I was in a deep discussion with a friend the other day, concerning the human body, and how we are indeed compound creatures. It is always interesting to hear someone speaking about how they want to lose weight in certain parts of their body and not in others; this is apparently one of the biggest misconceptions of human physiology. But in fact, we are compound beings, as in we are intertwined in such complex manners that it is virtually impossible to “take us apart”.
Reciprocally, the same is true about exercising muscles; in the world of exercise and especially body building, you have two major categories of exercises, isolated exercises and compound exercises. The former deals with concentrating on the effort and strength of a single muscle group, while the latter deals with collaborative muscle effort used to exercise multiple muscle groups simultaneously.
Wait a second… doesn’t that contradict what I said earlier?
Well not really, because in either case, whether you are using isolated or compound exercises, you will in both cases inevitably be exercising more than one muscle group at a time; the difference herein lies in the fact that isolated exercises will just be more muscle-specific in relativity to compound exercises. The biggest take-home from this is that taking the singular (isolated) approach can be a rather deformative experience, especially if you’re no expert when it comes to body building techniques. And I for one have seen one too many blokes endorsing this approach, and then walking around with puffed up chests, gargantuan arms, only to be supported by flat shoulders and a pair of chicken legs. The compound approach however differs in this manner, in that it provides the body with an exercise that will help all the main and supporting muscles to exercise at a more uniform rate so that the whole body forms a more unified form of shape and strength.
Ok, so I’m sure you’re probably wondering by now what all of this has to do with technology; given that this is a tech blog after all… it’s simple!
Like most structures in this world, we are all based on complexity and interconnectivity; this is how things evolve, so-to-speak. We start off with a simple building block and then we keep on building and growing block by block, until you reach a point where you have one large complex mechanism with multiple functioning parts that all depend on each other in order to work properly. This, my dear reader, is an explanation of the human body and analogously it is also the explanation of the regular computer, as we know it; desktop, laptop, server, tablet, etc. it’s irrelevant since they all pretty much function in somewhat of the same manner with very similar architectures.
The point that I’m reaching is that computers, just like humans, are compounded structures that consist of many smaller parts that run diverse tasks in order to function properly and efficiently, fortunately though they are discrete non-organic structures whose parts can be isolated almost perfectly. So let’s take the exercising concept above and apply it to a computer. Let’s assume that an isolated exercise is the same as upgrading a single entity of your computer, like bumping up your CPU from a regular mainstream model, to a high-end performance CPU. Then let’s take a compound exercise to be the equivalent of upgrading your CPU from a regular mainstream model, to an above average performance model, while simultaneously upgrading your motherboard and RAM to go along with it.
Which of these two approaches do you believe will give you the bigger overall performance bump?
In most general cases, the second approach should be the one that you pick. Lots of factors need to be considered here in order to understand why this is so. First and foremost, the infatuation that lots of people tend to have with the CPU clock frequency is nothing more than a best-practice method that was used in the old days when the computer’s workload relied almost entirely on the CPU itself. At that point in time we had a linear system which relied mostly on the number of cycles that you could squeeze out of that poor processor. With time and evolution however, this all changed.
Computers nowadays have evolved to becoming really complex devices that no longer depend solely on one single entity such as their CPU. Just like the human body requires that you have a healthy amount of muscle in all muscle groups in order for them to function well and support one another, so do computers.
So what’s the verdict? Simple!
The next time you decide to upgrade your computer because it just isn’t performing as you wish anymore, or you want to buy a whole new setup, but you don’t want to bust out an arm and a leg to do so, pick your parts in a smart way. Don’t go and toss all your money on a shiny new processor just because it will give you a few extra 100’s of MHz and then buy crappy other elements and an oger for a HDD. Instead study the computer, investigate each device and how well it performs and figure out what parts will essentially give you the high-end performance that you’re looking; evidently you should be looking for the bottleneck… and guess what? In most configurations, it’s barely ever the CPU.
In most cases nowadays, given the massive processing power that CPU’s have reached and the insane memory capacities and speeds that memory has reached, the two most common shortcomings that most consumers will overlook when it comes to computer performance are the graphics card and the HDD. My general advice for most average computer users recently has been to invest less on the beastly high-end processors and instead consider spending a little more on a hybrid disk drive (such as the Momentus XT) or even better, for more flexibility and freedom of design, a SSD and HDD combination for the ultimate sweet spot of speed versus capacity.
The selling point here is that you need to find the sweet spot in hardware combinations that will give you the best bang for your buck. But then again, it all really depends on the perceived and intended nature of the performance boost that you are looking for… is it responsiveness, reactivity, snappiness, or just the overall waiting time?
P.S. Stay tuned for an upcoming post on how to leverage almost any computer setup, with an SSD for sucking all the performance juice you can possibly get out of it… as well as a surprise giveaway that will be given out to one lucky winner. 😉