Computers over time

DEC VAXI haven’t done a post about old computers, or computers in general, for a while. This post will change that.

This time, I’ll be talking about the computers that I started using in the early 90s. The behemoths of computers. The sort that needed a large room, air conditioning and huge amounts of power to run. not only that you needed a team of people to maintain them. Sometimes these operators had to dig out a soldering iron to make the machine work. Not only that, I’ll be meandering through other computers…

People who are in their late teens, or early twenties, today don’t know that much about that era of computing. The have grown up with the Sony PlayStation, iPods and laptops that wouldn’t try and give you a hernia. The machine that I’m writing this post in would have been a miracle at that time. It’s light, powerful and has gigabytes of memory; not the megabytes that were common at that time.

Computer memory at the time came in megabyte sticks. Now it’s gigabytes! A massive increase in size. This also has a downside. Programs have got bigger, more memory hungry and not that optimised as they don’t need to be. If you have one or two megabytes to play with. This includes the operating system and everything else that’s running, you have to be very careful with how you write your program. Mainly so you can have some space for the user to be able to do something with it!

The large, industrial, computer market of the era was dominated by a couple of manufacturers. DEC, Digital Equipment Corporation; IBM, International Business Corporation as well as the plucky British entry of ICL, International Computers Limited. DEC is now a part of HP. ICL closed its doors for the last time in 2002. IBM has diversified out of the Personal Computer market and are back into its server arm.

Spongebob waiting for his page to loadSpongebob has the feeling that we had when we started using The Internet. My first experiences of the web was using a dumb terminal that talked to the world via an X-25 gateway down a, massive, 64KILObits line to the greater Internet. That had to cope with around 15,000 people! Today, if you’re getting less than 8 to 10 MEGAbits line you are complaining that you can’t watch your youtube videos of cats without it needing to buffer!

Just remember, if you’re under 25, don’t complain me about the speed of your computer or you Internet speed as I don’t care as people of my age group grew up with machines that ran at 1MHz not 1GHz as the slower computers of today have inside them!