Few people have heard of it, yet many consider John Blankenbaker's KENBAK-1 to be the first commercial personal computer.

Koss introduced these headphones over 40 years ago, and they remain affordable favorites to this day.

The Death of the Tower PC?

A happy but bland family.
I last reinstalled Windows XP on my aging home-built PC in late 2009, vowing it would be the last time. The writing was on the wall, and a golden age of affordable and powerful ultra-notebooks and tablets was just around the corner.

Almost three years later, my PC is still limping along. I gave it some RAM and a spiffy new hard drive for Christmas in 2009, but it is increasingly showing its age. The time haa come to find a replacement, and I was suddenly determined to step firmly into the 21st century by leaving my hulking desktop behind.

Mac Mini, under the hood
Driven by news of a much more powerful Mac Mini, I found myself surfing the Apple site late one night last week. It was an odd experience -- I love Apple's machines for many reasons, but a grumpy little voice in the back of my head kept throwing up some very good reasons not buy one.

For example, the $599 base Mac Mini includes a poky 5200 RPM notebook hard drive and the graphics capabilities of an etch-a-sketch. To compensate, I opted for a slightly faster processor, an extra 2GB of memory, a faster (and slightly larger) hard drive and a Radeon HD 6630M discrete video chip that is roughly equivalent to a $50 entry-level desktop video card.

And then it hit me -- I was on the verge of paying $949 for a tiny desktop PC built out of notebook parts.

The Mac Mini is ingeniously designed and runs a brilliant OS, but the idea of paying a premium for a notebook computer without a screen is absolutely daft. You might as well just plunk down an extra couple of hundred dollars and get a MacBook Air or Pro -- most of the key pieces are there already.

Barebones I did what online marketers dread most and abandoned my shopping cart right in the middle of the Apple Store's virtual checkout line.

I was suddenly determined to build a shiny new mid-tower PC. Now, I'm fully aware that we live in the "post PC" era, but my netbook and iPad are good enough to keep me connected when I'm out and about.

I don't need portability or a mini PC carved out of a solid block of aluminum in my home office. I just need a reasonably powerful machine that I can tinker with and upgrade myself. Even in the 21st century, it's still the best way to balance performance, price and future upgradeability. Maybe Apple will get my money next time.

So, am I completely out of my mind? How many of you keep a desktop at home for tinkering and gaming?


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