My Turn

Golf and Computers

Andrew W. Hill - 2001.11.19

My Turn is Low End Mac's column for reader-submitted articles. It's your turn to share your thoughts on all things Mac (or iPhone, iPod, etc.) and write for the Mac web. Email your submission to Dan Knight .

In principle, I am against golf as a sport. I appreciate the amount of work that golfers put in to hone their skills, and I am not suggesting that golf is not a real sport. My complaint is more with the nature of golf.

Golf is a high maintenance game. A golf course takes up an enormous amount of physical space. In many areas, the most expensive part of the golf club is the acreage. In Japan, the rates to play are ridiculous due to the price of land. For a quick comparison, the few acres of land on which the Emperor's palace sits in central Tokyo is worth considerably more than the land value of the entire state of California. If you've ever tried to rent a house in San Francisco you'll understand what I'm getting at.

The next issue is water. Keeping those greens green takes a tremendous amount of water. Sprinklers are almost always going, including the hottest parts of the hottest days in summer. Most places in the world suffer from a lack of potable water, yet it is poured all over the ground to make a nicer surface to hit a tiny ball from. Sure, most golf courses have their own pumps, but that is still water in the ground that could be used for other purposes. Believe me, this isn't as stupid as it sounds. In California, there is a high amount of pollution exacerbated by the lack of flowing water to carry pollutants out of the area and into a larger area (i.e., the Pacific Ocean) where it would be diluted considerably to below dangerous concentrations.

You know, computers are a lot like golf. They tend to use up a lot of resources for something that most people do not need and are frequently used as nothing but status symbols.

How many readers here actually push the limits of their less-than-3-year-old computers? I bet 90% of those people have broadband Internet access. My reasoning is such: The biggest motivator for faster computers is the Internet. Most computer users on dialup find that the bottleneck is the modem, not the computer. As people seem to want more and more bloated, pretty Web pages instead of simple concise pages of information, they need a fast computer that can process Java and Flash on the web. My mother uses a 7100/80, and it does everything she needs it to. Naturally, she doesn't use the Web very much, just to occasionally book plane tickets or check MedLine for research papers. I would say she would be an average computer user. Add in some heavy Web work and some instant messengers - and suddenly it can't keep up.

Do you ever talk with your coworkers about your computer? Since you're reading Low End Mac, it seems likely. Does someone come in and brag about their 1.7 GHz Pentium 4? Do you tell them about the Megahertz Myth to explain that your 500 MHz iMac or G4 really isn't that much slower? Let me tell you about the Marketing Myth.

  • Part one: Word processing requires an SE/30 or better.
  • Part two: Plain text email requires an SE/30 or better.
  • Part three: HTML email is useless and a waste of bandwidth
  • Part four: Fast Web browsing requires a fast connection, not a fast computer.
  • Part five: Loading a page of HTML with a few small images to clarify points is just as fast on a 7100 as a dual 800 MHz G4.
  • Part six: Flash and Java are useless. They're marketing toys to look pretty.
  • Part seven: Looking at a 30 second Flash clip still takes 30 seconds on a dual 800 MHz G4.

Why do we need computers with massive heat sinks, fans, and water cooling? Why do we need computers that draw 300 watts an hour. Remember how your Mom told you to turn off lights when you weren't in the room? Your computer is like five light bulbs! That's without the monitor, printer, scanner and external drives. In addition, when we surplus our old computers and buy new ones, we're polluting even more by manufacturing things we don't really need. If you ever visit a computer manufacturing plant you will usually see a sign on the main door like:

The state of California has determined that this facility contains substances shown to cause cancer.

Obviously it may be a little different, especially if you don't live in California. In any case, is this what we want to be promoting? When we upgrade a computer that's perfectly good for our current needs, we're causing exposure to carcinogens just to prove that we can piss higher than our workmates?

Perhaps we're getting a little overzealous with the power of computing? Why not concentrate on efficiency, price, and consistency. There is a simple reason - it doesn't sell. It's been shown that car engines could be made much more efficient and that clothes could be made to last ten times longer. However, that lessens the amount of money we spend and the amount of money corporate America makes. So go ahead, throw your money and the world's environment at overpaid lackies seated in $1,800 leather chairs just to prove that you're better than your neighbor.

Andrew W. Hill (a.k.a. Aqua) has been using Macintosh computers since 1987 and maintains that the Mac SE is the perfect Macintosh, superior to all - including the Color Classic. He is on the verge of being evicted from the family home due to its infestation of Macs (last count: about 50). Andrew is attempting to pay his way through college at UC Santa Cruz with freelance web design and Mac tech support.

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