Graphics Card Shortage
Try Again Tomorrow
It’s 8am outside of the local Micro Center and I have found my people. A group of fellow computer enthusiasts with a frustrated look on their face sit in line just in front of me. The root of their frustration? Being able to acquire a decent graphics card for a fair price. We sit 30 people deep in line 2 hours before the store opens hoping they have enough stock to cover everyone up to us. They won’t. And it will remain this way for the very foreseeable future. ‘Try again tomorrow’ is the motto when we leave. So what is it about this piece of tech that has made it so hard to acquire recently? Let’s start from the beginning.
In layman’s terms, a graphics card is a part of a computer puzzle that controls video output. Video cards come in thousands of different forms, prices, and configurations. The sweet spot for many computer builders are mid to high performance cards ranging from $400 to $1,500.
Desktop computers with a dedicated graphics card can be used for a number of applications. These include Gaming, Photo and Video editing, CAD (Computer Aided Design) and, recently, mining cryptocurrency.
This is where the shortage of silicon processors begins. Cryptocurrency mining using GPUs (Graphics Processing Units) started to become popular in 2014 with the rise of Bitcoin’s value. This process dropped in popularity once Bitcoin became harder to mine around 2018 and other more cost effective solutions were invented. Then along came the rise of Ethereum mining in early 2020. This caused a major spike in card sales once again that would have been sustained had another major world event not happened: The COVID-19 Pandemic.
With the closing of most major computer component manufactures due to health concerns came a major shortage in chips used to manufacture cards. This was further complicated by the working sector forcing people to work from home causing them to need a computer set up.
Others lost jobs and had to find a new means of making ends meet. Day trading, streaming, and overall PC gaming became popular ways to spend time at home. Others took to turning high-demand, low-inventory products into profitable sales. What was an easy product anybody could scalp (resell) and gain up to 3 times the value due to its low availability? You guessed it: graphics cards.
How Does This Affect You?
What if you don’t even have an interest in computers? If you buy a new smartphone soon you will most likely see a price increase. Car prices will also likely see a small increase due to the onboard computers they use. Our economic system is so entrenched in computers that hardware price increases will affect most major sectors.
It’s not all doom and gloom, however. Card manufacturers have begun to return to normal manufacturing numbers and are building even more factories to keep up with demand. To circumvent the cryptocurrency mining issue, newer cards are being manufactured with hardware and software that will deter miners from using them long term. This will increase supply substantially but we will have to wait just a couple more years.
Let’s just hope that by then I can get a card without camping out at my local electronics store.
Author: Jaime Enriquez, Technical Training Coordinator
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