Shadow of Athlon – R. Chang


Some months ago I noticed that my old computer had lost some of its former vigor when it comes to playing relatively modern games (admittedly the very latest games I don’t even attempt to run). Even simple operations such as lurking on the global cobweb on multiple tabs and working in Microsoft Office suite proved to be too much of a strain. Finding myself having a soft spot for the ancient machine that brought me so much childish joy over the last decade, I made a fateful decision to embark on a limited program to improve its characteristics so it could once more shine to its fullest potential.

Wide-eyed and pure-hearted, I immediately investigated the possibilities for bettering the old engine’s responsiveness and identified some areas that could have a significant impact on its performance. First was the disposal of a great many scattered and unnecessary programs, files, and everything that wasted space and needlessly drew on the awesome power of my digital rattle. With great abandon I applied myself to the work and cleaned many a dark corner of the resident machine spirit inhabiting the old electronic shell. My modest intervention helped, yet not as I hoped it would.

Undeterred, I commenced the next phase of my program: finding and installing some additional quantities of a silicon entity known in the dark and forbidding circles of computercraft as RAM. My research which, unbeknownst to me at the time, had slowly started to turn into an obsession, allowed me to identify the exact type of RAM I already had and, using the same strange markings and sigil found on the specimens lurking in the bowels of my venerable machine, I was able to track down some more of its kind.

My pursuit had led me to a place beyond the mortal realm of flesh and blood. A digital bazaar, populated with peddlers, fences, predators, desperate souls and finally, individuals with a singular mission, among which my feeble digital presence could be counted. There I made contact with an individual whom I’d  never met before, or after. Living in a nearby city, he had in his possession the exact RAM I required for my great work. Finding myself unable to move to the adjacent city, and shipment to my town proving impossible for darker reasons, I enlisted the help of one of my blood relatives who happened to dwell in the seller’s city. My relative successfully obtained the coveted RAM and delivered it to me personally within two days. After receiving the object of my desire, I proceeded to install it in the shadowy caverns of my ancient machine. As I awoke the machine spirit, I was made aware that the graft was successful. My machine now ran smoother than ever, and my experience of frequenting the far reaches of the world web was more pleasant.

For a time, I was content, but soon I contemplated obtaining another relic with mythical properties: a thing called GPU. My computer had one for the better part of a decade. It was a venerable organ, its legendary creator known in its subconscious mind only as Radeon. It worked for me, it brought me much joy as I lost myself in the wealth of games that this world had to offer. Yet, something was telling me that it would be a wise step to find a GPU that would allow my Athlon II X2 250, a silicon gland that secretes the mysterious essence of computing, to live out the rest of its days to the fullest. I laid those thoughts to rest for two or three months until I decided to give this pestering idea some more scrutiny. I scoured the cobwebs for information and determined that, for such an ancient system as mine, the R7 250, spawned from the same legendary progenitor as the venerable HD 5450, would increase the performance significantly without needlessly taxing the system. Such was my hope, at least.

Once again, I graced the incorporeal bazaar with my conflicted presence and consequently found an individual in the possession of the exact GPU I needed. This time it was in my home town. After quickly making arrangements, I made my way to a part of town that I’ve rarely ventured into before. Winter darkness fell early, and we met in the deep shadow of an old school building under the tumultuous skies. After the fateful completion of the deal I made a solitary trek back home through the foreboding darkness.

As I climbed the steep hill, the plateau of which I inhabit, a black shadow followed me closely on the windy deserted road. It said nothing, but I could feel its corrosive breath fall on my nape. It was the shadow of doubt that I have brought with me, and now I was also returning home with it. Reaching the safety and comfort of my home, I feverishly started the operation to integrate this latest addition into the existing system. This was to be the pinnacle of the limited enhancement program, such as it was. With the machine awake after the surgery, I was able to scour the web and obtain the latest incorporeal chants that would ensure the GPU was ‘up to date.’ Then came the true test. I ran a routine that I have enjoyed many times before with my previous GPU. It is called ‘Alien: Isolation.’ As the first step I set the resolution to 1280 x 720 and most of the details on ‘High.’ Previously, I was only able to play at 1024 x something with details set to ‘Low.’ Even then I actually found the experience rather enjoyable. In fact, I completed around three quarters of the game within those parameters.

