Computer evolution: And we continue to wait.

By Renegade on Thursday 1 October 2009 11:29 - Comments (14)
Categories: General, Performance, Views: 3.831

It's all about waiting when it comes to computers.

Let's take a short trip down technology lane and look back at "what was" back then.

For me, it all started with a C64. My dad worked for a shipping and forwarding company, and they made the change from punched or IBM card systems to a new form of computing. The company he worked for made their employees an offer to purchase a Commodore 64 and use it at home. So he brought home the first computer I worked with. :)

C64One of the most notable things was that once you got it to display all of the files on one of the floppies, you needed a certain amount of patience to get it to actually start the program. There was no such thing as switching on your computer and just starting to work. Following (or something similar) was seen more than once in the lives of the C64 users:

LOAD "$",8
<get coffee>
<drink coffee>
<flip over the floppy>
<wait some more>

And you would be ready to start playing, or perhaps even start working. And this is just one example that I am quite familiar with. Something probably not even expected when Alan Turing described his Turing machine, but somehow managed to start with the ENIAC, follow us even after the transistors were invented and then integrated in to integrated circuits, and has since followed us from the Intel 4004 past the more modern systems like the Intel 80386 that included the FPU, and even nowadays with the new AMD Athlon and Intel Xeon processors.

Now, one would say that we have an immense amount of computational power. And I can't do anything else but agree with you. you take a closer look at Moore's law and plot everything out you can even see that our computational power made a great leap. And that's absolutely great!

So by now we have so much computational power that we don't have to wait anymore when we want to do something, right? That must have changed since the days of the C64?

That's what you would probably expect, right? It's true, we don't have to insert floppies anymore. Instead we use a different medium with a higher data density. And we can run programs that are much bigger and complex on our machines right now that we ever imagined in the days of the Intel 4004.

But we continue to wait. How many people do you know at the office who start off with switching on their computer and then getting a cup of coffee while we wait for the operating system to load or for the programs they work with to start? I know loads of people. If I take the company I work for in to account, you can see that it's a huge piece of software that you install to your servers. But we still wait quite long times when we try to work with the program, and it's usually not the system that is waiting for some user input.

Fact is that we continue to find new things that we can actually compute. The more computational power we have, the more we try to compute. New technologies like nanocomputers won't change anything there. We will have a short lived feeling that is like "wow, this is really fast!", and then compute more and lose the (feeling of) speed.

In short; The computer continues to evolve, and we continue to wait.

Volgende: Symmetrix access control: When unique is everything but unique 10-'09 Symmetrix access control: When unique is everything but unique
Volgende: Storage provisioning: Do you really really really need that much? 09-'09 Storage provisioning: Do you really really really need that much?


By Tweakers user himlims_, Thursday 1 October 2009 11:44

<get coffee>
<drink coffee>
<flip over the floppy>
<wait some more>

sooooo true

By Tweakers user opblaashaas, Thursday 1 October 2009 11:57

Isn't it the other way around?
We want to compute more and more data so the market brings out stuff that can do it faster? See some of the newer games and software that won't run smoothly on ANY of todays reasonable hardware.

By Tweakers user Pantagruel, Thursday 1 October 2009 12:00

FLOPPY, you lucky son of a b%^&*(tch ;) , tape drive for double the amount of caffeine and cookies.

By Tweakers user Renegade, Thursday 1 October 2009 12:04

@opblaashaas. I don't think so actually. If you take the development time in to account, you will see that most newly designed things start off with the most potent hardware available at that time. If you check out the International Space Station you will find it's command computers actually run on 80386 CPU's. We tend to try and do more and more with the available compute power and the market introduces newer iterations because they refined some things or developed something new. I can see your point and you might be correct, but I think that is more of the exception. :)

By Tweakers user zkiwi, Thursday 1 October 2009 12:23

I think the reason must be beacause we try to emulate reality as good as possible with accetable performace. And emulating something analogue has alwasy been troublesome for a digital computer.

By Tweakers user Renegade, Thursday 1 October 2009 12:49

Now there's an interesting concept. How would you define "emulating reality"? :)

By Tweakers user opblaashaas, Thursday 1 October 2009 13:37

We can agree that it's a vicious cycle of always wanting more and more?
If we need to compute some giant amounts humanity creates faster hardware.
When the faster hardware is there people will work out new things to compute that take an equivalent of that or even more starting the cycle all over again.

It's just from what point you see the cycle. :)

By Tweakers user kwaakvaak_v2, Thursday 1 October 2009 13:41

Technically not completely true, because the C64 ROM contains a BASIC version which is loaded at the moment you turn on the computer, so in theory you can start to write code after turning the machine on. And that is not seen anymore on modern computers, first you need to boot some OS, Start your IDE and then start to write code ;)

[Comment edited on Thursday 1 October 2009 13:42]

By Tweakers user bonus, Thursday 1 October 2009 13:42

<get coffee>
<drink coffee>
<flip over the floppy>
<wait some more>

Living with computers was much more relaxed that nowadays.
Now everything has to go ultrafast and stress levels are higher then ever...

By Tweakers user Qualian, Thursday 1 October 2009 13:44

Nah, coffee and cigarette manufacturers are obviously behind this. Look at the ones who really benefit from all this... Don't forget they have been around a lot longer than computer manufacturers!


By Tweakers user MAX3400, Thursday 1 October 2009 16:52

Think some people or companies need to look into Standby/Hibernate-options for their workforce. Even when shortening the "usual startup time" by 2 minues a day, that's an additional 10 hours of work in a normal year. Ofcourse this statement is void if the company still uses big, lumpy and powerhungry desktops.

By Tweakers user WHiZZi, Thursday 1 October 2009 16:52

Don't you mean the 80386 (which had a coprocessor in it by default and was the first 32 bit capable CPU) where you wrote 80486?

The 4004 was indeed the first Intel chip, but never used for consumers. The first (Intel) processor found in a consumer computer was the 8086 (which was a followed up from 8085, 8080 and 8008). The 8080 was basicly the first real microprocessor.

Also, you forgot (I think) that there were a few more CPU's around already before the first Intel ever made it to "computer". Motorola 6800 (1974), Microchip PIC16X (1975), MOS Technology 6502 (1975), Zilog Z80 (1976), and Motorola 6809 (1977) to give a few examples (MOS 6502 was in your C64 even).

The world is bigger than Intel. For the rest, the blog is fun and you were lucky with your Floppy Drive. I remember starting up my Tandy TRS80 CoCo 2 and running from tape. Try to load a decent game then, it takes forever :P

By Tweakers user Renegade, Thursday 1 October 2009 17:04

@WHiZZi, woops. Corrected to 386. :)

I picked the 4004 because it started the "revolution" we now know in our systems, and it is basically one of the true grandfathers of the CPU's we use nowadays.

I know about the other processors, but they were (imo) variations to a certain theme. The 4004 offered the first "spark" toward our current generation of CPU's, although that probably would not have existed if it weren't for the other procs. :) I just tried to give a very small timeline, but a bigger one might be fun to dive in too for a future blogpost. :)

And thanks for the compliment. :* :)

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