Friday, September 28, 2018

Cheap computers

The golden era of video games and 8 bit home computers was in the 1980's. As a side note, it was also the golden era of chess playing computers. Around 1995 the shift started moving toward PC compatible computers, but rather slowly at first, because they were still very expensive. I got my first PC compatible around that time, but at enormous cost. Prior to that I had used 8 bit computers and one 16 bit Atari ST. Even worse, around 1990 I was still using a "dumb terminal" with the slowest modem in the world (maybe 150 baud) to connect to my workplace.

The kind of computer speeds we were talking about in the 8 bit era were typically around 1 megahertz, with some systems going up to 4 MHZ. In 1995, my first PC compatible computer ran at 16 MHZ, and when I would later upgrade it to 32 MHZ I thought it was a miracle

Compare that to today, where you can buy various versions of the Raspberry PI for $10 to $35. Each of these is a full computer, but you also have to buy some cables and accessories to make them work. These computers cost next to nothing, but depending upon the model run 1 to 4 cores (processors) at 1 to 2 *Gigahertz.*

I am seeing a ton of video game products that run classic video games from the 1980's and early 90's. These are hot consumer items right now. They use processors similar to the Raspberry PI, but usually just one core running at one gigahertz, which makes them very cheap, but that is all it takes. Likewise, these types of processors are turning up in all sorts of devices, like refrigerators with LCD displays.

We live in an interesting era where moderately powerful computing devices can made really cheaply. Of course, for your home computer you are going to want to spend more money to get something more powerful.

I also find it interesting that many high end smartphones rival desktop computers in terms of computing power. The Apple A11 chip, from last year's iPhone, benchmarks better than my 2009 $2,000 core-i7 iMac. Amazing.


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