Things that change, things that don'tOriginally published 2007 in Atomic: Maximum Power Computing
Last modified 03-Dec-2011.
It is, in brief, about wankers and their computers. It's funny. Go and read it. I'll wait.
The sentiment of The Power User's Guide has remained perfectly valid since it was written more than fifteen years ago, but most of the statistics of the computers described therein are, of course, now ridiculously low.
The example of an outrageously overpowered computer bought by the pompous idiot of the title is, for instance, a "130MHz 80586 PS/4 with 100Mb RAM and a 5 gigabyte optical drive".
The actual state-of-the-art CPU at the time, when you could still spend $10,000 on a high-spec business box, was the 50MHz 486DX. The DX2 wouldn't be along until 1992; it was the first ever CPU to use the "clock doubling" technology that led to the modern age of slow-bus, fast-core x86 machines.
The reference to an "optical drive" wasn't talking about CD or DVD-ROM, because CD writing in 1991 was still very exotic technology that a "Power User" could not possibly figure out. Magneto-optical drives of different kinds were the best bulk storage option for the money-no-object set at the time; they had more capacity than the SyQuest and Iomega Bernoulli cartridge drives of the time, and they were tougher than the temperamental-yet-popular SyQuest hard-platter cartridges, too.
Gigabyte-class hard drives didn't quite exist yet. 1Gb SCSI drives made it to retail shelves in late 1991, but they cost about $US1500 a pop.
These days, Dell will sell you a two thousand megahertz Sempron box with a 160 gigabyte hard drive and 512Mb of RAM (but no monitor) for a lousy $US359, and the worst thing about it is that its half-gigabyte of memory isn't really enough.
So that's, what, factor of 15, five and 32 differences between the CPU clock, RAM and disk specs of a laughably overpowered fantasy computer then, and a cheap and nasty box today.
The example of a monster monitor, though, is a "4096 x 4096, 12 billion colour hyper-VGA video display".
We've pretty much got the zillions of colours (12 billion colours would actually be something like 33.5 bits, but you couldn't tell the difference between that and the 24/32 bit colour that's normal today), but we ain't got 4096 by 4096. Display devices are one of those technologies, like batteries, that's not improving nearly as quickly as almost everything else.
LCDs are all very nice and flicker-free and skinny, but they haven't boosted resolution a whole lot.
The current consumer-market god-monitors are the 30-inch 2560 by 1600 behemoths you used to only be able to get from Apple, then from Apple and Dell, and now under a few other brands - though the actual panels in those monitors are only made by a couple of companies, at most.
Those screens have slightly less than a quarter of the pixel count of a 4096 by 4096 screen.
But the 30-inchers are already bumping up against the maximum bandwidth of dual link DVI. Dual DVI can go all the way up to 3840 by 2400 - more than half of the pixel count of a 4096 by 4096 pixel screen - but only at a 33Hz refresh rate. That's adequate for movies (as long as you sync the frames up correctly) but not for games. And that's as far as DVI goes.
HDMI may make it to higher maximum bandwidth in the future, but at the moment it's no better than dual DVI.
So I wouldn't touch the Power User's $15,000-in-'91 PC with a bargepole today. Its stats aren't good enough for a Win2000 business box, let alone a general purpose desktop.
But I still want his monitor.