By | February 8, 2021
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Today, I want to talk a bit about chips.  Not the tasty fried-potato foodstuff (mmm… chips), but the rather more techy silicon variety – microchips.

Now, you probably already realise that microchips are everywhere these days – not just in PCs, tablet and phones, but in TVs, washing machines, your central heating system, your car (unless you’ve got a proper classic)… your dog.  But you might not know just how many there are.  I was reading an article the other day, and apparently the average new car uses over 100 separate microchips.  For a car!

And I’m afraid that, when it comes to making all these chips, there’s some “trouble at t’mill”.

With the whole world in various degrees of lockdown over the last year, there’s been a massive surge in the number of people wanting new kit – laptops so they can work from home, tablets and other gadgets for video calling, games consoles to keep them occupied… On top of that, countries are rolling out the 5G mobile network (which needs yet more chips) – and the chip makers just can’t keep up!

It’s led to a serious shortage – particularly for car manufacturers (who need a slightly different type of chip from most other tech) but for tablet and phone makers, too.  Some car companies have already had to slow down or stop production entirely, because they just don’t have the chips to finish the job – according to the BBC, it’s been dubbed “chipageddon” by someone in the car industry!  Colourful.

But how does it affect other tech, and you specifically?

Well – there are two options when there’s a big shortage like this.  Either manufacturers start making more chips, or you end up with less choice and higher prices.  Sadly, in this case, it looks like it’s going to be the second.  Setting up a new factory to make silicon chips isn’t quick or easy – it’s a very fiddly, technical process – so it’s not really an option here.

It’s unlikely to affect the really big companies like Apple, because they’ve got very deep pockets and a lot of clout.  But the smaller tech firms might find themselves struggling for parts this year.

So my advice would be, if you’re thinking of investing in a new bit of kit, either do it now before the price goes up or wait a year or so for everything to settle down.

A few questions you might have about the courses…
…along with the answers of course:

Is there a time limit on when I have to start my course?
No – you can start straight away or leave it till later. Once you’re enrolled in a course you have complete access for as long as the course is online (at least 3 years), so you can join now and then start it whenever you like.

Do I have to work through it at set times?
No – it’s not like an evening class in that way.  You can work through each part or “lesson” whenever it suits you.  Do it in the evenings, the mornings or even the middle of the night if you like!  You can get halfway through a lesson, stop there and carry on again next time from wherever you got to – you’re in control.

Can I follow the course on a different device – e.g. a desktop PC or a laptop?
Yes – you can use any PC, laptop, tablet (or even smart TV if you’re that way inclined), so long as it’s connected to the internet.  You could even use a smartphone if you like, but you might find everything a bit small on a phone screen.  For example, if you sign up for the Tablet course, you might want to follow it at a desktop PC.  You could watch the videos on your PC while you try out the things you’re being shown on your tablet – up to you.  

In fact you can even use two different devices.  The course will keep track of where you’re up to – so you can sign in to your account from anywhere.

Can I join any time?
No – the courses are only open to new members until Friday 26th February.  After that we’ll be closing enrolment so you won’t be able to join – best get in before then if you think it might help you. You can read the full details about each of the courses (including how to join and the rather unusual guarantee) here – why not have a look: Smartphones Made Simple, or Tablets Made Simple, or Windows 10 Made Simple.

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