Tech – for Everyone

Tech Tips and Tricks & Advice – written in plain English.

Then and now– advances in tech*

Two things happened yesterday that caused me to think about just how far we’ve progressed in the field of technology. One: I paid $22 for a little thing — the size of my pinkie’s nail — that will hold roughly 500 songs when I pop it into its slot on my portable media player (namely, a 2 GB “micro SD card”). And, two: on a whim, I fired up my old Pentium II machine and wreaked havoc as the Original Digital Bad Boy — Duke Nukem (3D.. of course), the game that got me hooked on computer games way back in the days when dinosaurs still roamed the planet.

My Pentium II was made by a company that no longer exists, but it looks much the same as computers do today… a clunky box. The first thing I noticed when I looked at it was it has a floppy drive as its top-most component.. which is an indication of how important floppies were. A CD “burner” back in the days of the Pentium II cost about $1,500-$10,000, and so we mere citizens used CD-ROMs to install programs, and floppies to store and transfer data.
A “good” (and expensive) floppy held 1.44 Megabytes (and were 3 ½ inches square). We liked floppies because they were small, and we could carry them around in our pockets.
floppy.jpg microsdchip.jpg

And this “oh, yeah. I remember..” moment caused me to do a little math. Mega, in computing, means “million” — or 1,000,000 for those of you visually-oriented folks.
A Giga is a thousand times more than a Mega, and means “billion” — or 1,000,000,000.
So the 3 ½” floppy holds 1,440,000 bytes (approx), and the so-small-you-WILL-lose-it Micro SD chip holds 2,000,000,000 bytes (approx).

2000000000
1440000
1998560000

Hmmm… that’s quite a bit more than the floppy. Almost 2,000 times more. In much less space. (I would be curious, tho am not going to take the time myself, to learn the percentage of shrinkage from a floppy to a flash chip. Volunteers?)

This impessive math calculation led me to think about my Pentium II a little more. It is called a “P-II” because this represented a new kind of CPU (now called “generations”), and my particular P-II is a mid-line model that runs at 333 MegaHertz… which was pretty typical for the time. Back in those days, everything (except hard drives) was measured in “Mega”.

I won’t bore you with clock-cycles and how CPUs function, (Wikipedia has an extensive description. If you’re interested, click here) but essentially what is important (to know) is that a CPU performs its “work” on each “tick” of a cycle — and so, my P-II cycles (“ticks”) 333,000,000 times per second.
Which is durned fast!

Since I was in a now-and-then comparison frame of mind, I thought about my most recently purchased PC. Its CPU cycles at 2.8 GigaHertz.. or, 2,800,000,000 times per second. Clearly, this is quite a bit faster than the P-II can work.
But that’s not the only difference: my new CPU is smaller than the P-II, has twice as many “data paths”, and (and this is a real kick in the head, if you think on it) is actually TWO CPUs. (And the quad-core generation has now arrived.)
A little simple math (not wholely accurate, or relevent) would indicate that the newer processor is 37.3 times more “powerful” — each cycle — than the P-II.
As an analogy, if the P-II was a decent automobile of its day, and did 65 MPH — the decent automobiles today do 2,427 MPH.. roughly, Mach 3.5.
Wow.
Today, everything (except hard drives will soon be “tera”) is measured in “Giga”.

This thought process led me to another thought: why isn’t my newer computer zipping along at three times the speed of sound? Sure, it is much quicker at tasks than my old P-II, but…

The answer is multi-faceted and complex, but basically it boils down to “multitasking” and the fact that our programs are so much LARGER (and have more “features”) than programs were back in the P-II days. As our hard drives and RAM chips got bigger, so did our word processing and spreadsheet programs. In fact, our programs, today, have “bloated” until they are simple huge and contain features and functions we never use. And version 2.0 is always bigger than 1.0 was.
I would like to see a movement away from this, but it’ll never happen — why buy CoolProgram 2008 if it doesn’t “do more” than CoolProgram 2006 does?

Well, enough of these musings. I have obligations to run off to today. I apologize for there being no “Tip of the day” or “Today’s free link” today… but things here will return to normal very shortly.

Copyright 2007-8 © Tech Paul. All rights reserved.jaanix post to jaanix

 

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June 16, 2008 - Posted by | computers

4 Comments »

  1. […] dougpete wrote an interesting post today onHere’s a quick excerptTwo things happened yesterday that caused me to think about just how far we’ve progressed in the field of technology. One: I paid $22 for a little thing — the size of my pinkie’s nail — that will hold roughly 500 songs when I pop it into its slot on my portable media player (namely, a 2 GB “micro SD card”). And, two: on a whim, I fired up my old Pentium II machine and wreaked havoc as the Original Digital Bad Boy — Duke Nukem (3D.. of course), the game that got me hooked on computer games way back in the days when dinosaurs still roamed the planet. My Pentium II was made by a company that no longer exists, but it looks much the same as computers do today… a clunky box. The first thing I noticed when I looked at it was it has a floppy drive as […] […]

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    Pingback by Then and now– advances in tech* | June 16, 2008 | Reply

  2. Hey Paul,

    It’s kinda funny, my word processor looks pretty much the same visually as it did when I was running it on Win 3.3 on a 386. Sure, my newer version of MS Word has the capability to do much more (I think) than the old version from back in the day, but the point you made about speed is very valid. For many (not all), of the average person’s, average computer tasks the increase in computing power has had little impact. The Internet of course is a whole other story!

    My word processing tasks, for example, are limited now (as they were back then), by my ability to type – which hasn’t improved much in the intervening years. Greater computing power ain’t gonna help there!

    I guess the point I’m trying to make is, continuous upgrading is a fool’s game – older machine are capable of performing most of the tasks that the average person needs to do on a computer.

    BM

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    Comment by Bill Mullins | June 16, 2008 | Reply

  3. Hey,

    Forgot to say that a 1.44 floppy holds approximately .00074% of your new card. Substantially less than 1%. Pretty amazing!

    BM

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    Comment by Bill Mullins | June 16, 2008 | Reply

  4. “I guess the point I’m trying to make is, continuous upgrading is a fool’s game – older machine are capable of performing most of the tasks that the average person needs to do on a computer.”

    Yes, Bill, largely true. Sadly, it is a game that must be played– fundamental changes in the technology occur that must be kept up with. A Windows 98 (or ME) machine might do all the things you “want it to do” (running Office 97), but if you connect it to the Internet you will be somebody’s spam bot within 8 minutes, and your identity will be in the hands of the highest bidder… as one example.
    (And no self-respecting gamer would run on anything but the latest and greatest!)

    I myself am looking ahead to my next desktop.. so I can take advantage of 3GHz quad-cores, and DDR3 RAM running on a 1600MHz front-side bus.. and maybe quad graphics cards.
    It doesn’t matter to me that the software to take advantage of this power hasn’t been written.. yet.
    I’ll have major bragging rights.. and maybe I’ll be able to run Crysis at a decent resolution.

    Note: The Editors here at Tech–for Everyone guarranty excellent reviews of any such machine permanently donated…
    Lots and lots of good reviews. Really.

    Like

    Comment by techpaul | June 16, 2008 | Reply


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