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Written by Steven Moeller   
Thursday, 14 February 2013

How Tablet PCs Could Save Civilization as We Know It

I've read many articles published by various editors on the death of the Desktop PC at the hand of Tablets, and I don't put much stock in them. I, personally, will never give up having a Desktop. The raw power capabilities needed for ripping, converting, editing, compiling, and securing various data will always ensure it a place in my home, until the Desktop becomes a Wrist Computer with a direct neural interface. Or, at least, that's my hope of what it will become. However, there is a potential death for the Desktop PC in the future, and it's has nothing to do with advancing technologies.

I'm referring to an event which most people don't want to consider, and few find more disconcerting than technophiles like me, an apocalypse. Now, don't misunderstand me, I'm not referring to some extinction level event of scientific or religious origins, but rather to a potential world-wide degradation of civilization, a new Dark Ages, if you will.

When you consider the rising costs of Oil, Coal, Natural Gas, and the most important product made from those raw resources, Electricity, the possibility of this seems a real enough threat. After all, what would happen to your computer if your Utility Company couldn't afford to buy those materials, or if those resources were fully used up?

There would be no more Internet, no more online encyclopedias, or "How to..." sites for the home unhandy man. You could forget about keeping up on recent world news or even just your favorite actor. Gone would be the vast repositories of books, stories, pictures, music and movies. Your own data would suffer the same fate. Your downloaded movies and music, family pictures, and any other data, would be inaccessible as soon your wall socket became a useless decoration. Or would it?

Tablets offer a glimmer of hope in this dismal potentiality. Compared to a Desktop, Tablet PCs have almost negligible power requirements, the only need being to charge their Lithium-Ion batteries. Storing important technical information on these wondrous gadgets, like how to build a windmill, the proper way to seed and plow a field, instructions for creating aqueducts and sewers, repair your home, or even how to forge steel as a blacksmith would help to ensure that our society can pull itself back up by the lapels, or even prevent it from sinking into the ugly mire that is uneducated ignorance in the first place.

I can hear you asking just how we are supposed to supply energy to these hand-held devices, without any corporate power companies. Well, that's not to hard actually. What you're going to need is 120 watts worth of solar panels, a single 60 w solar panel is available for around $65 US, an AC/DC converter meant to be used with solar power panels, available at various prices, and a high rated Uninterruptible Power Supply, or UPS for short.


Solar panels convert light from the sun into electricity, which can then be stored in a bank of batteries that could power your home day and night. The AC/DC converter will change the DC electricity provided by the solar panels to AC electricity most of your electronics are designed to run on. An UPS is a self contained battery, set of plugs, and a power cord that you can plug into your converter, which will then store electricity, provided by the solar panel in its battery, and will supply that electricity through the plugs to any electronic device you wish. This device was created to allow your computer to ignore fluctuations in the electric power grid, such as flickering lights, and to allow you time to save your data and shut down your computer during a total power loss.

By charging the UPS battery to capacity, you can then charge the battery in your Tablet. If used sparingly and turned off when not in use a Tablet that has a battery rating of 10 hours could last all day and night, and if keep a dozen or so emergency quick-chargers kept fully charged with the setup I've outlined, the tablet would never run out of juice.

Another thing we have to take into consideration is data. Most tablets have 16 or 32 Gigabytes of storage, with only the most expensive models having 64. How do we store the significant amount of data needed to rebuild civilization once new massively abundant cheap energy methods are developed by the pockets of scientist scrambling to set the world right in their underground nuclear powered Think Tanks? A little device called the External Hard-Drive.

Whether you're considering shell enclosures or docking hubs, most quality tablets have USB ports that you can use to access an External Hard-drive. More importantly, these devices need only little more energy than it takes to power the hard-drive itself. When combined with energy efficient high capacity "Green" hard-drives, you have access to much more storage. Even better, your own tebibytes (binary terabytes -editor) of data stored on the hard drives of your now defunct Desktop is accessible through this means as well. Imagine being able to relax watching a romantic comedy at night, after a good days work in the garden ensuring your family food, or looking at pictures of your kids, which you took with the digital camera that uses the rechargeable batteries you powered with the solar setup.

While it would be more sensible to have your entire home set up for solar power with a bank of batteries and an AC/DC converter/inverter to see you through the nights and rainy days, and I'd personally recommend this, it wouldn't be feasible to run a Desktop PC for more than a few hours a day on solar power. Because many Desktops are designed for powerful computing tasks, they have high power draws. My own modest computer system draws 600 watts/hour through its 850W PSU and would need at least 12 of the above mentioned solar panels to run it all on its own, and even then it could only run when there is enough sunlight. The low power requirements of a Tablet make it infinitely more desirable in a post-apocalyptic setting, and combined with high capacity "Green" hard drives, could help restore our civilization from such an apocalypse spawned Dark Age, or even prevent it outright.

COMMENT QUESTION: Do you share the author's view of Tablet PCs?

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# Reasonably powerful solar powered desktops have potential yet!flemeister 2013-02-17 00:37
Aleutia T2 Solar PC from 2010:

It used an older Atom CPU, but imagine Haswell with a 10W TDP, or perhaps an SDP version (6-7W?), in one of these. And a one (or more?) of these for mass storage:

2TB 2.5" drive, 1.7W operating power. 15mm thick for the moment, but platter density should increase pretty soon to drive power consumption down a little more.

