Our new Aptiva

We got a new PC this week. It's not a top-of-the-line screamer, but it is a significant upgrade from what had been the main family system.

I've always been a bit amused by the way Jerry Pournelle names the various machines at Chaos Manor (For those for who the name does not ring a bell, he is a science fiction writer, perhaps best known for some of his collaberations with Larry Niven - Lucifer's Hammer or The Mote in God's Eye - and also the author of a monthly column on computing in Byte Magazine for many years -- He currently maintains the Chaos Manor website, an outgrowth of his old Byte column, and also is a regular online columnist for the Byte website and for Intellectual Capitol.) I also know people who name their automobiles, etc. That hasn't happened in my house. Our original computer was just "the computer." Then it became "the old computer" or "the DOS machine" once we had purchased a new one. The new one, of course, was variously called "the new computer" or "the Windows machine" or "the 486." No cute nicknames. The DOS machine was my personal machine for a while but when we moved to Rhode Island it became my daughter's machine. When she was in 8th grade she was using it to write a fantasy adventure novel (one that would have fit nicely into the world of the Red Wall novels. When she entered high school she lost interest in the novel and eventually the computer moved from her room down to the basement. The next machine then became "the new computer" or "the Aptiva." The 486 machine moved to my son's room but it had some problems (caused, I think, simply by a BIOS problem, probably due to a dead battery) and most recently was given to a computer science major nephew to use as a server in a home LAN he was putting together. Our newest machine is also an Aptiva, so I suppose it will just be called "the new computer" or probably just "the computer" since the old Aptiva has been moved to my daughter's room and is now known as her computer.

Aptiva, K-6, 475Mhz. 128 MB RAM, 13 GB hard drive, built-in Zip drive, CD drive. 17 inch monitor. The old Aptiva is a 133Mhz Pentium with 24 MB RAM, a 2 GB hard drive and a 4x CD drive with a 4 CD changer, 17 inch monitor... plus we had added a scanner and an external Zip drive. The old 486 seems so inadequate now, but when we ordered it, the standard configuration was 4MB of RAM and an 80 MB hard drive; we essentially doubled it, giving it 8 MB of memory and a 170 MB drive. Our old DOS machine had 640KB of memory and a single 5.25 inch floppy drive (360 KB)... We had bought that machine twelve years ago.

A disk pack
Once upon a time I was a computer operator driving a 370/158 which was then replaced by an NAS mainframe with about two to three times the throughput. We were running under the OS/VS1 operating system which was capable of addressing 16MB of main memory (although that 158 had 2 MB of memory which was then upgraded to 2.5MB to much rejoicing). There were eight 3330 disk drives attached to that system. The 3330 was the size of a washing machine, the disk packs consisted of a stack of platters (ten or twelve?) each larger than a 33 rpm record. And the amazing statistic that we would always use to awe visitors was that each one of those disk packs could hold up to 100 MB of data -- yes, imagine that, the equivalent of one hundred million characters on just one of those stacks of disks... and we had eight of those machines, which mean our computer could have online access to as much as eight hundred million bytes of data. Wow! And today, just twenty-odd years later, a laptop computer with as little capacity on its drive as that mainframe system would be considered obsolete and nearly useless. Think about it: a CD can hold something like 650 MB of data, more capacity than a half dozen of those 3330 drives. IBM recently announced a new hard drive for laptops that has a 25 GB capacity! And you could put two of them in a laptop. 50 GB on a computer you could stuff in a briefcase...

...Moore's Law in action...

I wanted to try to find an exact picture of an IBM 370/158 but the search engine references I came up with mostly seemed to be to people's resumes. (It seems to me as if these people are cluttering their resumes with obsolete information if they intend these to be real job-finding resumes... as opposed to webpage bragging about back in the days when big iron was really BIG!) Anyway, although this isn't from a 3330, this is what a disk pack looked like.

Some olde tyme computer sites Commercial Computing Museum A listing of links to various sites with historical information about computing.

The Computer Museum (Boston) Interesting website and interesting physical museum. (Two caveats: part of the website requires registration with id and password and can trap you in a password demand situation not let you escape... Also, the physical museum is interesting but beware the guided tours through the historical exhibits, many guides do not really know what they are talking about and their talks are not historically accurate.

The Computer Museum of America Located in San Diego.

IBM History A brief presentation (with illustrations) of IBM's history.

Previous Entry

Next Entry

To 1996-99 archives

Back to Jim's home page

Note: Entry copied from original Geocities jimsjournal site, internal links changed to jimsjournal domain, text placed in table to avoid full screen line length. No change made to content.