The Prime of Life

If you think today’s PC hardware is astounding, stick around for a decade.

Fabio, who is normally among the more sensitive representatives of the male half of the human race, happened to mention the other day that Auntie is in the prime of life. After checking for gray hairs and pulling myself back together, I pointed out that he was a few years primer and suggested that it was time that he cleaned up his den. As the sounds of trashcans filling echoed through the manse, though, this technology maven started reminiscing—no, not about things like high school graduations, but about my first computer.

1983 was the year, and the PC was an XT. Which means, of course, thata it was from IBM (though already there were cheap Korean knockoffs available; I’m just a caviar-and-champagne kind of gal). The processor ran at a chipper 4.77MHz, the hard drive held 10MB, and I’d splurged moderately and bought 256K of RAM.

A decade later, Auntie was writing software for a small independent software vendor you’ve never heard of and playing the odd computer game. I’d upgraded, of course: I was then running a Zeos 486 (remember those?) with a perky 33MHz CPU and 32 megs of RAM, and I’d splurged on a 1GB hard drive. My theory was that I’d never have to upgrade the hard drive again. What can I say? I was young and foolish.

Late last year, my new PC arrived. From Atlas Micro, it sports 60GB of hard drive space, 1.5GB of RAM (no, I don’t consider that excessive…), and the CPU runs at a mere 1.8GHz. With all that power, Outlook 2003 opens, well, quickly enough.

Now that I’m in the prime (ahem!) of my life, I wisely no longer assume that this will be my last computer. So, what do I dream of in another decade?

One thing you learn in pundit school is to predict that the future will be just like the past, only more so. So, in that spirit, I expect I’ll buy another PC around 2013. That one should have around 30GB of RAM and a couple of terabytes of disk storage and run at something like 750GHz. If I ran today’s software on it, I’d be finished practically before I started. But, of course, I won’t run today’s software, anymore than that old copy of VisiCalc is still cooking on my current desktop.

Let’s see, Windows 2013 (“Even-Longer-Horns”) will suck up at least half a terabyte of disk space, and the immersive 3D graphics will tax the processor at the best of times. But certainly my 2013 computer will be a much spiffier machine than I’m running now. Of course, if other trends continue, I’ll use it for nothing more than reading my e-mail—but I’ll read it very quickly.

When I want to relax with that 2013 model, the Internet will no doubt be splashing directly into my house through a super-mega-broadband connection. I envision first-run movies on demand, immersive user interfaces to NNTP newsgroups, user agents that do my bidding at the snap of a finger and IPV6 addresses for every follicle of my carefully-coiffed hair.

And what of certifications in that far-off time? It seems like the MCSE will have evolved into an a la carte approach, where you select eight exams from a pool of 600 or so and get a customer certification in return. You know, something like “MCSE on Windows 2011 with Concentration in Databases, Funny Icons and Screen Savers.” Of course, the folks who last passed an exam when Windows NT 4.0 was still current will be pressuring Microsoft to great-great-great-grandfather them in to the then-current program.

Oh, dear. Fabio just came out of the den with an evil grin plastered on his normally handsome face. And, he’s holding up the box full of 2400-baud modems that I’d stashed at the back of his closet. Now the dear boy wants to know whether our nieces and nephews would even recognize these artifacts of an earlier technology. Excuse me—I think we need another discussion of this “prime of life” stuff.

About the Author

Em C. Pea, MCP, is a technology consultant, writer and now budding nanotechnologist who you can expect to turn up somewhere writing about technology once again.

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