Is the "Enthusiast" category dead?

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I was perusing a few of the latest Windows 11 articles (I’m still on Windows 10) out of habit and I realized something – I’m simply not that interested anymore. And not just Microsoft/Windows but technology in general. I still remember the excitement and midnight watch parties for Windows 95. I would eagerly await and follow all updates for Windows and Microsoft products. Ditto their dev stack. And I’m certainly not enthused about Apple, Google, or any other tech nor do I really get excited about any tech site.

Does the “enthusiast” category really even exist anymore? Is it just me and part of getting older? Technology is just a tool now – the OS industry is mature and mostly stagnant. Some cool things come out from time to time (Rasberry Pi). But tech is just a tool to get to a destination or facilitate the journey. That’s it.

Anyone else feel the same way? Is the enthusiast category dead or perhaps shifted elsewhere?

Comments (36)

36 responses to “Is the "Enthusiast" category dead?”

  1. james.h.robinson

    Part of it is getting older and having "seen it all before." I've been there, also. But in addition to that, tech has always been primarily a tool.


    That being said, there are some interesting things coming down the pike. The cloud and AR/VR/Metaverse are two things that might be interesting in the near future. I guess we'll see.

    • j5

      That’s me at this point, seen it before. I’ve teens at home no so they suck up all my money and time. I don’t have time or money to spend a weekend downloading and formatting computers, spending hours surfing the net. I’m more deliberate with my tech purchases now. My close circle of geek friends are in the same boat as me so we mostly chat and talk smack concerning tech but not buying every new gadget or installing betas or new software.

      I keep my finger on the pulse of tech via sites like the great Thurrott.com and aggregation sites. But nothing is also very exciting right now anyways. I’ve made posts here about this before but there’s hasn’t really been any new tech innovations. It’s all smaller and faster, newer and more expensive. But nothing that’s wow that’s amazing. I can do pretty much every normie tech thing on my M1 Mac Mini/ASUS 2017 laptop, iPad Air, and iPhone. I don’t need to upgrade to do anything critical or important or life change or entertainment “game changing” either.

    • wright_is

      VR was old-hat in the mid 90s. I haven't really seen it move forward since then (in terms of a killer application for "normals"). The same with AR, there have been some nice niches for it for the last couple of decades, but no mainstream use case.


      The same with "cloud", it was a great eye opener in the 1970s and 1980s, but then local computing came along and we could actually achieve much more locally and weren't reliant on somebody else keeping the systems online. A hybrid environment, where you work locally and your data is mirrored centrally is great, but being 100% reliant on other people's systems and a connection to that system is a step back in time, for me.

  2. red.radar

    Its partly a product that Big Tech companies are no longer solving problems that most users experience. They are peddling solutions to niche issues at best. So products are evolving to maintain bottom lines.






  3. jchampeau

    I think for me, my lack of enthusiasm comes from the fact that little in tech is novel anymore and that it's all become so mainstream. There isn't much you can show your friends or colleagues and have their faces light up. When Windows 95 came out, it was revolutionary. When I first got DSL installed, I stayed up until 4:00 in the morning just seeing what I could find on the web--mostly by crawling Yahoo. When my bank first offered online access, it was like a miracle in that I could check my account every day if I wanted to without being subject to their obnoxious IVR (phone prompts). And back then, I needed to keep very close track. :) When I got a Mirotek flatbed scanner in the late 1990s, a friend came over and painstakingly scanned stacks of pictures and saved the scans to floppy disks. Nowadays, everyone has access to everything they can imagine from the phone in their pocket.

  4. vladimir

    It seems that a lot of people feel like this today. I find it extremely difficult to disentangle age from this feeling, we are all getting older, more experienced, having seen a lot of things already.

    It's extremely difficult to be an enthusiast of Microsoft products nowadays. Most of them are just work tools that we want to escape as much as possible. Surface became mostly overpriced underwhelming hardware. Windows 11 is not innovative, just a nicer but dumbed down version of win10, with less features, especially for power users, more ads and potential compatibility/driver issues. I tried it out on a secondary machine but, for the first time ever, I don't even think about installing it on my primary one. It's a lose-lose situation.

