I live in a state where it's legal to buy weed, but not high-end gaming PCs

It's a strange, strange new world, boys and girls!
Written by David Gewirtz, Senior Contributing Editor

You can't buy one in California, Colorado, Hawaii, Oregon, Vermont and Washington.


Sometimes I feel like I live in Bizzaro World or Star Trek's mirror universe. Stuff is just so darned weird these days.

No, I'm not talking about global pandemics. I'm not even talking about whether boorish billionaire boffins should launch themselves on priapic projectiles into low Earth orbit instead of, well, doing anything else that's not as insane and selfish.

I'm not talking about [insert whatever is your most bonkers belief here]. I'm not talking about mystery seeds from China, whether Subway bread is bread and tuna is tuna, whether we're living in the time of the apocalypse (or it's just around the next blind corner), or even anything and everything the Royal Family is doing.

No, I'm talking about Dell Alienware PCs.

You see, there's a new law in effect in California, Colorado, Hawaii, Oregon, Vermont and Washington. According to Dell, via The Register:

"This was driven by the California Energy Commission (CEC) Tier 2 implementation that defined a mandatory energy efficiency standard for PCs - including desktops, AIOs and mobile gaming systems. This was put into effect on July 1, 2021. Select configurations of the Alienware Aurora R10 and R12 were the only impacted systems across Dell and Alienware."

So, yeah, you're now (effective July 1) not allowed to buy some high-end machines in these states.

Similar regulations exist in the other five states. This all relates to the premise that computing at our current energy usage rates won't be sustainable over time. According to a 2015 report by the Semiconductor Industry Association, "computing will not be sustainable by 2040 when the energy required for computing will exceed the estimated world's energy production."

According to the Natural Resources Defense Council, California's new regulations (they're not even factoring in all of us in Oregon and the other states) could "save more than 2.3 billion kilowatt-hours of electricity a year-equivalent to annual electricity use by all the homes in San Francisco-and avoid 730 000 tons a year of climate-disrupting carbon pollution from fossil fuel-fired power plants."

NRDC further estimates that "electricity use would be cut by 20 billion kilowatt hours-equivalent to the output of seven coal-fired power plants-and carbon pollution would be reduced by 14 million metric tons per year."

Fortunately, you're not prevented from buying your own parts and building your own honking PC if you want. My last super-honker tower rig had a 1050 watt power supply in it, driving a bunch of gaming cards and a dozen hard drives. The regulations don't prevent us from building this -- you just can't buy something super-powerful and power-hungry in ready-built form.

In other words, with great power comes great responsibility.

Look, I'm not saying that it's not absolutely critically important to saving energy. Every report I've read shows a pretty dire future for humanity if we don't start paying attention to our natural resources.

I'm just saying that it feels odd to live in a state where you can legally buy marijuana and magic mushrooms, but not a high-end gaming rig. As for me, my drug of choice is caffeine. There aren't nearly as many coffee shops in Oregon as there are dispensaries (let that sink in), but there are plenty of nice drive-through coffee kiosks. As long as I can get coffee, and as long as it's still legal to order obscenely powerful power supplies, processors, and video cards as components if a special-purpose machine is truly needed, I'm good with whatever regulations help us reduce our energy usage.

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