PC homebrewing and white-boxing: Dead or alive?

Moderated by Bill Detwiler | May 20, 2013 -- 07:00 GMT (00:00 PDT)

Summary: To build, or not to build: Does it still make sense? Jason Perlow and Adrian Kingsley-Hughes debate the pros and cons of DIY.

Jason Perlow

Jason Perlow

Dead

or

Alive

Adrian Kingsley-Hughes

Adrian Kingsley-Hughes

Best Argument: Dead

10%
90%

Audience Favored: Alive (90%)

The Rebuttal

  • Great Debate Moderator

    Pencils ready?

    We're almost ready to begin.

    Posted by Bill Detwiler

    Look out

    Because I've got the facts on my side.

    Jason Perlow

    I am for Dead

    Yes

    I'm ready for a battle.

    Adrian Kingsley-Hughes

    I am for Alive

  • Great Debate Moderator

    What are the big advantages?

    Since the needs of a business are often very different from an individual consumer's needs, let's approach each scenario separately. And once we've examined both business and consumer perspectives on homebrew PCs, we'll wrap up with a look at how trends in the overall desktop computer market are affecting the build vs. buy equation.

    Thinking only about businesses, what are the biggest advantages to building your own PCs or having a local IT firm build custom, white-box desktops (i.e. not name brand machines)?

    Posted by Bill Detwiler

    It's time has passed

    There very few advantages to building your own PC or having a reseller/integrator do this for you today. 10 years ago, more realistically 15 or 20, there was a healthy ecosystem of diverse component vendors as well as businesses that could competitively price systems built from scratch as well as provide significant differentiation and value add with building systems. Part of what came along with this would be personalized support.

    But that ecosystem is not healthy today, the component supply chain has become heavily consolidated, and the Tier-1 vendors can provide excellent on-site tech support contracts.

    If you really prefer local, personalized tech support, there's always independent consultants who specialize in this -- who have largely ceased the practice of building and reselling systems due to the resale tax burden as well as being unable to compete with system margins sold in retail, brick and mortar retail/discount clubs, and with e-commerce direct to order.

    Jason Perlow

    I am for Dead

    Quality, customization, and price

    First off, while I'm a huge DIY PC advocate, I'm not suggesting that business build every PC they need – although I know some smaller businesses that have done this. This is a foolhardy endeavor that doesn't bring much in the way of gains.

    However, for some sorts of PCs it's a great idea for the following reason:

    • Quality: You know ever part that goes into the system.
    • Customized systems: Taking the DIY approach means you get exactly what you want, down to even the chassis (which can be handy if the PC needs to fit into a specific footprint). 
    • Reduced downtime: If you – or a local firm – built the PC, then repairs can be carried out quickly because you know what you need (ideally you or your PC builder should keep spares).
    • Price: If you build the PCs yourself, then there are no middleman profits to pay.
    • Ease of upgrade: Adding more RAM or storage should be a snap, and there are no worries about voiding warranties.

    Bottom line, with a brand-name system you have very little control over what goes into the machine. Usually they are the cheapest components that the OEM can find. While this is great for general–purpose systems, if you need something a little more specific then most OEMs either aren't going to be able to cater for your needs, or are going to charge you a premium.

    Adrian Kingsley-Hughes

    I am for Alive

  • Great Debate Moderator

    What are the risks?

    Again thinking just about businesses, what are the biggest risks to building your own PCs or having a local IT firm build custom, white-box desktops (i.e. not name brand machines)?

    Posted by Bill Detwiler

    Support, standardization and time

    First there is the risk of a local IT firm or whiteboxer being unable to support your systems by the very real possibility of them closing up shop and you being stuck with non-retail, bulk OEM PC components with limited warrantees. While this sounded ludicrous 15 or 20 years ago, that's now a very real possibility today.

    The second is being able to consistently source the same components and not being able to standardize installs and drivers. While this is not necessarily as much of an issue as it was, say, 10 years ago with the advent of componentized and scripted installs, as well as superior PnP technology in today's PC OSes, it still adds to the support burden and it adds significantly to overall level of effort and time sink.

    Why? Because you are spending an inordinate amount of time and energy on system verification rather than unpacking OEM systems from boxes and turning them on, and pushing down a standardized image with all your apps on it. Time is money. Do you want your highly-paid IT staff wasting valuable time playing PC tech, or to focus their energies in support your line of business applications and infrastructure?

