Random Thoughts About Computer Technology

I was doing a computer backup, something I probably don’t do as often as I should (and neither do you!). During the process I was struck by the advances in technology over the past couple of decades.

What triggered the thought was watching the transfer rate on my laptop screen. Depending on the type of data, the files were migrating to the backup drive at between 30 and 50 megabytes per second.

That brought back a memory from 1990. When I first bought a personal computer, I spent a lot of time doing research. I went for a top of the line machine. The salesman assured me I would never fill the 30 megabyte hard drive that I chose as part of the package. After all, the best floppy disks, the portable storage medium of the time, only held 1.4 megabytes. (I am assuming that if you aren’t familiar with these terms you can look them up yourself.) Thirty megabytes in one place was almost more data storage than anyone could possibly dream of.

Today thirty megabytes is a flicker, one second of data being transferred from one machine to another. The nature of what we store on a computer has changed.

I only backup the essentials: pictures, music and documents. I figure I can always re-install software should I have a catastrophic event. And at that the “essentials” on my computer came to almost 600 gigabytes, or about 20,000 times the amount of data that my old hard drive would hold. The one I would never be able to fill. The portable hard drive I use for backup holds about 70,000 times the amount of data as that old 30 megabyte computer, cost me one thirtieth as much and is about the size of my cell phone.

To say that technology has exploded is an understatement Computers are smaller but more powerful, and it seems there is no end in sight to the improvements. But are they better? Has my quality of life improved as my digital devices have gotten more efficient at what they do? Does a computer gamer get more pleasure from the latest “must have” game than we did from Asteroids three decades ago? I suspect not.

How about you? Are you happier with today’s technology? Why or why not? Somebody speak to me – the comments section is open!



  1. I also remember my first work laptop having 40Mb memory, and my first email… More and faster isn’t always better. What struck me was what we do with all the technologies. in the 60’s, when computers are the size of a room, we were able to sent men to the moon, and they came back. Now our technologies serves more to entertain us. While we can get more information, store more and more instantly, the depth, value, reliability and permanence of the information is sacrificed proportionally.

    In terms of media, in the beginning there is carving in stone – it’s slow but they last a very long time, then we move to etching on metal, then, handwriting on parchment/papyrus, then printing on paper, now electronic media. A black and white silver gelatin printed photo will last much longer than an electronic file of the same image. The permanence of these media decreases with increasing speed of recording. I agree with John, we are moving towards some sort of limit, faster and faster…

  2. John Tallett · · Reply

    Lorne, we’re never satisfied; we always want more and we want it faster. I’d love to see an historical analysis of the pace of technology change over the last few thousand years. My educated guess is that it’s following an exponential curve and right now we’re approaching the really steep part. What will happen to humankind when we hit the vertical part of the curve? Hold on tight.

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