You may not be able to keep it running 24/7, but surely it would run for longer than a few hours and provide a solid base of operation? And just use your tablet on the go. :)
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# RE: Reasonably powerful solar powered desktops have potential yet!Steven Moeller 2013-02-17 12:57
Certainly an interesting idea, and while that might work, you've overlooked the fact that every survivor could use tablets in the way I've described. If your going to use a desktop in the future I fear, you might as well have your whole house setup for solar.
The expense of rigging you house this way, usually a minimum of $10-14,000, negates most peoples willingness to do so.

On the other hand, a $200 dollar tablet, a $100 dollar hard drive and another $400 invested into an UPS, solar panels, and AC/DC inverters is something many more people are willing to consider.

Also, there's a certainty that most urban centers will fall to riots/looting/fire in such a future, and if you're grabbing stuff to get out of town, you'll grab a tablet before a desktop.

My article wasn't about how feasible solar electricity is for desktops, it was how Tablets could keep the knowledge from disappearing in a new Dark Age, thus saving society.
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# RE: RE: Reasonably powerful solar powered desktops have potential yet!flemeister 2013-02-18 05:33
Yeah I agree with your argument there, just that I remembered that video the moment I read the part in the article about desktops.

I also had more of a stable/peaceful apocalyptic scenario in my mind, eg. in the [unlikely] event that humanity worked together to hurriedly implement what we currently consider "alternative" energy sources, including solar. Oh well, maybe these low powered desktops would pop up after the initial violence subsided. Can't beat a decent sized monitor and comfy keyboard for productivity in a post-apocalyptic world! =D

P.S. The 24" Dell U2412M consumes less than 20W of power with its brightness around the 35% mark or lower. So you wouldn't be limited to the crappy 19-incher in the video I linked to above, you could have a nice 1920x1200 e-IPS display to stare at -- if the monitor survived in the first place! =)
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# 19"Steven Moeller 2013-02-22 11:16
Hey, I still game on a 19" 1440x900 screen! LOL

It's not the monitor that's an issue, in my opinion, but the graphics processing. I don't understand people who buy e-Machines and then want to "upgrade" them a year later, only to stare blankly at me when I tell them their system has no upgrade slots. This computer looks very similar to those.

I think that if you're going to use such a low-powered machine, then you might as well use tablets, which tend to be more powerful than e-Machines, with the exception of system RAM, in any case.
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# Or consider this,..Tangldweb 2013-04-04 21:42
...written materials. They have a pretty good shelf life. I have a book called Morses Geography written 5 years after President George Washington died,.. and it STILL WORKS. Not to mention if you want Awesome Video Resolution in 3D, open a Door or Window. And the doors actually lead to a pretty absorbing virtual reality I believe many have forgotten how to experience. Go ride a Bike,.. or use it to power your social network. Soylent Green is People!!!
If you really want to get Deep into this subject, I believe full size keyboards and desktops would be preffered,.. they would make much better weapons defending your Comic Book Collections. Now That's Funny, but true. :) P.S. is this an Argument or Discussion. There is a difference. hehe
As for Me,.. I'll be playin Xbox on my Big Screen thru my Sony ES surround sound system as I'm safely protected by my Great Pyreness doggies, all powered by my eu2000 honda generator powered by Corn Liquor Boys!!! didnt see that coming did ya
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# Hand CrackedUpfront 2013-04-05 02:54
How about one of those OLPC XO 3.0 Tablet? Seems much more portable than solar. It claims one hour of use for 6 minutes of cranking.
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# RE: How Tablet PCs Could Save CivilizationEric Garay 2013-04-06 12:03
I found this article apocolyptically (new word) entertaining. Sure, low power tablets could work well in some ways if the economy crashed (again) or government failed (again) but that is assuming there is some place to store all that data for some time reliably, safely. Regular platter drives aren't going to last for long and affordable solid state storage isn't here. Mobile PCs are at their cusp of an awesome switch but it's the supporting technologies that simply aren't affordable. Honestly, the last thing on my mind would be "save the tablets" during a national crisis. It would probably be more like, lets keep working on the crops, run through the daily check list, and assemble the family heads, we're going to have to help run the failed government leaders out of the country. -- Hypothetically speaking. :)
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# Business OwnerAlbert Kolkin 2013-04-06 12:50
Though I consider much of what you said true, you missed an important energy variable - water. Already the lack of water in Texas has prevented the building of needed added power facilities because of their inability to get sufficient supplies it at a reasonable cost level.

I really do not know if Tablets are the sole answer. We have to continue to seriously address the efficiency of server farms. Part of their heat is also the result of so much spam and malware directed to the Internet that requires additional power to fight them.
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# RE: How Tablet PCs Could Save CivilizationErelde 2013-04-09 10:22
But if you want linked tablet, you'll want a large wireless network and would still need large server to store all the online data.

Tablet don't solve that problem, storing data and accessing them.

If there is a "new dark age", bear the hypothesis to its very end, no large power supply mean no wireless network and no large server.

Of course this "new middle-age" would surely occur progressively permitting a quick change in technology usage.
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