I’m writing this on my recycled Compaq Armada, in AbiWord, a lightweight word processor that I use on several of my systems (it works in both rich and plain text). So far, it’s enjoyable enough.
I’m here trying to see what sort of “serious” work can be done with this setup. As it happens, my old ThinkPad 760XD, running Windows 98SE, is also setup to do “serious” work, with the understanding that its OS is a decade and a half old. Both machines are quite capable of serious work, but the one area where they both suffer is the Internet.
I am at least running the Chromium browser on this Compaq, and it is fairly modern by today’s standards. It was installed after the OS was setup. It is slow, as should be expected considering the tight confines of the RAM overhead (192 MB) and processor speed (366 mHz). It still runs, albeit a little sluggishly. So while just a few years ago I would have considered my old ThinkPad 760XD to be the bare minimum requirements, my thoughts have now shifted; 166 mHz, 64 MB RAM may be sufficient for Windows 98SE, but is simply too old for today’s demands.
Both of these machines appeared a couple of years apart, yet they are vastly different. The advent of the Pentium II chip was the breakthrough that changed things back then. IBM did follow suit, but the simple fact remains that this machine, with more than twice the CPU speed and three times the RAM, is a heavyweight compared to the older ThinkPad.
The days when those sort of jumps occurred, when Moore’s Law seemed to be in full play, are probably over. That particular generation of machine saw rapid, bordering on chaotic, growth. The dominant areas of concentration these days are in mobile computing, with tablets and smart phones leading the pack. The days of concentrating strictly on CPU horsepower might not necessarily be behind us, but the emphasis of late has shown signs of change in other directions.
Still, as I write this, the march of obsolescence continues, older machines being relegated to the closet or the dump. Machines that just a short time ago amused and amazed us. Machines that are probably still capable of doing so, provided the means.