Glimpses of the Past

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Glimpses of the Past

While I was putting together my Life Chart of the past 4000 days, I was reading through my journal and some emails I sent. Here are some interesting glimpses into the past.


Computers have improved dramatically over the last 10 years. It's hard to remember that until you see actual prices.  Also, it wasn't that long ago that people didn't use the Internet and email that much.

September 11, 1993

Memory just went up a lot in price because of a warehouse burning down at the beginning of summer. 4MB costs about $160. 1MB costs $50. A 386DX-40MHz motherboard would probably be around $160. A 144000 [sic] baud modem would be around $200.

July 6, 1994
At work today, we bought two Pentium computers. They are 90MHz, 540 MB hard drive, 16MB RAM, ATI PCI 2MB video card, 17-inch NEC color monitors, 3 PCI slots, 4 Vesa Local Bus slots, and 14.4 modem. At this point in time, this is the best IBM-compatible you can buy. Each was around $4500. For me, I am still satisfied with my 286. But maybe I'll buy a 386 board. It would only cost me $100 to get a fast 386.

September 16, 1995
Saturday, I spent a lot of time at Biola, setting up my Home Page on the Web. (Note: This was my first web page, the ancestor to this page you're reading now)

March 1, 1994:
I recently got an internet account at school, so I have been trying to figure out how to do stuff on the internet. Apparently, the vax at CSUF doesn't have internet news, so I'm going to try to get a unix account, too.

April 22, 1996
I found a book I had been looking for on the Internet... So for the first time ever, I bought something over the Internet. I sent my credit card number encrypted with Netscape's secure server thing, however that works. We'll see how soon I actually get the book. (As I recall, it was All Sold Out!:How to Sneak into Sporting Events and Concerts by Scott J Kerman)

September 11, 2001

Tuesday morning, September 11, I had gotten up around 7:30am because I have class at 9:30am. I was sending some email on my computer when (between 7:50 and 8:15am) my roommate Dan came in and said, did you hear the news? From the way he said it, I knew it was some big news event. But I didn't want to deal with it, so I said, "No, and I don't want to know, I'll just wait until the evening news." I had to teach at Biola, then go down to USC. But Dan insisted, and said that the World Trade Center had been bombed.

We went into the living room and turned on the TV. At that point, both buildings had already collapsed. We watched the news for a while, the we heard that Biola was going to have a special chapel at 9:30 in the gym.
I went to class at USC. Dan had said he wasn't going to drive downtown, so we didn't carpool. His class ended up being cancelled anyhow. But my classes went on as usual (except the TA taught the graphics class because the professor was "ill"). No one even mentioned the news in that class, and in my next class, the professor said something like, "Well, we may be a little distracted by the day's events, so we need to focus..." It was a little strange that there were no planes flying overhead the next few days. USC is near the approach path to LAX.

(Note: Dan first learned the news on the Internet, checking news sites in the morning like he typically does. I called my brother Joel in Arizona to tell him the news.)


Fall 1994 (from an early email to my parents... I don't know what date, exactly)

On the way home from work today, I saw something you don't see every day. There was an airplane in the middle of the intersection. It crashed right into the middle of the road, then ran into a light pole. I watched the news later and found out that the two people on board walked away without injuries. (Gilbert & Malvern, by the Fullerton Airport).

The Present Cost of Computers

Price: $4,839

  I saw an ad in the April 2004 issue of Computer Shopper for the top-of-the-line Falcon Northwest  Mach V 3.4 Extreme Edition with the following specs:
  • 3.4GHz Intel Pentium 4 Extreme Edition Processor
  • two 120GB SATA hard drives
  • DVD +RW, 16x DVD (DVD writer/reader)
  • 19-inch NEC-Mitsubishi CRT
  • nVidia GeForce FX 5950 Ultra graphics (256MB)
  • Windows XP Home Edition

A more standard computer would be $1,150, with 2GHz, 1GB RAM, 120MB hard drive, similar graphics as above.  And these prices will seem ridiculously expensive, and the computers incredibly slow in another 10 years.  And in ten years, we will look at the above specs and say, "Why, they didn't even use  _____ (fill in the blank) back then".  Just like we can look back today at 1990 and fill in the blank with "the Internet", or "CD writers".  I can't even guess what will go in that blank then.

Future Cost of Computers

Okay, so having said that I can't guess, I'm going to try.  Here's my predictions about what kind of computer you will be able to buy on March 19, 2014, and what features it will have:


Price: $1,750

  Although it's tempting to brashly predict a flashy new kind of computer 10 years from now, I think the reality will be somewhat more mundane.
  • Computer cases will not change much. Unlike the futuristic case shown to the left, most desktop computers will look about the same size and shape as they do now.  Case: $100
  • Memory: 32 GB RAM: $200
  • 8 Intel Processors running at 80 GHz: $400
  • DVD drive with 8 layers, holding 30 GB: $130
  • 19-inch flat screen: $360
  • Hard Drive: 2 TB: $420
  • Microsoft Windows 2012, Home Edition: $250

Computer cases may not change much, but probably there will be more integrated options (computers that fit behind the flat screen displays, better laptops).  As for storage media, I think in 2014 we will likely still have round spinning media, probably still the same size as current CD's and DVD's.  However, we will be able to fit a lot more data there by using several layers.  Sometime in the future, we will store information in some kind of 3-D setup.  But not before 2014.  Instead, round, spinning 2-D surfaces will be around for a while.

The same is true about disk drives. They will improve quite a bit, but still be the same idea of a bunch of spinning platters with some kind of magnetic process.  My size prediction may be a little too big.  Maybe size increase won't be as dramatic as it has been in the past 10 years, and the year 2014 could see 400GB hard drives as sort of a standard.

Screens will get bigger, thinner, and brighter.  It's hard to see anyone but Microsoft being the leading producer of Operating System.  Who knows what kind of name they will use for their product in 2014, but it will almost surely still have the brand name "Windows" somewhere in it.

As for the CPU, I think Intel will still be the leading manufacturer.  One change that might come about would be the move to more parallel processing.  I'll guess 8 processors as the standard during 2014.  But it might be that everyone still uses mainly one, or 200.  Right now, it seems unrealistic to predict 80GHz, but it could happen.  At some point we will run in to problems of the speed of electrons.

I hope that the main improvement we see in the personal computer is in the area of software reliability and usability.  I think the hardware and physical user interface will look about the same, but hopefully, dramatic increases in software performance will take place, making parallel processing more feasible, and helping people interact with computer with less frustration.

We'll see... I can't wait to read this ten years from now.


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Created and maintained by Matthew Weathers. Last updated Apr 20, 2006.