I should say right at the beginning that it isn't Gateway's fault, it just happened to be a Gateway machine I was working on and it's the Gateway name that is in the frame. And while I'm here, a quick well done to Gateway for dropping the 2000 from its name - the company no longer sounds like a vacuum cleaner - which has to be good, right?
The whys and wherefores of this story are too long to go into, but basically I have this old 486/33 Gateway that I had already upgraded to an 83MHz Pentium Overdrive.
I decided that as I had this 32Mb of memory hanging around, I would put it in the Gateway, taking it up to 40Mb. This went simply enough.
The only downside was its 325Mb hard disk was not enough to hold anything, so as a result I spent most of Bank Holiday Monday trying to install a Western Digital 4Gb hard disk.
Hours of mindless fun for the terminally stupid; trust me on this, you don't want to try this at home. First, there is the downloading of the upgraded Bios. Apparently, back in 1991/1992, after the PC had been with us for a mere 10 years and when Gateway was building this PC, the idea of a 4Gb hard disk was just unthinkable. So much so that the Bios - along with the rest of the system - gets the equivalent of a thousand-yard stare the instant it realises there is a four gig hard disk plugged in.
Alas, the new (1995) Bios didn't help - and anyway, it turns out I had already installed it to get the processor upgrade to work.
In the end, the disk just didn't work, no matter how much I prayed, shouted, pleaded, cajoled and begged. Nothing - the only thing I didn't do was sacrifice a virgin, but I live in Wandsworth and, well virgins are a tad thin on the ground here.
I sighed as I realised I was not going to get anywhere with the upgrade and gave up as gracefully as possible by quietly throwing the PC out of the window.
In the future, I hope today's kit is as difficult to upgrade. The last thing I want is to have people in 2004 saying how easy it was to fit a 4Tb hard disk into the old 400MHz Pentium II system they had hanging around.
I hope the same lack of imagination that has plagued the PC's upgradability over the last 15 years continues. I know that processing power, along with memory and hard disk capacity, has grown by countless orders of magnitude since 1981, but if we couldn't prepare for it in 1992, why should we be any different in 1998?
We don't want computer users to get soft and expect to upgrade their computers easily. My goodness, the next thing they'll want is software that doesn't go out of date, and of course at that point they won't need to upgrade.
And then where would we be?
Chris Long is a freelance IT journalist.
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