    I have never been interested in google, amazon, samsung etc. I was an Apple entusiast for 10 years but their abusive behaviour became too much for me. Moreover it also became very boring. Only the Mx chip developments are still a bit interesting.

    However, in spite of my age (approaching 50) I still feel as a tech entushiast in niche fields. For example i love aviation, so I am always after the latest hotas, yoke, head tracking and vr headset. I am also much more attracted by events dedicated to gaming and music technology.

  5. 2ilent8cho

    I think enthusiast still exists just not in the Windows world. Windows use to excite me, in the NT4, Windows 2000, XP, 3.1, 95, 98, ME days. I still feel warm and fuzzy inside when I see videos or images of Windows 95 with the Plus! pack installed and those cool themes applied. Windows 2000 was the last OS I was ever enthusiastic, XP with a few clicks could be made almost like Windows 2000, once you turned off the start of the downfall by Microsoft with 'Simple File Sharing', 'Simple View Control Panel' and fisher price mode interface. Everything since has been painful and annoying, not a joy to use, so hard to get enthusiastic about something that gets in the way more than it excites.


    Once I jumped to Mac and other Apple products 12 years ago my enthusiasm came back and its still here today. I use to be enthusiastic about console gaming, but again Microsoft had the amazing Xbox 360, loved the blades interface, they slowly (like with Windows) made it worse, the interface got annoying, then they kill my enthusiasm in Xbox with the Xbox One and the disaster that become, so I jumped to PS4. Sony unlike Microsoft got it right, they made the PS4 a games console first, media centre second, invested in VR which I got enthusiastic over and love on my PS4. Just keep Microsoft out of your life and the enthusiasm and excitement will be there. Microsoft products have gone from being fun, interesting and creative 20 years ago to boring, obnoxious, unintuitive , infuriating and badly designed things. If you want the classic example just look at Settings compared to Control Panel on Windows, it's worse in every way, progress eh?

  6. longhorn

    Unwillingness to make software better from an ergonomical perspective makes me use Linux. The worst desktop platform is the best in this regard because it offers both system font size and system font DPI scaling. Look at the small fonts in macOS (also in Windows). You can't adjust them without scaling the entire screen output. Also scaling sucks on every desktop platform. There doesn't seem to be dedicated UI element scaling. Instead you get scaling of the entire view area which means you lose effective pixels. 1920x1200 shows as 1536x960 effective pixels in Windows.


    Why does content scale when it is the UI that is supposed to scale? Content scaling should be handled by browsers, picture viewers etc. All I want in Windows is to set 10 or 12 point system font, not scale the entire screen. Windows XP was more advanced in this regard since you could adjust the font size.


    The dumbing down of UIs doesn't inspire confidence in new software. Ridiculous system requirements that are nothing but installer checks also make one wonder.


    Hardware has gotten better though... I could buy a Mac, but I'm not going to sacrifice all those pixels just to have decent font size in macOS. In Linux I use 12 point system font, because I find it relaxing for my eyes. In Windows I have to set scaling to 125 % and I don't like it because of the real estate that I lose.


    There should be more focus on software ergonomy, not fashion design. Light/Dark mode is also a bit extreme since many users are probably comfortable with something in-between like old-school OSX. Just to be fair; I think Windows 11 looks nice and macOS too. We have access to a lot of advanced software today that wasn't as easy to use or didn't even exist 20 years ago. We are getting there... but not following a straight line. Things are moving in circles and it's hard to tell if software is getting better or worse - it all depends on your specific use case.


    • rob_segal

      As a Mac user, I find macOS very readable. Of course, that won't apply to everyone, but Apple's choice of font and design of sizes is pretty good. Mac's screen resolution helps because of the lack of pixelation at normal viewing distances. I also find content density in macOS to be very good and the interface very consistent. I just wanted to present another viewpoint.


      I'm a proponent of simplifying UI's and UX. Windows and some services are too complex and too inconsistent.

  7. Truffles

    For me there are XXX factors:


    First, I'm older now and want computers to 'just work' because I can't hope to diagnose a problem.


