All that dentistry for nothing
July 3, 2009 7 Comments
Ok, I’m cunningly going to sidestep the question of what my new game is about one more time and hope you don’t notice.
That’s partly because my PC gave up the ghost this week, so I’m still in the middle of setting up a new one. It didn’t help that the first replacement I bought had a suicidal disk controller, and the second has a bug in the video driver that meant my DVI monitor would just go blank in the middle of installing Windows, leaving me without a clue what was going on and the computer baffled about why I wasn’t answering its questions.
But here’s pause for thought: my new PC (or Next Month’s Rent, as I like to call it) has four 64-bit CPUs, each running at 2.5GHz. It has 8GB of RAM and a one-terabyte hard drive. OH… MY… GOODNESS! Even the graphics card has 320 data execution paths and 512 MILLION transistors.
I still have the second computer I ever owned, from way back in 1979. It had one 8-bit CPU running at 4MHz, being fed by 640 bytes of memory and no disk drive. The first disk drive I owned had 360KB of storage.
So the processor clock is now 640 times faster, not to mention having four times as many cores, eight times as many bits and a lot more fancy gizmos like caches, FPUs and a separate GPU to do a lot of the work. Disk space has increased by a factor of 1.6 million, and memory has shot up by a factor of 13 million!
Just imagine if cars were 640 times faster than they were in 1980, capable of scooting along at up to ninety thousand miles per hour! (They’d be spacecraft, in fact, since escape velocity is only 17,500 mph.) What would it be like if your cupboards could hold 13 million times as much stuff before it all started to fall out every time you opened a door?
Isn’t technology wonderful? So how come robots haven’t taken over the world yet?
I got to thinking about this because I was talking about my first computer in an interview for FlagNews, a local TV and Web infotainment show that I like and seem to have become mysteriously drawn into. Tyrus, the producer and one of the presenters, is a really nice guy who works hard to bring only good news to the people of Flagstaff and environs, and to create a video archive of the local culture on a shoestring budget. Some weird kind of synchronicity brought us together and I’m delighted to have met a friend. I’ll probably end up helping out at the show in some capacity – making tea, coiling cables and interviewing local scientists; that sort of thing) and I’m looking forward to meeting the rest of the team. Anyway, my interview is up on their website today (7/3/09). Tyrus and Pez (the editor, who I met at the folk festival last weekend) have kindly managed to pull it together into something that sounds like I knew what I was talking about (I’m a bit rusty).
But here’s the thing: I always hated doing television and would turn down nine out of every ten requests, because if I ever plucked up the nerve to watch myself all I could ever see were my damn teeth – a random collection of great yellow things that stuck out at all angles. So about six months ago I had them fixed, and I felt so much better about myself. But there they are again! They’re disco-white and straight now, but they still dominate my face like Al Jolson’s lips in blackface makeup. Oh well.
I also did an interview for EuroGamer yesterday – by email. My teeth look so much better by email. With all this sudden attention I guess I’d better get on and DO something. More news on that in the next post. Probably.
P.S. And in a continuing flurry of interviews, Norm just pinged me to say that his recent interview with Ann (my first wife), about her research on Open Science and Public Engagement, is now up on the web at Machines Like Us. Hers has a lot more content in it than mine.
P.P.S. FlagNews really needs support, so if you happen to live in Northern Arizona and found my interview interesting (or not, for that matter), send ’em a little cash, why don’t you? There’s a PayPal link on their website. The same goes for MachinesLikeUs. People do this stuff out of the kindness of their hearts and we should encourage that as much as we are able.