    Jason Perlow

    I am for Dead

    Human error, overspending, and gambling

    As with most things, there are risks attached to taking the DIY PC approach:

    •     Building the wrong PCs.
    •     Building PCs is not a tricky task, but building, testing, and deploying several might be a challenge for someone who has never done it before.
    • Overspending on components.
    • If the PCs are built by a third party, or you are relying on a single employee, what happens if the firm goes bust or the employee leaves?
    • Proper planning, and a little bit of forethought, should help prevent these issues from arising in the first place.

    Adrian Kingsley-Hughes

    I am for Alive

  • Great Debate Moderator

    When does it make sense?

    Even if homebrew PCs aren't right for every business situation, are there specific scenarios where it makes more sense for a business to build a white-box PC rather than buy a name-brand machine, even one that has customized hardware? What are they?

    Posted by Bill Detwiler

    It never makes sense

    It almost never makes sense to do this. Never. One could argue that there are edge-case vertical industry scenarios where they need a specialized graphics or PCI card, or an extreme high performance internal storage device, extremely high-speed networking, or what have you.

    There may be legacy hardware/peripherals with software and drivers that still needs to be supported that doesn't run on modern systems, but in cases like this the business should be considering migration/transformation to rid themselves of these high-risk devices that could severely impact their business if they fail.

    Industries like computer graphics / engineering/ content creation have demanding requirements that may occasionally outstrip the capabilities of what many PC vendors might offer, even with their most high-end workstations. But these are extremely rare cases and more often than not there are practical workarounds which don't require a custom build.

    Jason Perlow

    I am for Dead

    Where DIY outperforms a brand-name

    I've come across several situations where a DIY PC outperforms a name-brand system. Here are a few examples:

        - Lab setting, where there are specific requirements that might be hard for an OEM to pull off (or at least pull off cheaply).
        - Challenging environments, such as workshops of garage settings, where eliminating fans and mitigating the effects of dust are paramount.
        - Sound studios that require quiet PCs (these are much cheaper to build than to buy off from specialist retailers).
        - Custom system for recording or duplicating CDs and DVDs (again, much cheaper to build than to buy a custom solution).

    Adrian Kingsley-Hughes

    I am for Alive

  • Great Debate Moderator

    Does size matter?

    How does the size of a business (number of PCs) change the build vs. buy equation?

    Posted by Bill Detwiler

    It makes no difference

    I'm going to say this again. It doesn't matter about the size of your business. You should never consider building your own PC if you actually care about the dynamics of your business and require consistent support.

    You aren't going to save money, your support options are not going to be better with white boxes than with an OEM certified system, because you can get a support plan from an OEM, and you can get local consultants to deal with break-fix on simple items if the machine comes out of warranty.

    And in most cases, when a key component of the system dies, it's probably simpler and more cost effective to just replace it rather than repair it due to labor costs alone.

    Jason Perlow

    I am for Dead

    It's cheaper off the shelf

    A total DIY PC solution only works either for small companies, or big organizations that are willing to invest capital in having a group devoted to the task of building and maintaining PCs.

    Bottom line however is that if you want a bunch of cheap PCs for regular desktop usage, then it's always going to be quicker and cheaper to buy these off–the-shelf than it is to build them.

    Adrian Kingsley-Hughes

    I am for Alive

  • Great Debate Moderator

    What are the best practices?

    If a business does decided to build its machines in house or purchase white-box PCs from a local IT vendor, what are some best practices to follow?

    Posted by Bill Detwiler

    Send for help

    Go send your IT staff to a clinical psychologist or call the police, because your business is suffering from mass psychosis or someone put hallucinogens in the water cooler. See my last answer.

    Jason Perlow

    I am for Dead

    Plan ahead

    I recommend the following:

    - Know exactly what you want – the DIY PC approach isn't for people who aren't clued up about PCs. If you don't know your HDDs from your SSDs, and your CPU from your GPU, this isn't for you.
        - Realize that 'in house build' does not mean 'free build' – set aside resources for the job like you would any other project.
        - Buy spare parts – there will always be components that fail, so plan for them.
        - If a third-party is building the systems, get it clear from the start what the support terms are.
        - If you are using a third party, consider the benefits and risks compared to buying a name-brand from an OEM.

    Adrian Kingsley-Hughes

    I am for Alive

  • Great Debate Moderator

    Consumer time: What are the big advantages?

