When was the last time you read a good computer hardware tutorial? I bet it was at least several years ago. Whatever happened to these fantastic documents which helped us learn all we needed to know about our computer hardware?
How China Killed The Computer Hardware Tutorial
It may surprise you to know (or not) that many of the network cards, mice, keyboards, and other commodity hardware we add to our computers all the same basic designs mass manufactured by the same few Chinese electronics factories. It doesn’t matter what the brand name says on the device, it’s probably the same as dozens of other devices under dozens of other brand names.
How does this affect the computer hardware tutorial? It means that a computer hardware tutorial could exist for your device, but it was written for a different brand name and product name. If you can’t find a tutorial, it’s useless to you. Also, if the people who write tutorials know people aren’t visiting it (because they can’t find it), they’ll be discouraged and stop writing them.
I know this from personal experience. I used to write long, 20-plus page hardware tutorials whenever I bought a new laptop. But then the laptop market exploded and people stopped reading my tutorials—and so I stopped writing them.
Same Name, Different Product
Another reason I and many other writers stopped writing hardware tutorials is the insane way hardware manufacturers brand their products. When they get a successful brand of products, they’ll change the underlying product without changing the brand name or model number.
For example, there are a ton of wireless cards all with the same brand name, the same model name, and even the same model number, but they all use different internal chipsets. A computer hardware tutorial which covers one chipset doesn’t apply at all to another chipset—but the readers of the tutorial have no easy way to figure out what chipset they’re using.
That leads to complaints. After putting hours of work into compiling a detailed computer hardware tutorial, no author wants to hear, “your tutorial is wrong; it doesn’t work on my device.”
I personally think this sort of branding constitutes fraud. When I recommend a product by name, I’m recommending the chipset on which it’s built. A new chipset requires a new evaluation, but manufacturers deny that to their customers by reusing the same old name.
Did USB Kill The Computer Hardware Tutorial?
Adding hardware to your computer used to be a much bigger deal before the days of USB. You usually had to open up your computer and insert the new card. Then there were often drivers to be installed and settings to be tweaked. All of this work cried out to be documented in a computer hardware tutorial.
These days many devices are “plug and play.” You plug them into the USB port, a driver (if necessary) is automatically installed, and you can start using the device immediately. There’s no computer hardware tutorial needed until you want to change a setting or you break something.
Unfortunately, you can’t write a computer hardware tutorial unless you start at the beginning. If you start when things go wrong, it’s a troubleshooting guide. If you just discuss changing settings, it’s a settings guide. Neither troubleshooting nor settings guides will give you the complete hardware overview you’ll get from a complete tutorial.
Windows XP Was Too Good
It used to be the case that whenever a new version of Windows came out, everyone upgraded within a year or so. I remember people waiting in lines for Windows 95 and how Windows XP was supposed to be the end of the Blue Screen Of Death (BSOD). (It wasn’t, of course, but that’s another story.)
But starting with Windows XP, Windows just hasn’t got that much better. In fact, in some ways it’s gotten worse—it requires more computer resources and a lot of the newer features mostly serve to distract you from your work.
It’s for that reason, perhaps, that Windows XP still has a strong following—an incredibly strong following considering it’s over a decade old and requires full-time firewall and anti-virus to keep it safe.
We now have a fair number of computer users split between Windows XP and Windows 7, and we don’t know whether or not a significant number of people are going to upgrade to Windows 8. That leaves computer hardware tutorial writers with a problem—for what version of Windows do they write their tutorials?[easyazon-image align=”right” asin=”B008H3SW4I” locale=”us” height=”160″ src=”http://ecx.images-amazon.com/images/I/41nlC7E54hL._SL160_.jpg” width=”137″]
Writing a tutorial that covers multiple versions of Windows requires a significant amount of extra work. The drivers for different versions of Windows are different, the quirks which affect the hardware in different versions of windows are different, and the way to adjust settings in different versions of Windows are different. That’s a lot of differences to describe, so some hardware tutorial writers give up before they even start.
The High Cost Of Cheap Stuff
So many computer parts these days are cheaper than ever before. Take computer sound cards. For the first ten years I used computers, sound cards were so expensive that my family couldn’t afford one. But just a few months ago, I bought a [easyazon-link asin=”B0044DEDCA” locale=”us”]USB sound card for $3.25[/easyazon-link]—including shipping and handling.
These cheap electronics have no mystique. They’re so cheap that it feels like a waste of time to write a computer hardware tutorial describing them. I just plugged in my USB sound card and started using it. When it stops working, which it does every once in a while, I don’t bother researching the problem and using the information to write a computer hardware tutorial. I just unplug it from the computer and plug it back in so it resets. Then I use it for another few days until it stops working again.
We tend not to pay any attention to the things we get cheap, so we focus more and more on fancy cell phones and tablets and less and less on the everyday computer parts even though we can hardly work or live without them. So the next time you buy a cheap computer part, remember that you won’t be able to find a computer hardware tutorial for it.