the march of technology

Here's some numbers I worked up for a recent thread over on Slashdot, that illustrate the pace of technological change since the late 1980s:

The costs of actually moving bits around have gone way down since the 80s -- I now have a ~4,700,000 bps (according to speedtest.net) WiMax link for less (counting for inflation) than I paid in the late 1980s for a phone line I could only use to move data at 2,400 bps. (9,600 and 56k modems didn't come into common usage for ordinary folks until the 1990s.) Improvement: a factor of over 1,900.

The costs of storage are tremendously lower. Back in 1988 or so my first hard disk cost on the order of $200. It held 30 MB -- 30,000,000 bytes. One can get terrabyte disks -- 1,000,000,000,000 bytes -- now, for less money. Improvement: over 33,000 times.

And the costs of twiddling bits are far, far lower than they were in the late 80s. My first PC operated at 8 MHz -- "Turbo" mode. My current box, old and pokey as it is, runs at 2210 Mhz. Let's say the overall cost was roughly the same, though I remember my dad paying something on the order of $5,000 for our first PC. (A Victor 9000 that could run both CP/M and MS-DOS, wow!) Improvement, over 270 times -- and that's not counting the improvement in what gets done per tick. My current box rates 4420.08 BogoMIPS; using the conversions at that article, my 8 MHz "Turbo" PC would have rated about .032 BogoMIPS. Improvement: over 138,000 times.

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