    Okay. Let's think about the individual consumer now. What are the biggest advantages to building your own PC or buying a custom-built, non-name-brand machine?

    Posted by Bill Detwiler

    Zero, Zip, Zippo

    There are no advantages to doing this today. None. Zero. Zilch. Zippo. Nada. If we are talking about a typical consumer with a capital C (and not a Hobbyist, or a Gamer) someone who browses the web, engages in social networking, and uses productivity and typical multimedia applications, and plays games casually, then you should never consider building a PC.

    First of all, a brand-new PC is going to come with a Windows 8 license. A white boxer or a PC hobbyist building a system from scratch will need to buy the OEM System Builder Kit, since there is no Retail license as with Windows 7, there are only Upgrade licenses for consumers.

    That System Builder license of Windows 8 will run you about $95 on Amazon for the regular version and about $135.00 for the Pro version. That's going to negate a lot of the perceived cost savings of building a box right there.

    Your old Windows 7 Retail license can be re-used if your old PC is discarded, but you cannot re-use the OEM copy that came with a OEM-built system without violating the Microsoft EULA. This counts for businesses as well, unless, they have volume licenses and EAs.

    And yes, my Linux friends? Building a system doesn't help you either. You can buy perfectly good Linux certified systems from OEMs and virtually every OEM system out of box that runs Windows works fine with Linux anyway, and even with the cost of that OEM license built in, you'd be hard pressed to save time, money, and frustration from building your own box. I've done this, many times.

    I'm going to leave out the intangibles of the warm and fuzzy feeling of geekish accomplishment having put together a PC and becoming one with the homebrew universe. That's not part of what we are debating and is completely irrelevant to the discussion.

    Jason Perlow

    I am for Dead

    Price, quality, and ease

    I've built my desktop PC systems for almost two decades, and I will continue to do so for the foreseeable future for the following reasons:

        - Price: I build quite high-end systems, and these are invariably cheaper than anything I can buy with a name-brand badge on it.
        - Quality: I like to make sure that my systems are built from quality products, and I can only do this by taking charge of every component that goes into the system.
        - Ease of repairs: If you built it, you can fix it. No having to wait for a technician.
        - Ease of upgrading: Again, I know what went into it, so I can upgrade it, and there are no warranty issues to worry about.
        - Warranty: All the parts I buy come with a warranty, usually a better one than a complete PC comes with, so I'm better covered when things do go wrong.

    Adrian Kingsley-Hughes

    I am for Alive

  • Great Debate Moderator

    The disadvantages...

    Likewise, what are the biggest disadvantages to building your own PC or buying a custom-built, non-name-brand machine for the individual consumer

    Posted by Bill Detwiler

    Almost the same answer I gave for business

    Read the first part of my answer for businesses:

    First there is the risk of a local IT firm or whiteboxer being unable to support your systems by the very real possibility of them closing up shop and you being stuck with non-retail, bulk OEM PC components with limited warrantees. While this sounded ludicrous 15 or 20 years ago, that's now a very real possibility today.

    I will add a slight modification to this for the typical end-user:

    The second is being able to reliably source quality retail components for a PC build via mail order from online suppliers and also the high risk of running into hardware and driver compatability issues during the PC build process.

    I'd like to cite my last PC build in 2009 as a good example of the many issues you might run into.

    While this is not necessarily as much of an issue as it was, say, 10 years ago with the advent of superior PnP technology in today's PC OSes, it still adds to the support burden and it adds significantly to overall level of effort and time sink for a PC build.

    Why? Because you are spending an inordinate amount of time and energy on system verification rather than unpacking OEM systems from boxes and turning them on and installing your apps.

    Jason Perlow

    I am for Dead

    I'll be honest

    I'll be honest, there are down downsides:

        - Time: All that planning and building takes time.
        - Garbage: Buying the components separately generates a lot of waste to get rid of. Keep on top of this or you will bet buried.
        - Little support: Something you have to get used to.

    Adrian Kingsley-Hughes

    I am for Alive

  • Great Debate Moderator

    Special interests?

    Are homebrew PCs only for computer DIY enthusiasts, case modders, or gamers?

    Posted by Bill Detwiler

    Not enough to matter

    I believe these groups certainly identify themselves as PC builders. There are prosumers and hobbyists which, for whatever reason, have had a history of building systems and are permanently fixated in a DIY worldview who can never be convinced to buy systems from OEMs due to whatever misguided or outdated ideologies about build costs or component quality they may still maintain. But this this such a small and ever declining portion of the PC using population and is no foundation for a PC building industry to survive on.

