Sunday, July 18, 2021
Saturday, July 3, 2021
Friday, July 2, 2021
Tuesday, June 29, 2021
Around 1984 there was an article with a prediction that went like this: "Someday you will throw away computers. Your house will be littered with them. You will get computers in cereal boxes." Thirty-seven years ago, that day seemed like it would be pretty far off.
How exactly has this prediction faired? Well, how many computers do I own? Here is the list...
1. One of the more powerful computers in my home is my iPhone 6s+. It is a powerful computer masquerading as a phone. I bought a second one when the wi-fi on the first failed, so technically I have two. I also have a couple of older iPhones in storage. These could easily be thrown out since they are not very useful anymore.
2. I have an iPad 4. The only reason I bought it was because my iPad 2, which I loved, was stolen when someone broke into my home in Salt Lake City. However, I don't really have much of a need for it. The iPads were originally touted as book readers to compete with the Amazon Kindle tablets, but I don't think that reading books on a full-size iPad is a great experience. You can do all the normal internet stuff with them, but I have plenty of devices that can do that. I think that my iPad's best use is to play audiobooks.
3. About 11 years ago I bought a Microsoft Tablet on a Black Friday sale for $200 because this seemed like a fantastic deal at the time. At the time, it probably was. However, this has been the most useless piece of crap that I own. One could use it to browse the internet and read email, but it is way out of date, and it was never very useful to begin with. It is less pleasant to hold than an iPad. I doubt that I can get any software for it.
4. Recently, I bought an Amazon Fire Tablet, normally $150, for $80 on a Black Friday sale. It is a pretty nice tablet, but there is not anything I can do with it that I can't do on other devices. I bought it so that I could attempt to write Android apps and test them on the tablet.
5. I'm typing this on my 2017 27" iMac. This is a replacement for my late-2009 iMac that has several problems, such as the display repeatedly shutting off. I occasionally still use this machine just for analyzing chess games, which is processor intensive, although my new iMac is plenty capable of doing that.
6. Four years ago I was given a Raspberry PI 3, which is a very cheap small computer the size of a deck of cards. It can run Linux and do normal computer stuff, although it is not very powerful at all. However, I configured it to be a game emulation box that can be hooked up to my TV.
Newer, more powerful versions of the Raspberry PI are available.
7. I own both a NES Classic Edition and a Sony PlayStation Classic. These are both game emulation boxes. Both are good for playing games and both can be hacked to play even more games.
8. I bought three Arcade1up machines. These are 3/4 scale arcade games that you assemble yourself. They are essentially emulation boxes that come with classic arcade games. I like my Star Wars Arcade game the best.
9. Back in the early 2000s, I bought a joystick that can be hooked up to an old-style TV and it plays 10 classic games. As a game system it is not that good, but I still occasionally use it because it does a great job with one game in particular, which is Pole Position.
10. I have an old Sega Genesis with some cartridges that I plan on selling. Over thirty years ago the 68000 processor in the Genesis was considered a mainstream computer processor. I have seen really old mainframe computers that cost a fortune that used this processor. By the 1990s the 68000 processor was only really used in game systems.
11. I was able to fix an old laptop that I gave away to a chess player in need. Then I was able to purchase a refurbished laptop very cheap that is vastly superior. This computer proved very helpful as a backup computer while my iMac was in the shop, but otherwise, I don't really need a laptop anymore.
So I count 18 computers. My house *is* littered with computers, some of which I could easily throw away.
I am not going to count the three electronic chess clocks that I own. I don't know if they use a CPU or just dedicated logic chips.
I didn't count the Star Wars Storm Trooper Robot that I got in a package deal with my Star Wars arcade game. This device can interface with your smartphone and play games. I have been trying to sell it for a year.
I also didn't count my robot vacuum cleaners. I own two, one of which is broken. I have had these for well over a decade, and the one that works is starting to have problems.
If you own a calculator, which I don't, it has either a 4-bit or an 8-bit processor inside. It is also a computer, although very limited.
As far as getting computers in cereal boxes, I saw a little handheld game that came in a 2007 cereal box. It was pretty primitive, probably using a 4-bit processor.
Friday, June 25, 2021
I think that the first flash drive I owned was either 128 or 256 megabytes. Later I would get a 512 because I had a computer that could record television and I could fit a single program on a 512, which at the time seemed impressive. Now you can purchase 128 gigabyte (128,000 megabyte) flash drives for under $30.
I remember 1-gigabyte drives costing like $90. When my company gave me one I felt privileged. Now you can't even buy them, and no one would want one anyway.
When the IBM computer came out with its first hard drive in the mid-1980s, it was only 5 megabytes and cost a fortune.
Now it is possible to buy a 1TB flash drive for around $180 to $200. However, there seem to be a bunch of cheap ones for sale that are fake.
For $15 to $60 you can get 128GB to 512 GB flash drives which are a better deal.
Sunday, June 20, 2021
Saturday, June 19, 2021
Tuesday, June 8, 2021
Friday, May 28, 2021
Since most software is written for Microsoft Windows, people were forced to use x86 chips, which are mostly made by Intel, except for AMD which has a license going back to the 1980s to make x86 clone chips.
Intel has been falling behind AMD. They were slow to release chips with smaller than 14-nanometer circuits, with the latest offering using 10 nanometers. However, AMD has already released 7-nanometer chips with plans to release 5 and 6 nanometer chips soon.
There is a 30+ year war over design philosophy. The x86 chips have huge instruction sets, called Complex Instruction Set Computers (CISC), making them more versatile. However, in the late 1980s, ARM starting developing Reduced Instruction Set Computer (RISC) processors that could run more efficiently by limiting the instruction sets to what was most important. RISC chips typically run faster while using less power, making them ideal for mobile devices.
ARM RISC chips recently have caught up and even surpassed most x86 chips. Apple developed their own versions of ARM chips for their mobile devices that were starting to rival desktop processors. Then Apple stunned everyone by releasing their ARM-based 5-nanometer M1 processor for their new laptops and lower-end computers. The M1 chip is surprisingly powerful rivaling some of the best x86 chips while using far less energy. The M1 processor can also run many Apple x86 programs using emulation while still maintaining strong performance.
The x86 oligopoly is starting to fade. Microsoft has released versions of Windows that can run on ARM processors, although these are not compatible with x86 programs. There have been ideas around for a long time that have started to emerge again, such as Just In Time Compilation, and Virtual Machines such as Java that will allow software to be developed that can run on different kinds of hardware. In addition, many companies are starting to make software for both x86 and ARM.
With Nvidia acquiring ARM for 40 billion dollars, they are looking to become the new dominant chip manufacturer.
Sunday, May 23, 2021
Friday, May 14, 2021
From: John Coffey
Date: Mon, Mar 1, 2021 at 4:57 PM
Subject: Happier times, maybe
Thursday, April 29, 2021
Wednesday, April 28, 2021
Tuesday, April 27, 2021
Wednesday, April 21, 2021
From: Review Geek <email@example.com>
Date: Wed, Apr 21, 2021 at 8:22 AM
Subject: Apple's New M1 iMacs, iPad Pro, AirTags, Updated Apple TV, and More
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