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Comparing Today's Computers To 1995's 461

Posted by samzenpus
from the pentium-80-how-I-miss-you dept.
An anonymous reader writes "A look back at two articles from 1995, touting high end computers and 'must haves.' How times have changed... ...'Memory (RAM): We seem to have convinced most manufacturers to adopt eight megabytes as standard, compared with four megabytes in 1994. Don't buy less than eight. The difference in performance between an eight megabyte machine and a four-megabyte machine can be dramatic.'"
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Comparing Today's Computers To 1995's

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  • Eh (Score:4, Insightful)

    by DogDude (805747) on Friday February 24, 2012 @02:56AM (#39144653) Homepage
    Eh. There's not much of a difference. We're still using the same hardware and architecture as 1995. Heck, I can run the same OS on a computer made in 1995, or in 2012. Yeah, hard drives are bigger, and Intel's chips are faster, and yeah, PC's have a bit more RAM, but other than that, it's just more of the same. If anything, I'm amazed at how little computers have changed in the past 18 years.
  • News for Nerds? (Score:1, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Friday February 24, 2012 @02:57AM (#39144657)

    Wait, what? Computers have orders of magnitude more speed and capacity today than they did 17 years ago? Awesome! This is definitely good "News for Nerds".

  • by martin-boundary (547041) on Friday February 24, 2012 @03:02AM (#39144675)
    For me, the most dramatic example of the progress of hardware in the intervening years is Emacs.

    It used to be regarded as a heavyweight editing environment, comparable in scope and resource requirements to a full programmer's IDE. There was even a special server designed just to allow several editing windows (aka frames) to coexist.

    Now, it's so lightweight and fast to load up, my web browser launches a completely independent Emacs for each comment field in a web page, my MUA launches its own Emacs for writing mails, I have multiple independent Emacs processes for editing code, and another for writing LaTeX.

  • Re:Eh (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Oxford_Comma_Lover (1679530) on Friday February 24, 2012 @03:06AM (#39144693)

    it's just more of the same.

    Yes, but the difference has consequences. Capabilities have increased by a factor of a thousand or more in several areas. This has made certain things practical--such as effectively removing these resources as important limiting factors on most programs. In addition, it has made areas previously almost impossible because of these limitations--such as complex digital video editing on a normal microcomputer.

    Not to mention playing video of good quality on a normal microcomputer.

  • Re:A bit outdated (Score:5, Insightful)

    by wvmarle (1070040) on Friday February 24, 2012 @03:20AM (#39144761)

    I do recall that CRT monitors were for a very long time much cheaper than LCD/TFT screens. And for an even longer time faster (especially in refresh rates). Also CRT never really came down in price - stayed more or less the same, as materials/manufacturing/transportation are the bulk of their cost.

    Indeed back in the days 17" was not expensive, back in 1995 I was using 15" already. I got a cheap second-hand one, a few years old, excellent condition. And early 2000s switched to a flat screen one.

    A 24" CRT is still massive. Never ceased to be massive. I mean, ever tried to lift such a beast? You may have had to reinforce your desk before putting one of those on it! That huge chunk of glass just won't get any lighter, no matter what.

  • Re:Eh (Score:5, Insightful)

    by PsyberS (1356021) on Friday February 24, 2012 @03:24AM (#39144783)
    True, things may be only a thousand or so faster/larger than 18 years ago. This might sound like slow progress, until you also realize that progress was made in other vectors such as physical size and power consumption. You do realize that the tiny smartphone in your pocket is significantly better than the humongous desktop PC of 1995, right?
  • Re:Eh (Score:4, Insightful)

    by DogDude (805747) on Friday February 24, 2012 @04:25AM (#39144981) Homepage
    Sure, there are some outliers in terms of improved capabilities, like video editing and even watching TV. But 90% of us are using PC's the 90% of the same way now that we did in 1995: Working with MS Office documents, handling email, web surfing, moving around files, etc. It may be prettier, easier, and faster, but it isn't dramatically different.
  • What about games? (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Friday February 24, 2012 @04:33AM (#39145013)

    What surprises me is that most of the older games from around this era have yet to be rivalled even today. Nevermind the fact that games back then didn't have EULAs, DRM restrictions, or DLC. You got what you paid for, and that came in a full sized box adorned with awesome artwork- and on the inside, you got a CD in a jewel case and a manual as thick as your thumb.

    We had gems like Descent, Descent II, Command and Conquer, Warcraft 1, Warcraft 2, Tyrian, Raptor: Call of the Shadows, Duke Nukem 3D, Crusader: No Remorse and Crusader: No Regret, Mass Destruction, Wipeout (the original Psygnosis game was a MS-DOS release- it ran straight off the CD and had an absolutely awesome soundtrack from Cold Storage), Star Wars: Dark Forces, X-Com, SimCity 2000, etc.

    Just after that era we got gems like C&C: Red Alert, Total Annihilation, and Starcraft.

    Not a single game had any kind of grinding wankery in the form of "achievements" or "trophies". You bought a game, you got 10 to 20 hours of entertainment in a box. It was that simple.