    Jason Perlow

    I am for Dead

    The biggest market

    This is without a doubt the biggest market for homebrew PCs.  This crowd appreciates quality PCs, loves putting together solid systems, and are constantly tinkering with their hardware.

    Adrian Kingsley-Hughes

    I am for Alive

  • Great Debate Moderator

    What are the trends?

    Lastly, let's examine how trends in the overall desktop computer market are affecting the build vs. buy equation.

    In April, IDC reported that PC shipments fell 14 percent in the second quarter of 2013--the worst year-over-year decline since the company began collecting the numbers in 1994. Data from Gartner and even Intel show a similar downward trend. Many attribute this decline to the proliferation of mobile computing devices (tablets, smartphones, wearable computers, etc.) and the growth of cloud-based software, services, and storage. How will the overall decline in PC sales, affect the homebrew PC market?

    Posted by Bill Detwiler

    The great PC decline

    Now we're really getting into the meat of the debate. Movement towards low-cost SoC-based and APU-based devices, whether they be Ultrabooks, tablets, smartphones, convergence devices, wearables, shifts computational power and infrastructure from the destktop to the datacenter and Cloud and also software from a purchased/licensed to a subscription and SaaS/DaaS model. So building PCs will make far less sense than ever before.

    Many of the component vendors who make PC parts are also moving their business models towards supporting and manufacturing the above mentioned systems and away from things like graphics cards, hard drives and mainboards, which will make building PCs that much more difficult.

    Jason Perlow

    I am for Dead

    Homebrew growing?

    While PC sales are falling, I see no sign that the homebrew PC market is declining. Supply chain data on components destined for this market – especially graphics cards – suggests that the homebrew and after-market upgrades market is growing.

    Adrian Kingsley-Hughes

    I am for Alive

  • Great Debate Moderator

    New PCs require fewer components

    For years, sound cards were separate PC components. But now, nearly every motherboard (even high-end boards) have onboard sound. More recently, reports have surfaced that Intel is slowly moving away from processors that use a land grid array (LGA) package (which can be removed from the motherboard and replaced) to processors that use a ball grid array (BGA) package (which are soldered to the motherboard). As PC component manufacturers make fewer discrete components, will building a custom PC become nearly impossible or at least be less attractive?

    Posted by Bill Detwiler

    Disposable PCs

    Alas, poor Computer Shopper. I knew him, Bill.

    I've written a few articles about this already, so I don't have to re-hash this ad nauseum here.

    Tablets, Ultrabooks: The future is unfixable

    Are tablets now disposable computing devices?

    In summary, we're moving towards a model where PCs are no longer going to be serviceable, whether it is a notebook computer with soldered-on everything or a PC mainboard that is simply a just a glorified SoC with onboard GPU, RAM and networking. I don't see how a PC building ecosystem can continue to be viable in that way.

    Jason Perlow

    I am for Dead

    Enthusiastic commitment

    While there has certainly been a shift towards reducing the number of discrete components inside PCs – for the sake of making them easier to build for the OEMs – the major players (such as Intel and AMD) have all reaffirmed their commitment to the enthusiast market.

    In other words, it's going to be possible to build PCs for the foreseeable future.

    Adrian Kingsley-Hughes

    I am for Alive

  • Great Debate Moderator

    PC makers don't care any more?

    Likewise, many PC makers seem to be focusing less on traditional, upgradeable tower cases and more on all-in-one desktops and laptops. Are consumers and businesses just naturally shifting away from the "beige box" to designs that are inherently less likely to be built in house or by an individual?

    Posted by Bill Detwiler

    Touchscreens are taking over

    If you've walked into a typical enterprise lately, the tablet, laptop and notebook population far exceeds the desktop PC population. Let's face it, nobody is homebrewing or whiteboxing notebooks. And by the way, I consider "White Box" specialty notebook builders like Sager as pure OEMs, not whiteboxers.

    I think we're also seeing a distinct movement toward touchscreen devices, whether they be on High-end Ultrabooks and Convertibles like the Lenovo X1 Carbon Touch, Asus's budget VivoBook X202E or all-in-ones like HP's TouchSmart line. Because while the PC market as a whole is in decline, these form factors are actually showing very clear signs of adoptance.

    If the industry trends and hard numbers are of any indication, consumers value mobility just as much if not more than the enterprise does. So the PC desktop, be it OEM or home-built, is long overdue for total extinction.

