2002/09/22
 
02:20

Timothy Gets a New Computer

I recently purchased a new computer – a fire-breathing 2.5 Gigahertz Dell with a state-of-the-smart video card and a nifty black case that reminds me of the robot Maximillian from the movie "The Black Hole". My old computer is sitting beside it, powered down and looking sorry for itself. It's got – ha! – a beige case, and it's all square, like. 650 MHz, only. A mere calculator.

So now I'm happy, in theory. The thing is, you get used to that extra speed with incredible speed. Oh, from time to time I double-click something, thinking it couldn't have happened that fast, but you know how it is: you still end up drumming your fingers in the 0.95 seconds it takes for a program to start up. Whereas before my fingers could go "thrum thrum" five times as I waited, now I can only do it once. I don't suppose I'll be truly giddy until my computer anticipates what I'm about to do. I guess that would take some kind of artificial intelligence: it will see where my mouse is heading and pre-click it for me. No, wait, that's too simplistic: it would guess wrong too often and people would write more articles about how Microsoft has screwed the public again with their prognostication routines.

I guess a mind-reading, mood-detecting computer would move things along more quickly. I suppose, though, that it would have to keep a database of some sort, and if that ever got into the grubby mitts of the spammers, it would be very bad indeed. Around dinner-time: 175 e-mails from pizza restaurants. (No, I don't eat pizza often, but the spammers will show their usual discrimination and key in on "hungry" and "human". I suppose I'll also get a few adverts for dog food.)

I could have paid an additional $700 and got a 2.8 Gigahertz machine, but I figured it wasn't worth the extra bucks for only 300 MHz more – even though that means spurning a bonus of nearly half the horsepower of my previous machine.

Incidentally, according to Moore's Law, which states that computing power doubles every 18 months, in slightly more than a year we'll be able to buy a machine that runs at 4.77 Gigahertz. Why does that matter? Well, I purchased my first IBM-PC compatible computer in 1982 and it ran at 4.77 Megahertz. That means that in only twenty years, we've increased by one-thousandfold the speed at which we can accidentally delete files!

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