    Today, you're lucky if: A) $69.99 gets you something even remotely worth playing (since demos and shareware are long forgotten), and B) maybe 2 hours of actual entertainment wrapped in 20 hours of fucking around in a giant sandbox to boost some stupid number so you can proceed with the main quests/missions. Oh, and you don't actually "own" games anymore. You're licensing them, they only work 5 times (if you're lucky), and the disks often come in paper envelopes publishers have gotten so goddam cheap.

    But hey, EA's releasing the next big version of MW or CoD! So whoopie! Nevermind the fact that they've driven Westwood Studios and Origin into the ground, and now they've done the same to Maxis and have focused their attention on Bioware. CRANK THAT FRANCHISE WHORING FACTORY TO FULL THROTTLE BOYS, WE HAVE CONSUMERS TO EXPLOIT!

    -AC

  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday February 24, 2012 @04:45AM (#39145049)

    My Commodore 64 out of the stoneage, goes from powerbutton to useable in ~ 0.8 Seconds.

  • Re:Eh (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Lazy Jones (8403) on Friday February 24, 2012 @04:46AM (#39145051) Homepage Journal

    This has made certain things practical--such as ...

    Such as using unsuitable or bad algorithms, wasting enormous amounts of memory, disk space and bandwidth on trivial tasks, using layer upon layer of badly structured APIs and on top of that a browser with an interpreted language running software we use daily (like gmail). Who would have thought it possible back then?

  • Re:A bit outdated (Score:3, Insightful)

    by PCM2 (4486) on Friday February 24, 2012 @05:21AM (#39145177) Homepage

    A 24" CRT is still massive. Never ceased to be massive. I mean, ever tried to lift such a beast? You may have had to reinforce your desk before putting one of those on it! That huge chunk of glass just won't get any lighter, no matter what.

    I still have a 32" CRT TV, and one of the main things that's keeping me from getting a flat screen of some kind is WTF am I going to do with this beast? It's 150 lbs, but that's deceptive. It's 150 lbs of poorly-balanced, somewhat fragile dead weight. One person cannot carry it anywhere, at least nobody I've seen has figured out how. Two can manage, but I don't own a car. Funny how people are willing to deliver stuff for next to nothing, but you can't find someone to haul it back out again.

  • Re:Eh (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Darinbob (1142669) on Friday February 24, 2012 @05:58AM (#39145315)

    Word has not sped up any either. If anything it feels slightly slower.

  • Re:Eh (Score:5, Insightful)

    by serviscope_minor (664417) on Friday February 24, 2012 @06:32AM (#39145447) Journal

    Such as using unsuitable or bad algorithms, wasting enormous amounts of memory, disk space and bandwidth on trivial tasks, using layer upon layer of badly structured APIs and on top of that a browser with an interpreted language running software we use daily (like gmail). Who would have thought it possible back then?

    Either you weren't around back then or you are too young to remember but...

    The lavish 33MHz and 8MB RAM (compared to the older generations of 16 bitters and 8 bitters) allowed lazy programmers to write such terrible algorithms and waste vast numbers of cycles on interpretd languaes like Visual Basic etc etc. My god, I mean windows 95 wasted so much CPU just to look a bit prettier. Real programmers still did everything in DOS.

    Also, while some programmers have got lazier, others have not. Many algorithms have got much, much faster.

  • by dzfoo (772245) on Friday February 24, 2012 @06:46AM (#39145529)

    Ah... 1995. I remember back then talking to my girlfriend (now wife) about how things "used to be back in the day."

    One of the things I noted even then was the reliance on the Internet. I recall stating something like, "back in the 80s, I could spend an entire stretch of days at a time, stuck in my room writing stupid home-brewed programs in my Commodore 64, with very little sleep; I could always find something to do with that little machine without any network connectivity or external communications. Nowadays, I sit at my computer desk, and if the 'Net is down, can't check my e-mail, can't use my browser, can't log into the BBS... it's useless, and I turn the fucker off."

    Today, if my cable-modem connection goes down, I just grab my iPad and play Bejeweled or some other game, watch a movie, or catch up on my reading.

    My, how times change.

    It is not that I've grown less reliant on my Internet connection. I think it's just that modern machines are much more pleasant to use for many other use cases.

    You see, in the 80s I was discovering computers and every silly "GOTO 10" statement was an adventure. In the 90s, I was exploring the vast frontiers of the Internet, and while using a PC was a fscking pain, I endured it for the value of the network and communications.

    Now, the device is not a pain to use, and I use it for many other things than just exploring the Internet or communicating with others. This is the actual progress of our technologies: Convivial machines to fit human lifestyles.

    It is amazing what we have now. I truly feel like I live in The Future.

                -dZ.

  • Re:Eh (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Friday February 24, 2012 @07:27AM (#39145687)

    So what you're saying is, that beyond being better, doing more, and faster... Excluding every way the computer has changed... it hasn't changed at all.