    Jason Perlow

    I am for Dead

    Shifting with the tide

    True, but the DIY market is shifting with the tide. You can now put together your own custom all-in-one systems, and I expect that this niche will grow as towers become irrelevant as component sizes shrink.

    Adrian Kingsley-Hughes

    I am for Alive

  • Great Debate Moderator

    Shoud we preserve the homebrews?

    Lastly, should the IT community want to preserve the homebrew, white box PC movement? If so, why? Or, should IT embrace the commoditization of PCs and refocus our energy elsewhere?

    Posted by Bill Detwiler

    Let them go

    There is no "embracement" of the commoditization of PCs. As I said in my opening statement, there is only "Acceptance" in this stage of our collective Kubler-Rossian grief model.

    We should be refocusing on supporting and building our line of business apps, and undergoing transformation processes that shift as much of our infrastructure to the Datacenter and Cloud as possible, and that includes moving desktops to VDI and DaaS. That may be very hard for some folks to accept but that is the path that has been laid for our industry going forward.

    Jason Perlow

    I am for Dead

    We need choice

    Absolutely, and for one reason – choice.

    OEMs are driven by the desire to maximize profits drive prices into the dirt as much as possible. While this is great for the majority of users who see PCs are a disposable commodity, for people who want PCs capable of carrying out certain tasks well, it's not such a great thing.

    My belief is that the death of the homebrew PC will be the death of the PC as a whole. At that point the PC will become a commoditized, disposable items much in the way that smartphones and tablets are. At that point the PC is dead, and the IT landscape will be changed forever.

    Adrian Kingsley-Hughes

    I am for Alive

  • Great Debate Moderator

    That's it

    Thanks to the debaters for a very lively discussion. Tune in Wednesday for the closing arguments and Thursday for my choice for winner.

    A special thanks to all of you for joining in. Please vote.

    Posted by Bill Detwiler

Talkback

72 comments
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  • What's The Target Market

    Home brewing different than whiteboxing. If you add the 'Internet of Things' and X86-based appliances into the white box or 'system builder' description, then it tips to ALIVE. If it's commodity PCs, then DEAD.

    So target market clarification helpful for your voters.

    Good debate.
    Platformula1
    Reply 2 Votes I'm Undecided
  • Depends on your long-term goals

    Awhile back I was looking at setting up a home server. For $99 I bought a refurb Compaq at MicroCenter that came with a 40GB Western Digital IDE, 256 or 512MB DDR RAM (don't recall which), keyboard, mouse, Pentium 4 and XP Pro. My plan was to add an external USB with two 1TB drives. In fact, I replaced the 40GB with an EIGHT GB drive, since it would really need only the OS. As I have retired other 2005-era hardware I've bumped the RAM up to 2GB. I actually wound up not setting up the server. But the point is that THAT would have worked fine.

    If you just want "done and won't change", then buy a name brand. But if you will EVER upgrade the mobo, video or power supply you NEED to custom build. I try to keep individual upgrades to $100 max, which is very doable except when replacing an OLD mobo. (On 2 machines I went from 2005-era Asrock to 2009-era Asus, which, of course, required replacing mobo, CPU, CPU fan AND RAM, around $200 total per machine.)

    Pre-builts NORMALLY have non-replaceable mobos because the physical layout isn't standard. Name pre-builts come with CUSTOMIZED Windows. If you buy a Dell and try to replace the mobo with a non-Dell, the OS will refuse to boot. So what you save up front on the OS you'll wind up having to spend later on to buy an upgrade CD, e.g., Dell custom XP Pro upgrade to MS XP Pro.

    Also, pre-builts normally have underpowered power supplies for that specific hardware configuration. Want to upgrade the video? The P/S can't handle it. And the physical layout of the P/S is non-standard, so you can't just swap it out. Gotta buy from the PC manufacturer for WAY more than an off-the-shelf P/S would cost.
    Rick_R
    Reply 3 Votes I'm Undecided
  • sometimes a custom solution is best-fit

    I had 6x400gb SATAII drives laying around and said "hey I want a fault-tolerant backup solution" so I went w/ freenas (since we all know how "fault tolerant" USB hdd's are lol).

    There is no pre-build solution outside of a super-expensive NAS chassis. For under $200 an AMD FM1 build very similar to Adrian's can be had with a case that supports 8x hdd and 2x 120mm fans to cool them, add a 2Gb USB stick to boot, done.

