I just found an old newspaper page in a drawer. It's dated Saturday July 10, 1999, and features an advert for refurbished and new PC's.
A top of the range refurbished model would cost you £381.60. It was a Dell P200 with 32Mb RAM, a 1.2Gb Hard Drive and a 36x CD rom player. It also came with a 14" CRT monitor, a sound card, and speakers.
But if you had the money, you could go for a brand new system.
£1,118.00 would get you a new non branded PC featuring an Intel PIII 500Mhz processor, 128Mb or RAM, a masive 10.2Gb Hard Drive, a 3.5" floppy drive, a 16Mb graphics card, a soundblaster live sound card, a tower case, creative speakers and sub woofer, a 5x speed DVD player, a keyboard and a mouse.
No monitor is mentioned.
So 13 years ago, that's what you could get if you really pushed your budget. It's about then that I got my first PC I think. A 300Mhz system that was overclocked to 375Mhz.
According to Moore's Law, speed doubles every 18 months. By Jan 2000, a decent system would have a 1Ghz processor. By June 2001, a 2Ghz processort. By Jan 2003, a 4 Ghz processor.
What seems to have happened is that raw processor speed just wont go that much quicker than that, and what's happened since is the deveopment of multi-core systems. CPU speed multiplied by number of cores = faster still. My main PC, which I had made about 4 years ago, is based around a dual core 2.8Ghz processor. I spent about £300, but gave the guys that built my system, a hard drive, monitor, operating system disk, and half decent sound card, which allowed them to spend the money on a fast CPU, plenty of DDR2 RAM, and a fairly good graphics card. It's still a pretty quick system, and can handle most modern applications.
Still, improvements keep on coming. My mate Dave has a system that has a similar processor to mine, but it also has 4 hefty SSD hard drives. With no spin up time, it boots up like a greased weasel. The main logjam now is his hard drive controller, and the width of his internet pipe.
So it looks like Moore's Law will continue to apply for a little while yet, but just like everything else, it's going to be subject to the laws of diminishing returns.
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