Three years of The Tech Report

Reflections on doing this for darn near forever now

BELIEVE IT OR NOT, it's been three years now since we left the comfortable confines of Ars Technica and set up our own little web site here called The Tech Report. The scene has changed dramatically since then in a hundred different ways. We've seen competition come and go—and in many cases, kind of fade away. We've come down off the dot-com boom into a lingering turn-of-the-century economic stagnation.

Three years ago in the PC world, top-end systems were running 750MHz processors, PC100 memory, and TNT cards—and we were aching for more. Today's fastest systems are running dual banks of 333MHz memory on processors just under 3GHz with Radeon 9700 cards—and we're mostly aching for software to take advantage of it all.

But we still enjoy the thrill of new hardware, the rush of speed, and that feeling you get when you see a computer do something new and impressive for the first time. We still enjoy lifting the curtain on a hot new product and showing you just how it performs, and we get to do that much more often (and in a much timelier fashion) than we did at first.

(Andy reminisces: " Ah, three years ago, I was on my way to Comdex, trying to get review hardware for our week-old site using business cards printed on card stock and cut apart using an X-acto knife in the hotel room.")

Other things haven't changed, like our sad web design (by yours truly... not my specialty) and our simple, quirky little news comments system.

Instead, we've focused our efforts on one thing at the expense of nearly all others: producing the best darn articles we possibly can, with the aim of making TR one of the very best hardware sites on the web. We may not be cunning marketers, web design gurus, or savvy businessmen, but I am proud as can be of the quality of our articles. In the core technology areas we target—CPUs, graphics, and chipsets/motherboards—we've made amazing strides. I'd put our graphics hardware coverage up against anything on the web or in print. This past year, we've tackled new product areas, like sound cards and LCD monitors with success, thanks to Andy's and Geoff's hard work. If you want to know the lowdown on a particular piece of hardware, the TR review is a great place to start.

As we've grown, the size of our audience has grown, too. And our server needs (Slashdot is a cruel mistress). And the number of unanswered e-mail messages in my inbox (which currently stands at 640). Heck, I've even tried to grow TR as a business, although I have about as much business sense as a 3dfx engineer. It's truly humbling to see the amount of support we've received from you guys in the form of encouraging e-mails, donations, and general good sentiment.

I think we've carved out a decent niche for ourselves in the massive, chaotic online world of PC enthusiast and hardware review sites. However, we're facing some daunting challenges in growing beyond that niche or perhaps expanding its size. The web is no longer the Wild West frontier it was back when I first started putting words to FrontPage over four years ago. Back then, anything seemed possible, and nearly anything was. Nowadays, "hardware review sites" are a known quantity, and in the case of the highest traffic sites, big business. The order of things at the top has cooled and hardened, and everyone knows who the big players are. The dollars and the energy flow copiously in their direction.

Unfortunately, TR is on the outside looking in, as often as not. We don't yet have millions upon millions of readers each month, so we've had to claw and fight for every bit of success we've had.

These realities make it especially difficult at times for us to take TR where we want it to go. You know—solvent business, full-time employment, better coverage, and all of that. Those things may come, and they may not, but that's OK. Three years into this, we're still enjoying the journey. We've had unwavering support from the community, especially from Kyle Bennett at the cold, HardOCP. Our own key staffers—Ronald, Geoff, and Andy—have worked selflessly and tirelessly to keep TR going strong.

Plus, hey, cool toys.

That said, we are determined to keep improving TR. One way we're looking to improve the site is to bring back regular editorials, of which this here would be the first. These brief articles should give us a chance to talk about the scene without the need for bar graphs.

Mmmm.. bar graphs.

Anyhow, thanks to all of you in our little community here for three incredible years of impassioned e-mails, heated discussions in the comments, pick-up Quake games, and late-night IRC bull sessions. I can't wait to see where we are three years from now.  TR

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