    Second, computer hardware and operating systems are so complicated that I can't tinker with the hardware or with the OS. I remember soldering stuff on to the motherboard of my first computer, I remember reading and actually understanding the 6502 assembly code of its entire operating system. Now its impossible to customise hardware via the soldering iron, and I suspect there's probably not more than a handful of people on earth who could confidently claim to have read and understood the entirety of MacOS or Win11 OS code.


    Third, CPU instruction sets are hugely complex. I was always a 6'er rather than 8'er, but I could happily write quite large programs using either of those CPU instruction sets. But it became increasingly difficult and I gave up by the time the 68000 et al generations came along. That said, it also became increasingly unnecessary to eke out performance by shaving every clock cycle.


    Fourth, the 70s and early 80s saw a cambrian explosion of home computers. Every month I'd buy a computer magazine to see a whole range of new and evolutionarily distinct computers. Then the windows/x86 PC began to dominate and the remaining ecosystem went extinct with only expensive Apples holding on by their finger tips on an isolated island. When Linux came along I added a partition to my NT 3.51 PC, eventually got X11 going and never looked back. Its been forever since I submitted a patch, and I'm certain Linux is now too complex for normal people to contribute.


    Fifth, Microsoft sucked all the money from the software ecosystem. There was a period when I'd eagerly read magazine shootouts between the year's top 10 databases, top 10 word processors or the top 10 spreadsheets, but now there's a monoculture where only Microsoft grows.


    In summary, when I was younger I had time but no money, now I have money but no time.

  8. justme

    Oh, I think its still there - we wouldnt be reading what Paul writes if it werent. Its a bit more fractured now, given how tech has exploded, but its still there.


    I do think it is part of getting older. As we get older, we get more experience, and in many cases, more cynical and skeptical of what we see. We get to a point where we just want things to work but sadly simply expect them not to. We hear about something like Windows 11 - which at one point may have excited us all - and we simply lower our expectations because we know Microsoft (or Apple or Google - I'm not picking on just Microsoft here) are going to screw things up. We simply expect Microsoft to be stupid about something in what they release because of years of experience dealing with these sorts of issues.


    Put another way - every time I think Microsoft have turned a corner, its like they look at me and say "Hold my beer..." Well, I get thisrty too, so if they keep giving me the beer to hold, I'm likely to eventually drink it and walk away.


    I also am nostalgic for the days when movies werent spoiled, and you went to the theater and lined up for hours to see your favorite release. People dressing in costume of their favorite characters. People being genuinely happy coming out of a theater. There used to be a buzz when films were released. Now...meh. I must be getting old.

  9. jason_e

    LOL. No, just because you have lost interest does not mean the enthusiast category is dead. I'm in my early 50's and technology still excites me. But there is more to it than operating systems, computers and phones. There is so much technology out there its hard to keep up but I have fun trying.

  10. earlster

    Not just tech, but many other things, for example, cars are just not that exciting anymore, they are either boring or completely unaffordable. There isn't a lot of crazy exciting and feeding the enthusiast community anymore.

    It might also be that I'm old and busy, my teenage son is still getting excited about the latest graphics cards, CPUs, or games, and even better he started loving (slightly older) cars and wanting to work on them. Now, that's getting me excited, too.

  11. sentinel6671

    "It's not dead, it's just resting"


    :)


    (Whacks the enthusast against a table repeatedly..."Hello, enthusiast!!")

  12. wunderbar

    The enthusiast market is still there, but people change over time. I used to get super excited, building my own PC, tinkering an customizing windows, etc.


    but I work in IT and I tinker/play with/fight with Windows/Microsoft products all day long at work. the last thing I want to do after work is do more of that same thing.

  13. txag

    Having read all these responses, I guess I have one empirical data point. I downgraded from Premium to free membership, mostly because I had other (non tech related) uses for the money with higher priority. I guess that's a measure of lower enthusiasm.

  14. dmitryko

    "Enthusiast" category is not dead, and it certainly has nothing to do with age, if you look at car/plane/train etc. enthusiast communities. It's just hard to be enthusiastic about mediocre software and underperforming hardware.


