I have quite a backlog of video games. And of course, new video games keep getting released all the time. Even worse, Steam and GoG regularly have deeply discounted sales on new and not-so-new games. I’ve finally been able to convince myself that things will be on sale again when I am ready to buy, but the Humble Bundles completely bypass that control. As a result, I have several games that my laptop cannot play. Even more annoying is the fact that I am limited by my graphics card, which is usually just below the minimum specifications for many modern games (I have a GeForce 8600, a lot of things require an 8800). My rage is as boundless as it is impotent!
But I had been dealing alright with these performance issues until I had the bright idea to hook my laptop up to my TV. I was attempting to play Saints Row 2 (a GTA-like open-world game with tongue firmly in cheek), and getting thoroughly discouraged with the PC controls (steering vehicles was a bear). I decided to try hooking up one of my Xbox 360 controllers, and that helped. But then I started thinking “Hey, if I’m using a game controller, why don’t I use my big TV as well?” So I went downstairs, plugged my laptop in, and spent a few hours playing around with games in Steam’s Big Picture mode. It was a great experience, and while I wouldn’t want to use the controller for every game (I’m pretty set on mouse/keyboard for most FPSes), now I want to build a Steam Box.
I’ve said for a while that my next computer, when it’s time to upgrade, is going to be a self-built desktop. I want to have the fun of tinkering, and desktops are much more upgradeable than a laptop. And now that I think about it, I am well into the upgrade window from last time: I got my previous laptop in 2002 (just before college), my old desktop in 2006 (it was three years old at that point, but I upgraded the RAM and video card), and my new laptop in 2008 (just before grad school). I tend to run between 4 and 5 years for a primary machine, so I shouldn’t feel bad about wanting to upgrade.
Unfortunately, the money just isn’t there for new hardware. So I am resigned to weather this bout of tech envy unfulfilled, nursing one of the nerdiest cases of blue balls one can have (sorry for that image). I’m sure it will fade in intensity, but the itch is not likely to go away completely.
(And before you ask, yes I still have all of my computers.)