I’ve done some conspicuous consumption already during the holiday season, even though Black Friday is barely upon us. A series of unfortunate incidents have befallen my electronic life, and I had to rectify the situation immediately. And all I have to say about that is thank heaven for Moore’s Law, the continuously falling price of electronics, and the cutthroat entertainment wars.
During one of my overseas adventures, I managed to lose a lot of dearly beloved electronic items in a very short space of time, and I had to replace them quickly. And now I find that I’ve got a cornucopia of choices on what to do with my new gear and how to entertain myself.
I remembered that a dozen years ago I had a $4,000 Panasonic 42-inch plasma TV. And a couple of days ago at Best Buy, I was able to buy a 43-inch Samsung TV with 120 frames per second and 4K imagery for $258.26, tax included. That’s the power of Moore’s Law, or the notion introduced back in the 1960s by Intel chairman emeritus Gordon Moore, who predicted that the number of transistors on a chip would double every couple of years. Thanks to that prediction and the electronics industry’s steady advances in living up to it, my new TV was super cheap.
I owe this to the miracle of electronics, which are pretty darn close to being disposable. When chip makers shrink the circuitry on a chip — say from 10 nanometers, or 10 billionths of a meter, to 7 nanometers — the width between the circuits gets smaller. The electrons don’t have as far to go now, and so the circuit gets faster. It takes less material to make the same chip and the yield for manufacturing goes up, and so the cost goes down. You can argue about some of these details, but it means that every couple of years, the cost of electronics goes down for the same performance, or the performance goes up for the same cost.
Since TVs haven’t been soaring in quality or performance lately, the cost has been falling. Of course, I haven’t yet told you why I needed this new TV. You see, someone who looks like my wife put some very heavy metal rods on a box in our garage. Perhaps the dog. Perhaps something else caused these rods to fall. They fell on our 40-inch TV in the garage, which wasn’t secured very well. It tipped over and fell into my computer, which fell into a 34-inch display. Now that desktop computer was fine, but the TV and the display had broken glass. That makes them quite worthless, and beyond repair. So you could say that Samsung and Best Buy must have conspired to make this happen. Because these things last for a long time, and they have to get sales in some way.
Another sad event befell two laptop computers that I owned. I traveled to Copenhagen and Helsinki last week for the Slush conference. Since I hadn’t been to Copenhagen before, I planned to stay overnight there and do some sightseeing. After a 11-hour flight, I landed in Denmark and made my way to the train. I hopped aboard and this nice old man told me that I had to put my baggage up on the rack above me, so people could get by. I did notice that there weren’t that many people on the train, but I complied. Then a ticket taker came by and told me I had inadvertently sat in first class, and she sent me packing to the appropriate train car.
And there was that nice man again, grabbing my backpack for me and huffing it over to the next car. He placed it above his seat and motioned to me to sit in the seat in front of him. I kept my suitcase with me. Time went by as I was figuring out how which station to get off at. Then I looked up, and my backpack was gone, and so was the nice old man. He tricked me.
I went to my hotel, and I got a call from the train service. They found my backpack on a train. I hopped onto the subway and met the worker, a fine Turkish man named Oken. He wouldn’t take a reward. I opened my backpack and saw that my two laptops were gone. However, the thief overlooked my money and an Apple iPad that I had in backpack. I was lucky there. Or perhaps the thief was being a nice old man again. He did take my cough drops, my two books, and my roller for the backpack.
In Helsinki, I got myself a $300 Asus Chromebook at an electronics store. That held me over until the end of the trip. I returned it, and they gave me most of my money back. It wasn’t going to work out in the long run, as the Chromebook had a Scandinavian keyboard.
As I returned, I ordered a replacement laptop on Amazon. I got myself a refurbished 15.6-inch laptop with an Intel N4000 Celeron chip running at 2.6 GHz. It cost me $217.52. Maybe that old man worked for a computer store?
The computer has already arrived at my house. I also found another package waiting for me, a Google Stadia game controller and founders edition cloud gaming service subscription. I had forgotten that I had paid $215.82 for the Stadia package, which includes three months of free cloud gaming service, a game controller, a Chromecast Ultra, and a $60 game, Destiny 2.
I realized that these hardware purchases are going to be the cheapest part of my work and entertainment expenses. After all, the entertainment that goes with them is fairly hefty when you think about it. If I buy games for Stadia Pro, I can play them on just about any screen. But for that privilege, Google collects $10 a month, and then I have to buy those games for around $60 each. If I buy three games, then I outpace the cost of the hardware. But luckily, I don’t have to buy a computer or game console to go with that controller. In theory, I could use my Stadia controller to play some very high-end games on my low-end laptop.
Meanwhile, if I pay $5 a month for Apple Arcade games and get a $5 subscription to Apple TV+, I’ll be paying Apple for a long time. In a couple of years, the cost of that entertainment will match the cost of the computing hardware that I bought.
But I can’t complain. These feel like absurdly low prices to pay for a TV, PC, and the gaming and video entertainment to go with them. For the usage I am going to get out of them, I have to be thankful that the replacement cost for my electronics was so low. I have the disposable income to make up for my not-so-smart catastrophes, and I realize there are many people in the world who don’t.
And so yes, I am going to have a happy Thanksgiving. I am thankful that I can still be part of the internet-connected and game-playing elites of the world. And I hope you have a wonderful Thanksgiving too, and that you do not have the same kind of electronics catastrophes that I have had in the past couple of weeks.
Sadly, my desktop computer is giving me a bad message. It’s telling me it’s about to give up the ghost, with the blue message of death. It looks like I may have to hit the stores again. Anyway, thank you for reading this very self-indulgent column. And thank you for reading GamesBeat and VentureBeat over the years.