Midnight Pub

# The Value of Tech


I've heard it said that there's a rule, called the "Law of Engineering" or similar. It states that if a thing is possible, the price of that thing will eventually drop to effectively free. This article is my experience with that law.


In high school my best friend and I worked together to build a pair of computers, one for him, one for me. These were genuine hacker boxes, big ugly beige towers, wonky hex screws, the works. The price per machine was around $1400 in 199X dollars. We had both saved from our jobs for a WHILE to build them.

Of course I don't remember the exact specs, but they were something like:

We both already had VGA monitors.

And we were pretty happy with the machines we built!


I currently have 4 or 5 Raspberrys Pi running in my house doing various things. A Raspberry Pi Zero W costs about $10, and is a better computer in every way than the machine I built in high school (other than the disk drives).

I realize this is mostly just me sounding old, sometimes it feels wasteful to use ALL THAT POWER to run a small 12 key keyboard, or an ad blocker, or a Gemini capsule that gets a few visitors a day. Shouldn't I be using all those wasted cycles? Shouldn't I use less powerful hardware to free up those cycles for some other purpose?

But honestly, an Arduino style board is usually MORE than $5, and is less flexible. It's often the right tool for the job, but a Raspberry Pi Zero is just so useful. I'm good at Linux admin, I can handle setting up a headless machine over ssh and keeping it safe and secure while it does whatever task I give it.


Raspberry Pi Zero
The Keybow!
The Pi-hole is a lovely way to keep bad stuff™ off your network
My Gemini server of choice
Note: Cross-posted to my gemlog on my personal capsule. I might stop doing that at some point. Or not. Not sure. 😃


It seems like the *coolest* way of running the smallest tasks would be to use refurbished/repurposed hardware somehow, but that's awful effort-intensive.



I use RPi 3b+ for monitoring the voltage, current and wattages for my solar power setup at home.



Oooh! We are in the middle of setting up solar, I should look into that! Is there a specific project set up that you're using or did you homebrew it?



It is completely home designed and brewed. I can probably answer solar setup questions and point you in the right direction.



Great to see you brightblue! I've always wanted to try a Raspberry Pi but somehow never got to buy one... yet. I might invest in my new toy now. :)

It's impressive to see how fast tech has changed. I remember how in awe I was as a kid to look at computers. I could spend days in a computer store looking at all the CDs, cables and machines.

I wonder if kids are still as fascinated by computers as we could have been. I'd imagine so. It's just that it's so common now.



I think it's a whole different kind of fascination now. My oldest two kids are into computers but in very different ways; the oldest likes to tinker with the OS and apps and stuff, the next one down likes programming but isn't as fond of dealing with the OS.