Watching the movie Apollo 13 on TV last night, I was struck by the need of the astronauts (in 1970) to manually transfer data from one computer to another. It reminded me of claims that there is more computing power in the microchip of a digital watch than in the computers used on these early space missions.
Then I realised that there was a possible explanation for this, and that the early computers may well have been all the more effective for it.
They didn’t have to run Windows, the Microsoft operating system that takes up most of the memory on your ordinary computer. They didn’t have to run Microsoft programmes, which consume any memory left after Windows has been loaded. They didn’t have to reboot on a regular basis because of bugs in their Microsoft system/programmes.
The pre-Microsoft computer had straightforward programmes which performed clear functions which were both required and understood by their users. Contrast that with programmes like Powerpoint or Excel. Most users need about 5%-10% of the functionality provided. Even if they knew the rest existed, which they generally don’t, they still wouldn’t want it or ever use it.
So if you could eliminate all the bits of Windows and programmes that you don’t actually use or want, you could probably work happily away with your old Commodore 64 or Sinclair ZX81.
It’s still up in the attic - they haven’t gone away you know!
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- Kenny on Immigration
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- There was life before Microsoft
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