    Intel nearly killed the desktop PC by stalling CPU development for the entirety of the last decade, and similarily Microsoft is going to kill the Windows home PC by pressuring half-baked, touch-based phone UI from Windows 10X on desktop users and calling it "Windows 11".


    After they totally blew up the desktop software ecosystem by forcing the "modern" mobile WinRT/UWP model on software developers, they probably think there's no need for Windows enthusiasts anymore, because they can be replaced by billions of ChromeOS and Android users who will be happy to run their "apps" on giant screens. Well, good luck with that.


    I recall I've upgraded several dozen PCs to Windows 10 and helped maintain them, which wasn't easy given the extremely buggy Windows Update process which just stops working after several months of update. I certainly don't want to repeat this with Windows 10X 11, but thankfully it will be quite a rare sight with these stupid system requirements. So good riddance, Microsoft, and your stupid "mobile first, cloud first" mantra. It looks like SteamOS/Proton is finally going to make it.

  15. wright_is

    I used to be the same, and with some technologies, E.g. ARM processors, especially Raspberry Pi and Apple M1 (taking opposite ends of the performance spectrum) are fascinating still.


    But in terms of the desktop OSes, I always looked forward to the next version. I still do with Linux and, to a lesser extent, macOS - I haven't owned a Mac in about a decade, although I just ordered a mini. I always installed the latest Windows 10 release the day it came out and used my company laptop as a test-bed, before unleashing it on the rest of our fleet.


    But with Windows 11, especially, but Windows S/S-Mode, whatever the name dejour is, never really interested me. They have been dumbing it down and removing features with each new release, making it harder to use and replacing power user features with adverts for irrelevant apps, or worse.


    Android is similar, I've been using Android since Microsoft dropped Windows Phone. But it is becoming more and more of a privacy nightmare and I finally gave up on it last month and bought an iPhone. I don't think iOS is much better, from a use point of view, but it is the only choice that takes privacy even half way seriously.


    (Yes, I could try and root my phone and put /e/ or something similar on it, but I need a reliable and safe phone and I don't want online banking, mobile payment etc. apps complaining that the device isn't secure. 5 years ago, rooting would have been an option, but with bank payment apps, it is now a no-go for me.


    Cloud technology seems to be a step backwards to me, to the dinosaur days of computing, when I first started. All data held centrally and liable to system outages that takes away everybody's ability to work. With distributed data, we could finally carry on working when the central services failed. If a user's machine failed, only the user was affected.


    Now, with cloud, you are reliant of the internet connection and the cloud service being available. Neither of which is guaranteed - a builder dug through the main cable into our town a couple of year back. We were without internet (and telephone) for 3 days and had limited service (1mbps) for 3 weeks, until they could replace and re-splice the main cable.


    Recently, our main office was hit with outages, as the internet provider laid new cables in the street, they dug through the old one about 6 times in 2 days!


    Having data mirrored on a central server is great. Relying on it being online for your work is not so great.

    • lwetzel

      Yes for me I have discovered Raspberry Pi and it takes me back to the early days of Personal Computers when we made some of our own accessories and learned programing and it was just fun.

  16. ngc224

    Software is never “wow” anymore, which I guess is a sign of maturity and not necessarily a bad thing.


    Although I’m not an Apple guy, their new chips appear pretty “wow.”


    The Microsoft Surface line is just embarrassing. Bought and paid for “tech journalists” falling over themselves to try and praise it.


    Microsoft really makes it hard to be an enthusiast/fan.

  17. simont

    For me anyway, partly just getting older and partly because technology is just becoming another commodity product unless you look at the really specialised/high end stuff.

    • wright_is

      This, plus new releases of software seem to be dumbing things down and making it harder to use at the same time - i.e. power user features, which allowed you to quickly accomplish every day tasks are disappearing and being replaced by adverts instead.


      A prime example is jump lists being removed in Windows 11.

  18. rob_segal

    There's still a lot of enthusiasm surrounding Apple releases. Sony Playstation and Nintendo, too. Enthusiasm for Microsoft products and services from consumers hasn't been strong for over a decade now. Even with Xbox, enthusiasm seemed to have waned.

