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Computer Cost: What's wrong with this picture

Discussion in 'Random Discussion' started by hbquikcomjamesl, Jul 6, 2007.

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  1. hbquikcomjamesl

    hbquikcomjamesl Thread Starter

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    Sherman! Set the Wayback Machine to about, oh, say a quarter century ago. Typically, $600 to $1200 would buy you a desktop computer that would be good for word processing, database, spreadsheets, and games. $500 would buy you a 5 1/4" disk drive (initially single-side, single-density, 35-track, with under 84k of usable space on it; by that quarter-century mark, the same $500 would buy you a double-side double-density 40-track drive with nearly 350k of usable space). $800 would buy you a nice impact dot matrix printer (down from $1200 for a bare-bones text-only printer, only a few years earlier). Hard drives would set you back a few hundred for a 10-20M unit (down from over a thousand for an 8M unit the size of a large stereo amplifier), and such things as scanners, inkjets, and laser printers were prohibitively expensive.

    Now fast forward to, say, 15 years ago. $500 would probably buy you a couple of high-density 80-track floppy drives (either 1.2M 15-sector or 1.44M 18-sector), and that $800 might get you a couple of nice 24-pin printers, or an inkjet, or maybe even an off-brand or used laser printer. Hard drives were down to about $10-20 per megabyte, and CD-ROM drives were just starting to appear. Monochrome-only handheld scanners, somewhat resembling the business end of a vacuum cleaner, typically cost a few hundred dollars. $600 to $1200 would still buy you a desktop computer that would be good for word processing, database, spreadsheets, and games.

    Now fast forward to today. That same $500 would probably buy you a couple of hard drive capable of holding a hundred gigabytes each, an optical drive that could handle both CD and DVD media, and write to CD-R/RW, DVD-R/RW, and DVD+R/RW, and a floppy drive, with enough left over to pay for a few thumb drives. That same $800-1200 would probably buy you two dozen color inkjets, or a dozen low-end monochrome lasers, or a couple of Samsung's new "inkjet-killer" color lasers, or one big production laser or inkjet. The price you'd have paid for a handheld scanner in 1992 will now probably buy you several really nice flatbed scanners. And unless you're buying machines purpose-built for the OLPC Initiative, $600 to $1200 still only buys you ONE desktop computer that would be good for word processing, database, spreadsheets, and games.
     
  2. BanditFlyer

    BanditFlyer

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    Yes, but you can use today's $600-1200 computer for counterfeiting. So it all evens out.
     
  3. BanditFlyer

    BanditFlyer

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    By the way, my name's not Sherman. Or Shirley. Or Ted, for that matter. Igor I'm kind of ambiguous on , but Renfield is right out!
    Set that same Wayback machine to a quarter century ago and tell me what gasoline prices were. Then tell me what housing prices were. There's something known as "inflation" that has affected most prices. But computer/peripheral prices have stayed pretty much where they are.
     
  4. valis

    valis Moderator

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    Man, I need to shop where you do.....I remember those days.....vividly

    link

    I just grabbed one that I remembered dinking around with. I do remember some in that price range you mentioned, but I don't recall them coming loaded with the apps you specified....

    but then again, that was a loooooooooong time ago, and I frequently have a hard time remembering that bandit is not, in fact, a ted. :)
     
  5. hbquikcomjamesl

    hbquikcomjamesl Thread Starter

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    I never said anything about "pre-loaded with" word processing, database, spreadsheet, or games. Just "suitable for." Of course you had to either buy what you needed, or write it.

    Although every Macintosh through at least MacOS 9 has come with at least a word processor and both vector and bitmap graphics utilities, and eventually with a spreadsheet and a rudimentary database.

    My point is that while peripherals and mass storage have been both improving (if you consider inkjets to be an improvement over anything other than older, even more clog-prone inkjets) and coming down in price (an early example of Roddenberry's "technology unchained"), the boxes themselves have been standing still in price, and having to add huge amounts of raw processing power just to do the same real-world work as their predecessors.

    An example. For word processing on my DOS boxes (currently my 2 486 notebooks and the DOS side of my Linux box), I use WordPerfect 5.1+, which runs just fine on every DOS box I ever owned (although on my old Tandy 1000SL, I stuck with 5.0, because it was a little smaller and faster). For spreadsheets, I use Quattro Pro SE. And for typesetting, I use Xerox Ventura Publisher 2.0 DOS/GEM Edition, which ran just fine on the old Tandy SL, and is so fast on the DOS side of my Linux box that it's tricky to control the scrolling of listboxes.

    You can't buy software that runs that efficiently, or makes such modest demands on memory and processing power, these days. Not only is almost everything GUI-based, it's based on some GUI that's far less efficient than DR GEM or early versions of MacOS. Usually the least efficient GUI of all, WinDoze. But even under Linux, my Linux box ain't exactly the speeding bullet it is under DOS.

    It seems like the usual pattern is for any given box to slowly come down in price, and then hit a brick wall, get discontinued, and the next generation of software is just inefficient enough to make the discontinued boxes obsolete. Look at WinDoze Vista. And look at the Macintosh product life cycle prior to the introduction of the first iMac.
     
  6. valis

    valis Moderator

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    dr gem.....man, does that bring back some memories.....i cut my teeth on his cp/m os.....now that's taking me back a bit. :)

    There's a lot of truth in what you say. That's one of the reasons I'm not a huge proponent of vista, as all it is is a memory hog purely for the gui abilities. It still runs ntfs; granted, it can run 64 bit, but as most apps currently are not set to run that, it's a wash. And yes, you can get past the 4 gig limit with it, but again, the only reason you NEED to is because of the damn gui in the first place.

    But hey, it's selling like hotcakes, so I guess a lot of people like it. I got a 95 box laying around somewhere, that's as far back as I go....I use the 98 as a little server box on occasion, still runs like a champ, and I built that 10 years ago. Only thing I've replaced is the psu. Wish I still had a 2.x machine; I liked that one quite a bit.....and you are right, the programming from then was a LOT more elegant, as they had to cope with the demands of very limited memory. Made for some elegant code that ran like a top and rarely cratered.
     
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