By Al Giovetti


Bigger and Better?

Are these upgrades really getting us anywhere?

I recently recounted my upgrade woes to the world in an article entitled "Windows Pain." Neither Microsoft, nor Intel, nor any other company was really responsible for the very real pain that I still feel from that incident. It is the nature of the computer and technology that sunk me and my computer, not any one company or group.

I have to laude the product support people who retain a sense of humor in all the insanity that besets them. Or is that a sense of insanity in all the humor that besets them, no matter. It's just the nature of the beast. "Sometime you get the bear and sometimes the bear gets you, but you always should dress for the hunt." Let us once again grab a bear or a walrus and move into the world of Wonder. This time I hope we may see Alice and the White Rabbit, or maybe just Harvey as we move along.

Just about 18 months ago, I heard Bill Gates make a speech at one of the trade shows where he claimed that every 18 months the speed and capacity of computers doubles. Bill has not been keeping up, since Moore's Law says it is every 12 months when it comes to capacity of the computer chip.

Moore's Law, see www.intel.com/intel/museum/25anniv/html/hof/moore.htm, states, with an accompanying graph, that ever since 1962, the logic density of silicon integrated circuits has closely followed the relationship that proves this fact. More precisely, the number of bits per square inch of silicon chip equals 2 to the power of time in years since 1962. Or, simply stated, the power of the chip has increased at least 2300 times in 25 years, starting in 1972 with the 4004 chip of 2300 transistors to the 5.5 million transistors on the Pentium Pro processor in 1994.

As the capacity increases the demand increases, driving the price of computers down as well. This means that the increase in hard disk capacity per dollar, RAM capacity per dollar, computer speed per dollar, and everything else per dollaris also increasing at the same rate, doubling every year. One would logically conclude that with all this new technology of speed and capacity that things would be improving.

We should be expecting that things would be getting better, but they are not. Why isn't there any more room on my hard drive? Why don't computer programs run any faster? Why are we still in the same upgrade rut?

What is the reason for the backward slide on this upward slope to newer, better, faster, and bigger? Moore's Law is in conflict with Parkinson's Law of Data. C. Northcoate Parkinson, an economist, philosopher and all around naysayer, states his theorem simply: "Data expands to fill the space available for storage." Even more simply stated, the more RAM memory we get and the larger the hard drive, the more junk the programmers will fill our drives up with, because there no longer is the need for efficient programming. They say, "We got the space, why not use it?"

Noted explorer Sir Edmund Hillary explained this phenomenon best when he explained why he climbed Mt. Everest: "Because it's there." So we are doomed to follow the cycle of replacing our machines every one to five years with no appreciable increase in speed or capacity beyond the demands of the newest software. This means spending money for no appreciable benefit. It does not compute.

However, the software manufactures have us over a barrel, because if we want to use this year's model in software, we are forced to buy this year's fashion in hardware. So we all get back on the treadmill to develop data and reports and play our games at the same rate we did in 1972, except that now the software has more bells and whistles, like multimedia three dimensional sound and graphics. You get to send your upgrade money off with a Broadway production.

How does this impact the average business person? Most of us are concerned with results. Unless the computer can increase our bottom line, all the bells and whistles are for naught. We are annoyed and even angered by the yearly requirement to upgrade, upgrade, and upgrade.

Some of us even fall in love with the computer, which makes all the money that we spend on it bearable. Unable to even look at a wrist watch, use a hand calculator, or even listen to the radio, we turn on our computer for the time, to add two and two, or to check the weather. Now they tell me the new trend is convergence.

The computer whiz kids want to put my telephone and television in the computer. So that every hour of the day I will be faced with the new one eyed monster. Like the cellular phone and beeper that seek us out even when we are far from home, we will have to get into the habit of turning the computer off, if we are ever to get any rest. Good night all. Until next time, Click.

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