There was an ad in the paper yesterday for an external Hitachi hard drive. The drive was less than 300 bucks and had one terabyte of capacity. That used to be a number listed just below “kajillion” in computer terms. It made me look at my current gadgets and toys and put them in perspective.
For Christmas in 1980, I got my first computer, a VIC-20 – it had 5000 bytes of memory (3000 for the user) and no storage other than a cassette drive. I don’t know what the capacity of a 90 minute cassette was, but I’m reasonably certain it wasn’t a lot.
In 1984, I got the Commodore 64. As indicated by the name, it had a whopping 64 kilobytes of memory, of which 39k was available for use. I traded in the cassette deck for a massive 1504 floppy drive, which was larger than a shoe box and recorded to 5.25 inch floppies with a capacity of 170 kilobytes. Combine that with my 1200 baud modem to connect to the River Conditions BBS, and I was styling. RC had the largest hard drive of the underground C64 scene in Los Angeles when I was in high school – 20 megabytes. Oh, yeah.
In 1992, I belatedly saw the writing on the wall, as Commodore continued to find ways to make superior products fail in the marketplace (I can also tell you about the Atari Lynx if you want further proof of my lack of prognostication ability). I bought a CompUSA 486DX3, with 120 megabyte hard drive and 4 megabytes of RAM.
In 1994, I bought one of the Quantum Bigfoot drives that were so cheap that I was able to get 500 megabytes for less than 300 dollars.
So, let’s compare a few things from the past 15 years or so. On my desk right now is a defunct Sony Clie. Sony no longer supports it, the battery is dead, and I can’t take it to work anyway. But, in 2002, it was brand new and had better specs than that 486 for one quarter the price. And, unlike the 486, I could put the Clie in my pocket.
I recently bought a Nokia N770, because it was on clearance and the N800 is far outside my price range. The N770 has 64 megabytes of memory (16x the 486), I’ve got a 2 gigabyte RS-MMC card in it (16x the 486), and it has wifi. The screen is about twice the resolution of the 486, and I could buy over a dozen of them for less than the 486’s price. Oh, and it fits in my pocket.
My DVR, desktop computer, and external backup drive for my desktop now have a combined capacity of something close to two terabytes of space. And Alex was worried about having too many shark shows recorded. 🙂
No wonder nobody can predict technology for crap. Who could have imagined, looking at this game of the 1980s, that we’d have all the cool toys we have today?