The pace of changing technology can be dizzying, even for those enrolled in computer technology training programs. Nearly 40 years ago, Intel co-founder Gordon Moore predicted accurately that the complexity of computer chips would double every two years. The rapid obsolescence of computer technology has proven "Moore's Law" to be true. Therefore, keeping hardware and software knowledge up-to-date can be a challenge. Here are some practical strategies that anyone can follow.
Tips for Staying Up-to-date
That fancy new computer you just bought? Trends suggest there's going to be something better for the same money available within months.
Don't despair. You should expect to renew or replace a computer every three to five years, as the programs you need become more demanding. Whether you buy a new computer for your technology training or work, you should have a replacement strategy from your first purchase.
1. Buy at the High End
The most cutting-edge computer available will certainly be able to run more demanding programs for at least the next five years. You'll pay a hefty premium for the newest technology, but your computer will last longer before becoming obsolete.
2. Plan on Computer Turnover
You may choose to buy a mid-level computer with the expectation to replace it more frequently. After 18 months to two years, sell it and apply the proceeds to a new mid-level (but now more powerful) machine. This strategy can be especially effective for laptops, which cannot be easily upgraded.
3. Build Your Own Computer
Rather than buying a factory-assembled desktop PC, you can purchase the parts and build your own. It's unlikely you will spend much less, but you can create the computer you want, and you can upgrade individual pieces as the technology changes or parts wear out. A variation is to buy a fully assembled computer, then later replace only the CPU unit, keeping the old monitor, keyboard and mouse.
Keep Up with Computer Software
Even after your operating system and programs are installed, the software is always changing. Updates that fix bugs and fill security holes are regularly offered, and new versions of your programs often have exciting new features.
Computer System Updates
A persistent, speedy connection to the Internet makes it easy to keep your computer's operating system current. These updates are essential for keeping your computer stable and secure from malicious software. Both Windows and Mac operating systems can automatically check the Internet for updates that need to be downloaded and installed, and you should enable this feature. Otherwise, you should check weekly.
Similarly, most anti-virus programs can also automatically fetch and install updates to defend against new viruses and malware. You should either enable this automatic feature or check for updates yourself regularly.
Computer Program Updates
Most software publishers offer minor downloadable updates to their programs that correct bugs for free. Major releases that provide new features are typically offered for a greatly reduced upgrade price to current users. To take advantage of these offers, hang on to your software's original CD and manual, since these can be used as proof of ownership to qualify for the upgrade price. Also, keep a log of any license or serial numbers for the software you own.
As your software library grows, it can be a challenge to keep up with it all. Fortunately, the website VersionTracker maintains a searchable database of available updates for programs on Windows and Mac operating systems.
Before, During and After School
It can be challenging to keep pace with new trends in computer technology. Training will help, but the Internet also offers good sources of information. To keep up with what is happening in the computer industry, news sites like TechCrunch, TechMeme, Slashdot or Engadget offer a mix of product announcements and trend information. For programmers, ArsTechnica provides in-depth articles, while Gamasutra is essential for video games.