    Beginning of 1995: Total number of internet users - 16 million, 0.4 % of world population.
    It's also only about 5% of the USA. So even if you're saying "the same way 90% of American PC users..." then you must mean that there were barely more than 5% of the USA using computers (assuming very wrongly that only the USA used computers back then).
    Now, 70% of the USA uses the internet. So there you go. Pretty much no-one (by your estimation) even used a computer in 1995. Something major must've changed since then to make the majority buy a computer.
    Oh yes. The computers got better, the technology changed, etc.

    Computers are pointless if you don't use them.
    So what matters more than the technology and infrastructure inside the box, is how it's used and applied.

    So apart from computers running faster, doing more, looking nicer, being easier for people to use, having readily available access to the internet, being used by more people (because it's easy to use, fast, has easy access to the internet and looks nice), and apart from every other way computers have changed... there's absolutely no difference.

  • Re:Eh (Score:5, Insightful)

    by neokushan (932374) on Friday February 24, 2012 @07:41AM (#39145751)

    I sincerely hope that you're being sarcastic, or at the very least, trolling.
    Back in 1995, there were plenty of "lazy", inexperienced and just downright poor programmers. However, aside from a few cases here and there, the objective was always the same then as it is now - get the job done in a reasonable time. In 1995, we had to invest a lot of time optimising and hand coding ASM to meet that objective due to the mentioned limitations in PC's. These days, hardware is so fast and plentiful, we can get on with doing other things and spend less time optimising. It doesn't matter how much memory the program is using or how many CPU cycles are being wasted when the job gets done in 2s versus 1.4s.

    Sure, you might see it as wasteful or even lazy, but all you're really doing is substituting one form of inefficiency with another - the inefficiency of the program with the inefficiency of the programmer's time. Hardware is cheap, good programmers are not. If a company is spending £40,000 a year on a single programmer, they'll get far more value spending an extra £1000 on a faster Processor or more RAM than they will out of having him spend weeks hand-coding and debugging ASM ops for every application/routine he writes.

    Yes, there will always be the exception and "throwing hardware at the problem" isn't the right solution, either, but saving time is saving money and that's why we have "inefficient" programs.

  • Re:yup (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Friday February 24, 2012 @08:31AM (#39145975)

    The double standard gap isn't about societal imposed standards at all, it is just that the majority of women don't actually like porn where as the majority of guys like it. Women being empowered has nothing to do with it. Men and women alike need to wake up and smell the coffee and accept that men and women are just as different physically as they are mentally.

    Exceedingly horny women who look at porn regularly are and always will be the minority, regardless of empowerment, and prevalence and or societal acceptance of porn.

  • Re:Eh (Score:4, Insightful)

    by TheRaven64 (641858) on Friday February 24, 2012 @08:37AM (#39145997) Journal

    I was doing both, but even there the differences are huge. For example, back then I would check my email once or twice per day. As in, people would send me an email and it would be stored on a server for a while, and then some time later I would get it. Downloading my mail often took a minute or two - and most of it was plain text. Now, my mail client is basically always connected to the server. I get notified as soon as mail is available and I read it as soon as I want a break from whatever I'm doing. If I wanted to send someone a picture, I had to upload it to some FTP or web space and then they'd download it (and I'd just hope no one guessed it was there).

    The web back then was purely static. There was no JavaScript (depending on when in 1995, it was either not released, or so new that hardly anyone was using it). Frames were all the rage - they reduced bandwidth, which was useful, but also broke the back button, which wasn't. Animated gifs and embedded midi tracks were the height of dynamic behaviour. Most companies had a little bit of marketing information online, if anything. Things like online shopping were pretty rare - Amazon existed, but I couldn't order groceries online, for example. I could get news from the BBC, but not very much.

  • Re:Eh (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Zero__Kelvin (151819) on Friday February 24, 2012 @08:52AM (#39146083) Homepage

    "What Intel giveth, Microsoft taketh away."

    ... and the Penguin giveth back with interest!

  • Re:Eh (Score:5, Insightful)

    by TheRaven64 (641858) on Friday February 24, 2012 @08:56AM (#39146103) Journal

    Also, while some programmers have got lazier, others have not. Many algorithms have got much, much faster.

    And those layered APIs that the grandparent complains about make this easier. Now we don't have everyone implementing searching and sorting themselves, someone does it once and it's shoved into a shared library. The same with more complex things like image compositing.

  • Re:yup (Score:4, Insightful)

    by datavirtue (1104259) on Friday February 24, 2012 @12:15PM (#39148373)

    HD screens, surround sound, its just nuts how much we all have now.

    With a social disaster, and a failed government brewing all around us. Progress.

  • Re:yup (Score:2, Insightful)

    by fyngyrz (762201) on Friday February 24, 2012 @01:21PM (#39149335) Homepage Journal

    I'm curious... being a basement dwelling creature without any hope of female companionsship, what do women get off on, porn wise?

    The same things they always have, and in this order: Security, money, power, looks, personality, sexuality. Exceptions certainly exist and you should be watching for them, but that's the way to bet. This applies to porn, to real life, to movies, you name it. Male-female hard-wiring is radically different, and no amount of political correctness will ever suffice to change this.

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