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The pace of technology

Thursday, March 09, 2006
Here I am, laying in bed feeling like crap for a variety of reasons (most, but not all, physical.) I'm playing on my laptop, surfing various websites, and it struck me how far we've come - computer-wise - in my lifetime.

The first computer my family owned was back in 1989 or so. It was a Compaq Deskpro 286e. It had a 12 Mhz 286 processor, 1 MB of memory, and a 40 megabyte hard drive. We had an 14" NEC Multisync 3d monitor and a 24-pin dot matrix printer. We ran MS-DOS 3.3 on it.

Later, we got an el-cheapo 386 computer. This had a 16 Mhz processor but only (initially) 1 MB of memory and a 40 MB hard drive. After a year or so we added another megabyte of memory and updated it to run MS-DOS 5.0. We also added our first modem, a 2400-baud speed-demon. Those people say I have no patience are right; I exhausted it all watching my computer download 1 megabyte files from the BBS I used. Then after a year or so I hit the reset button and it never resat.

After that I had a custom-built 486 computer. It sported an IBM 486SLC2-66 processor (no math co-processor), 4 megabytes of memory, and an 8 megabyte hard drive. Before the end of this computer's life I had upgraded it to 16 megabytes of memory, a 500 megabyte hard drive, and had a 14.4k modem installed. I had MS-DOS 6.0 running on this computer (I think) and also had Windows 3.1. It was on this computer that I first had an actual internet connection.

When at college I got rid of that computer (it was definitely showing its age) and got another custom-built Pentium 100. I don't really remember the specs for that one, but it was fun. I played endless hours of Diablo on this computer! The University of Oregon provided a fast internet connection in its dorm rooms - 10 megabit ethernet to my desk hooked up to an OC-3 connection, I believe. (I could be wrong about that.) By this time I was running Windows 95 and using Netscape's web browser to surf the web.

Next was a Pentium 233 w/MMX. A good computer that lasted my until my (first) senior year in college. I bought it off some guy down in Eugene and it worked pretty well. I think I ran Windows 98 on this computer and was surfing using Internet Explorer 4.0. I also had, at this time, a little laptop whose specs I can't remember.

After I moved into a University-owned aparment (which still had the fabulous internet connection!) I built my first computer where I actually ordered the parts and assembled it myself. I had put in an AMD K7-550 processor (one of the first Athlon processors!), 128 megabytes of memory, an 18 gigabyte hard drive, and a an awesome Geforce DDR video card. This computer ran Windows 2000... but crashed a lot until the first service pack came out.

Around this time I started having at least two computers. As a second computer I had an old, old HP Pavilion that ran Red Hat Linux, though I replaced that with another computer I built that had a Celeron 433 processor and ran FreeBSD and a Counter-Strike server. Later that was upgraded to a Pentium III 600E (courtesy of the players who loved my server but wanted it to be faster.)

This was also the point in my life where I became a Mac user. I purchased a brand-spanking-new Titanium PowerBook G4-400 and actually put 512 mb of memory in it... and my first wireless card. I had 802.11b ("Airport"), but, of course, no base station. Nonetheless I had wireless access at a few points at the university.

Fast foward a little... I graduated, got a cable modem (1.5 megabits downstream, 256k upstream), went through a couple more computers (an AMD Duron 900, an iBook 1 Ghz, several PowerMacs, etc.) Let's look at where I am today.

I have PC with an aging AMD Athlon 2100+ processor, 1 gigabyte of memory, a combined 80 gigabytes of hard drive space, and an ATI Radeon 9800 Pro video card, all tied together with Windows XP. Despite its age, though, this computer runs just fine! I also have a Mac Mini (which some of you may remember) with a gigabyte of memory and a combined 240 gigabytes of memory! (This is actually powering this website, at the moment!). My cable modem provides something like 5 megabits downstream, but only 384k upstream. I also have a Dell Lattitude D600 laptop with a 1.5 Ghz Pentium M processor, 768 megabytes of memory, and 802.11g wireless.

The purpose of this stroll down memory lane is to illustrate the pace at which computer technology has evolved. Look back at the top. My 286 had no ability to connect to other computers, really. We were advanced and had a 3.25" floppy drive! Now I connect to a billion other computers over an internet connection that's wired to my home and I have a DVD burner to transfer large files! In 17 years technology has certainly progressed...


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