    I liked it so much I got 3 more of those FM1 combos for HTPC use, and ditched FIOS TV (a $70 per month savings), the whole backup / media streaming setup will be absolutely free in another year.
    ~doolittle~
    Reply 1 Vote I'm for Alive
  • Things to consider

    Things to consider:

    -It's always been a hobby thing, at least as long as I can remember. Your average person has never really built their own system.

    -Gaming is a multi-billion dollar industry. I'm not sure how anybody gets insignificant or "niche" from that. They'd rather repeat what they've heard in the echo chamber of the internet than actually look at the facts.

    -NewEgg and TigerDirect are still in business, and they seem to be doing fine.

    -Building a system is the best way to tailor a system to your needs. If you have special computing needs of some sort, building your own system (or having somebody build it for you) may be your best option.

    Are hobbyists and gamers done building systems? Nah. I seriously doubt it. Sure, there's the "average joe" who doesn't need the power or flexibility of a custom system - but they never built systems in the first place, so they don't really count towards whether building is "alive" or "dead."

    So I'm gonna vote "alive." I'm still building my own systems, and unless both NewEgg and TigerDirect go out of business, I see no reason to stop building them.

    And oh, yeah: I consider "dead" to be a vastly overused term in the tech press. Microsoft was declared "dead" for 20+ years, and so many times I've seen perfectly profitable businesses declared "dead" that I wonder if it really has any meaning anymore.

    Frankly, "dead" for a business should be reserved for "it's disappeared from the planet because it went bankrupt with no chance of a restructuring fixing things."

    **NOBODY** outside of the tech press uses the the term "dead" as loosely as I've seen here. "Death" means it's over, it's final, it's gone, there's no chance of recovering.

    -It does *NOT* mean "I like a newer technology better."
    -It does *NOT* mean "they're a small niche market now."
    -It does *NOT* mean "it lost 95% of its market share, but is still turning a profit and will continue at a lower share in the future."
    -It does *NOT* mean "I hate them."
    -It does *NOT* mean "I want them to go away."

    None of that stuff makes something dead, sorry. I'm sick and tired of overuse of the term.

    Oh, and "dead" is not the same word as "dying" either. Something may be dying but not dead.
    CobraA1
    Reply 11 Votes I'm for Alive
    • Buggy Whip Makers...

      ...Are still in business. The manufacture tack and carriage whips for those romantic park rides.

      Some of the firms that fabricated buggy wheel-bearings did the same and are doing the same today for car manufacturers.

      Niche or hobbyist markets maintain nicely or don't most of the readers here believe that home looms, glassblowing, and pottery lack modern adherents?

      JJB
      JJ Brannon
      Reply 2 Votes I'm Undecided
      • Chicago voting?

        I voted for "I'm for Alive".

        That's not what was recorded.

        JJB
        JJ Brannon
        Reply 2 Votes I'm Undecided
      • We can say the same about slide rules (have you ever seen one?)

        Skills were lost when the slide rule business dried up. Humans figured out how to get to, and land on, the Moon using slide rules but times change.

        In 1970, you could spend $100 for a high-end bamboo slide rule. Today, a free smartphone app can do the same calculations that put Humans on the Moon.

        In the end, even though there are still people making buggy whips and shoeing horses and making firearms by hand, these are, for all intents and purposes, DEAD industries.
        M Wagner
        Reply 1 Vote I'm Undecided
        • They're not dead.

          They may no longer be the size they once were but they are by no means dead.
          ye
          Reply 3 Votes I'm Undecided
        • I know many

          engineers who still use slide rules.

          I have also been inside a local Walmart when the power went out during a storm and the backup lights came on but the registers were not on that power supply. The store manager got calculators off the shelf for all the checkers to use. I already added my stuff up in my head before they could get the first calculator out of the packaging.

          The US sucks at math these days. Sad but true...
          DancesWithTrolls
          Reply 2 Votes I'm Undecided
        • They are not

          Slide rules are not dead. Number of people using them have diminished, but dead they are not.
          http://www.sphere.bc.ca/test/sliderule.html
          Have you used calculator apps in scientific mode in smartphones? They are either confusing when trying to imitate physical calcs or full of useless functions.
          The number of people assembling computers or using home-built ones is smaller than 10 years ago, but dead? Not yet.
          Aristarco Palacios
          Reply 3 Votes I'm Undecided