Question: Is it true that all modern computers become obselete after about three years, because of the rapid advancement in computing technology? If so, where do you think we will be (computer-related) by 2020?

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  1. The rate at which computers become too old/too small/too slow is certainly getting faster, and at my work we do indeed replace computers after about three years. But for home use, I do not replace my computer nearly that often.
    I can remember many years ago my computing lecturer telling us that “a company in America has made the first single chip computer” – up to that time, computers were “main-frames” a room full of equipment. He went on to say “They will never replace main-frames”. But hardly anyone uses what we would call a main-frame computer these days.
    10 years ago, a terrabyte (1000 gigabytes) disk drive would actually be a large box with many smaller disks inside it and costing 100s of thousands of dollars). Now I have on my desk a terrabyte disk store that would fit in a brief case and cost around $150 (they are even cheaper now).
    By 2020? – I would not even guess but I think quantum computers may be the next big step.



  1. That depends on what you mean by “obsolete”. Supercomputers are getting faster because governments are spending a lot of money (many millions of dollars) to make them faster and faster. Computers that we use on a daily basis, though, don’t generally need to get replaced that often (unless they break). For a lot of people, the main reason you might want to upgrade your computer is just to play better video games!
    When it comes to computers used in equipment like the Hubble Space Telescope, they actually are a few generations *behind* the newest technology, because scientists have to do a lot more testing to know that the computer is protected against radiation before they send it into space. So I suspect that the computer I’m typing this on (a MacBook Pro from early 2012) is more powerful than the computers that run the Hubble!