# The Value of Tech
I've heard it said that there's a rule, called the "Law of Engineering" or similar. It states that if a thing is possible, the price of that thing will eventually drop to effectively free. This article is my experience with that law.
In high school my best friend and I worked together to build a pair of computers, one for him, one for me. These were genuine hacker boxes, big ugly beige towers, wonky hex screws, the works. The price per machine was around $1400 in 199X dollars. We had both saved from our jobs for a WHILE to build them.
Of course I don't remember the exact specs, but they were something like:
- 486 DX2/66 CPU (aka 66Mhz processor speed)
- Some RAM (probably 16MB)
- 500 MB Hard Drive
- 3.5" floppy drive
- 5.25" floppy drive (backwards compatibility!)
- 4X CD-ROM (not DVD, and not RW)
- SoundBlaster Audio card
- 56K modem
- Video Card? What's that???
We both already had VGA monitors.
And we were pretty happy with the machines we built!
I currently have 4 or 5 Raspberrys Pi running in my house doing various things. A Raspberry Pi Zero W costs about $10, and is a better computer in every way than the machine I built in high school (other than the disk drives).
- 1Ghz CPU
- 512MB RAM
- 8/16/32 GB SD card (depending on what I have laying around when I start the project)
- built-in audio that is good enough for what I do with these machines, or a HAT that does _excellent_ audio
- Video card? Kinda? but HDMI out that pushes far more pixels than my 640x480 monitor in high school.
I realize this is mostly just me sounding old, sometimes it feels wasteful to use ALL THAT POWER to run a small 12 key keyboard, or an ad blocker, or a Gemini capsule that gets a few visitors a day. Shouldn't I be using all those wasted cycles? Shouldn't I use less powerful hardware to free up those cycles for some other purpose?
But honestly, an Arduino style board is usually MORE than $5, and is less flexible. It's often the right tool for the job, but a Raspberry Pi Zero is just so useful. I'm good at Linux admin, I can handle setting up a headless machine over ssh and keeping it safe and secure while it does whatever task I give it.
Raspberry Pi Zero
The Pi-hole is a lovely way to keep bad stuff™ off your network
My Gemini server of choice
Note: Cross-posted to my gemlog on my personal capsule. I might stop doing that at some point. Or not. Not sure. 😃
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I use RPi 3b+ for monitoring the voltage, current and wattages for my solar power setup at home.
Great to see you brightblue! I've always wanted to try a Raspberry Pi but somehow never got to buy one... yet. I might invest in my new toy now. :)
It's impressive to see how fast tech has changed. I remember how in awe I was as a kid to look at computers. I could spend days in a computer store looking at all the CDs, cables and machines.
I wonder if kids are still as fascinated by computers as we could have been. I'd imagine so. It's just that it's so common now.