    • bkkcanuck

      I think that is a combination of things that have to come together - along with your potential interest. From the vendor's side, the vendor has to be able to not only tease you with new hardware, but also be able to tempt you with what it can do -- that you could not do before. I would not say I get enthused about a new version of a mature operating system, curious and interested to see what is new... but that by itself is not enough. So for Windows, that puts Microsoft in difficult situation when it comes to the enthusiasts... A vendor has to be able to draw enough of a story that the 'enthusiest' can start to extrapolate quite a number of possibilities of interest. So for those that have an interest in console gaming, both Sony and Microsoft were able to tease you with new unified architectures that has real promise to many console gamers - and those gamers then can extrapolate at what new games could do with the hardware that they could not do before. For Apple and the M1 release, Apple was able to do the same with their hardware - it is so far ahead of the last generation that it helps drive enthusiasm in the existing hardware and what that hardware has the possibility of being used before that was not before (combination of hardware and systems software that has real promise). Failure to deliver on that promise - and you could lose that enthusiasm -- and once you do that -- it is much more difficult to rekindle that. VR/AR has that potential going forward (for me), but I am not really a gamer, and the software or services for such hardware have not appeared (education, history, learning... that is what potentially interests me with AR/VR... I see what it could potentially do... but so far... not much has come to fruition.

  19. spacein_vader

    Enthusiasts have just split into smaller niches. Windows/linux/MacOS enthusiasts, gaming enthusiasts, emulation enthusiasts, art enthusiasts, crypto enthusiasts, IOT enthusiast, mobile enthusiasts, hobbiest (i.e. single board computers like the Pi,) enthusiasts.


    We're all still here, just the bigger label of enthusiast isn't descriptive enough for the niches we've found.

    • yaddamaster

      that's a fascinating take. Essentially, technology itself has allowed us to further specialize and tribalize. So rather than having larger, more generic "platforms" to gather and enthuse about (say Windows) we now find those few other people who are likewise enthused about something we like.

    • arnstarr

      Just like music lovers!

  20. innitrichie

    Yes I feel the same way. I struggle to get excited about technology anymore - both hardware and software. I actually wish I felt the same excitement as others clearly still do, especially those of a similar age to me, but I'm just not in that place anymore.

    I don't care that my PC won't run Windows 11, I'm not bothered that the camera in my phone is at least a few generations behind current technology, and I have no interest in the rumours surrounding new Apple products, Samsung products, and Google products.


    I still read this site because Paul writes about issues that interest me. Especially the political issues surrounding the big tech corporations, and some of the user-hostile decisions Microsoft continues to make.

  21. F4IL

    > Does the “enthusiast” category really even exist anymore?


    It does but for most people it mostly exists within the confines of a consumerist POV, one that necessitates purchasing new and shiny gadgets ever so often to help sustain adequate dopamine levels. And then there are the fanboy niches.


    To a certain degree I can relate. I remember been excited while browsing the computer section of the local bookstore for a Delphi 4 dev guide and dashing home to create the first example where you click on a button that puts the "Hello World!" string on a label. I had no idea about vcl or event handlers but the prospect of learning and cultivating a proficiency excited me more than computer games. For me this kind of excitement was never there with smartphones, tablets, laptops or even Windows. I discovered Paul's blog (winsupersite) due to an article about the channel9 series "The Visual Studio Documentary" not because of some "enthusiasm" or sense of community about Windows or Xbox or something else. I was always more interested in reading instruction manuals, man-pages and learning about the technology than buying stuff. The former gave me the opportunity to learn and view topics I'd simply never even consider and maintain a high enough interest to stay hooked. Had I not done my homework I'd just find them boring and insignificant. I'd probably view an OS as something soccer moms use to browse recipes and message their friends.


    In short I feel lucky discovering my initial affinity for technology but have to admit that keeping the enthusiasm alive takes a lot of work.

  22. james.h.robinson

    Also my Microsoft interest now leans more toward Azure, especially Azure's data services. The consumer side (outside of Xbox) doesn't light my fire nearly as much.


  23. ianbetteridge

    Half of me reminisces about the days when you had to hack stuff together, and then I watch an antique tech video which reminds me about things like setting jumpers to get a new processor to work and I run screaming back into the glorious present.

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