Effects of computer hardware shortage are being felt in Calgary

'By the time you try to buy it, it’s already gone,' says one city PC gamer

Jason Zhang poses with a variety of computer components in Calgary on Tuesday, March 23, 2021. Jason Zhang is the owner of Primary Computer Inc. located in the Central Landmark Mall in Calgary’s northwest. MATTHEW SIU / FOR LIVEWIRE CALGARY

A global shortage in computer hardware throughout the pandemic has been affecting both local businesses and Calgarians alike.

From stymied production due to COVID-19, the increased popularity in PC gaming and remote working and the resurgence of cryptocurrency mining in recent months, the demand for computer hardware, especially graphics cards, is at an all-time high.

“There’s no worse time than right now to be trying to build a computer,” said Chad Lorrain, a PC gamer and MRU student.

“Finding components has been the biggest thing that’s changed since I built my last computer.”

While he is no stranger to PC building, his current computer is nearly 10 years old.

“[Before], I don’t think you ever had something that was super out of stock, or hard to find,” said Lorrain.

“By comparison, now you’re lucky to get an update for a shipment. By the time you try to buy it, it’s already gone.”

For Lorrain, another major hurdle has been price, noting how resellers are marking up prices tremendously on secondary markets.

Retailers also dealing with the pinch

Large retailers have also been hit by the shortages, struggling to maintain their own stock.

“Nobody wants to build a computer if they can’t get a graphics card,” said a sales representative at a local computer hardware retailer.

“Our shelves are full of motherboards and other components, just no graphics cards.”

The sales rep cited reports of production being cut down to nearly one-third of original capacity around the globe due to COVID-19.

Scavenger hunt

Other, smaller businesses have also been affected, albeit indirectly.

For small businesses like Primary Computer Inc., a store that mainly offers IT and repair services, the effects of the shortage can be felt in a different way.

They do occasionally fulfill orders for gaming-related products. The store’s main home and business networking clientele, however, aren’t affected by the shortage.

Instead, he’s bombarded by customers looking for graphics cards anywhere they can.

“I get lots of calls asking for graphics cards,” said Jason Zhang, owner of Primary Computer, located in the Central Landmark Mall in the northwest.

The two big names when it comes to graphics cards are Nvidia and AMD.

As the main developers of dedicated consumer graphics, they produce the GPUs (graphic processing unit) and distribute them to various companies to manufacture an end product.

For consumers, the graphics card is what typically handles the main workload for gaming and productivity, and recently, cryptocurrency mining.

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