Commentary: Evolution of today’s computer

June 1, 2011 

A typical morning breaks. Alarm sounds followed by a shower and preparation for the day. Oh yeah, and straight to my phone to check messages, text and maybe a sports score. When you think of electronics and especially computers, it is amazing how far we have come just in the last 10 to 15 years.

My first computer was a Pentium 75 MHz with 256 MB of RAM and a 10 GB Hard Drive. It cost me a cool $1,699. It was loaded up with Windows 95; the first of Microsoft’s truly GUI (graphical user interface) based operating systems. Windows 95 also introduced the “plug and play” for simple integration of hardware. The Pentium 75 was a single core processor rated to run approximately 126 million instructions per second. The computer made its connection to the Internet via a top of the line 14400 baud dial-up modem. With this “powerful” connection, I could be on the Internet in one to two minutes. In its day, it was a fairly capable computer.

Capable, but it pales in comparison to today’s computers. Our store typically carries a base computer with a Dual Core 2.4 Ghz processor. This processor is rated to run an estimated 10 billion instructions per second, 80 times faster than my old 75 based on simple statistics, but in reality, they are much faster. This base computer has 3 Gigabytes of RAM, 12 times my old “new computer.” Hard drive space is greater as well.

A 500 Gigabyte drive is considered average today. Of course today’s software is more “needy.” Whereas Windows 95 “required” 50-55 MBs of hard drive space and 8 MB of memory, Windows 7 recommends 16 Gigabyte of hard drive space and 1 Gigabyte of RAM. Oh and this computer sells for $399. So what about that hand computer, better known as the smart phone?

A smart phone does not use a processor like you would find in a desktop computer.

Desktop processors use too much electricity and generate too much heat to be used in a phone.

That being said, a smart phone processor typically runs between 1 and 2 million instructions per second depending on the processor manufacturer, and have 256 MB memory.

Storage wizard

What is amazing is their storage capability.

Smartphone’s typically start with 512 MB to 2 GB of internal storage and can be enhanced with SD Cards that are capable of adding up to 32 GB of available space. They are also capable of surfing the web and running applications superior to those run on my old Pentium 75 at a purchase price that is still far less.

So while we often feel that money does not go as far as it once did, consider advances in computing and how the cost has decreased.

Devices we now carry in our pockets are more flexible and better performing then those high priced devices of the 90s. It makes you wonder just what future computing will bring us next.

Michael Shaffer, of Computer Renaissance of Bradenton, can be reached at (941) 753-8277 or at

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