The PC Problem

By Tony Boarer

Originally published in EUG #24

Matters are moving so fast that it is clear that one must jump in at the top - this is a serious drawback and that is the cost of so doing! At least £3,000 is required in my estimation.

A system bought now must at least be able to cope for several years with an ability to absorb improvements in technology. I will leave you to decided what is meant by several years.

The PC system which would appeal to me would consist of:

  • A fast microprocessor: Pentium Pro (I see that Pentium MHz 150 appears in this week's adverts in Micros' Computer Mart - the faster microprocessers should offer some degree of "future-proofing")
  • 1.6 Gigabytes of hard disk storage
  • Windows 95 (Sticking to older software will probably make updating harder or even impossible)
  • 16 Megabytes of RAM
  • Quad-speed CD ROM (Some software already needs quad-speed)
  • High grade 17" Monitor (A subject in itself on which I have collected a lot of information I have not have the time to read - let alone digest!)
  • Internet capability (Again, a 17" monitor makes viewing pages much easier, so I'm told. A 28000bps (Bits per second) modem cuts down 'phone bills - is there no end to the expense?)
  • Sound card and speakers (Again, there is much to read!)

The following thoughts are aided by articles in Weekend Financial Times and Micromart.

How fast is fast? To coin a phrase, "You ain't seen nothin' yet!". In an article in the Weekend FT in 1994, it was stated that the first memory chips produced by Intel in the early 1970s contained 1,000 digital bits of data on circuits 6.5 microns (millionths of a metre) wide; and now (1994!) the most powerful chip 14megabit DRam (16MBit) at 0.5 microns. It was predicted that by 1996, we would have 64Mbit chip at 0.35 micros. Although I have not seen a report of progress, in the predictions, even this growth of data storage (and hence access speed) is slow until around the year 2000 at 256Mbit - and 2004 at 1Gbit and 0.18 microns (Gbit = bn bit).

This is stated to be the limit for the current technology (Optical technology using ultraviolet light for the circuitry). The 4Gbit chip using X-ray lithography was predicted for 2008 and further generations of Gbits down to 0.04 microns, using special features to keep the electrons from leaking away; this in the second decade of the 21st century. The mind boggles!

Mind you I will be getting near ninety if I am to see it!

So it would seem to me at least there can be no good time to "jump" in but I suppose the sooner the better in view of the accelerating progress. Also, I certainly would not buy a second-hand PC system for I would require the full initial backup and guarantees.

Tony Boarer