Nevertheless, after making the aforementioned arcane adjustments, I took control of my avatar. My shock was as complete as it was genuine as the game commenced. At higher settings and resolution, everything not only looked sharper and more vivid, but the play was also exceedingly fluid and fast. The smoothness of movement was beyond comprehension. Whereas I hoped for and expected a modest increase in the smoothness of game play, the final result had vastly exceeded my every hope. I found myself roaming the wretched hive nestled in the deepest recesses of the ill-fated space station, and during that time I have more than once met an unspeakable death at the extremities of a nightmarish apparition. Instead of taking evasive action, I simply watched in awe the textures and the lethal elegance of the rendered predator as it lunged at me and turned my vision to black. A perfect organism indeed.

Alas, the bliss was not to last.

Ominous whirring of my Athlon fan warned me that something was not entirely right. So I left the game and ran a reputable program called Speccy. I tried the game again and the Arabic numerals revealed a maddening truth to me. Something that man was not meant to know. I ran the game for approximately five minutes at the following settings: 1280 x 720/ Vsync: off/ Level of detail: High/ Shadow mapping: High/ Particles: High/ Athlon II X2 250 – 1min/45°C and 5min/47°C R7 250 – 1min/58°C and 5 min/62°C. I should probably report that Athlon II’s idle temperatures are 25°C – 30°C when doing nothing, working in Microsoft Word and when surfing, and up to 35°C when on Youtube.

As the horrifying realization settled in my tormented mind I began frantically searching for solution. With the game off, the values returned to the semblance of normalcy, yet I knew that I must do something. Maddened with the knowledge that I might actually destroy the one thing I was aiming to preserve, I executed a desperate maneuver. I opened the side panel of the case. With that done, I continued my work in Microsoft Word, still plagued by the damning fact of those Arabic numerals when I first saw them. Over the course of a minute, or perhaps, two the Athlon II’s temperature dropped from 28° to a stable 25°C , while the R7 250’s dropped from the 23°C to a stable 21°C. I did not surf or go to Youtube during this time. After leaving the machine to idle for some minutes, probably no longer than fifteen, I decided to engage the game once more under the same parameters, sans the side hatch on my machine. I desired to know if the better air flow would ameliorate the infernal breath of the chimera that I had created. The Arabic numerals were somewhat kinder this time but I still felt cruelly cheated out of the gaming Eden that I have glimpsed. Athlon II X2 250 – 1min/40°C; 5min/41°C and 7min/43°C R7 250 – 1min/53°C; 5min/56°C and 7min/57°C

With these values I, a mere mortal, come here before you, trespassing on these hallowed digital grounds where computer wizards and tech priests refine their craft. So many questions I have, not the least of which is ‘why?’ There are times in the dead of night, when I still hear that damning whir of the Athlon II fan and the Arabic numerals come back to me flooding my tortured psyche only for me to wake up in sweat. Oh, the horror!

What should be the normal operating temperature of an Athlon II X2 250 with a stock cooler and paired with R7 250 be? When playing demanding games? Did I make a grave mistake for purchasing this relic that is overpowered in relation to the Athlon II X2 250? Can these two relics coexist, or am I to return my venerable HD 5450 into the shadowy caverns of the Athlon II sarcophagus? Did I inadvertently violate some obscure rule from some forbidden computer tome that states that no two 250s may link their energies together, at the penalty of one’s loss of sanity?

I need your grand master advice desperately. Otherwise, I will be haunted eternally by this failure of mine.

I leave for you only these parting words, should you decide that I am unworthy of your attention:

Judge me not by my possessions, nor by the length of this plea. Judge me by the depth of my heart.


Ray took advantage of our free program for authors and shared his desperate plea for computer help, hyperbole be damned. Do you have a story you want to share? Share Your Story



One thought on “Shadow of Athlon – R. Chang

  1. I judge you not at all. Smile. Computers and its internal workings are way beyond my scope but found this article and its internal communication- fascinating.

    Liked by 1 person

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