Sign in with
Sign up | Sign in

Facts & Figures - The Evolution Of Performance

The Mother of All CPU Charts 2005/2006
By

The evolution of processors between 1993 and 2005 has been nothing short of dizzying. Clock speed has skyrocketed from 60 MHz (Pentium 60) to 3,800 MHz (Pentium 4 670) - that's a 63-fold increase. Simultaneously, the computer's main memory evolved as well. Today, even entry-level computers have a memory size equivalent to the capacity of high-end hard drives in 1993. This increase in clock speed and memory size does not result in a proportional performance increase, since overhead has also increased. Nonetheless, the performance characteristics of today's processors are nothing to sneeze at. Consider that converting a music CD to MP3 format took about five hours in 1993, while the same task takes less than five minutes today.

Care for another comparison? In the mid-nineties, the fastest PC networks were able to transfer data at only about 10 MBit/s (and that was half-duplex). Today, wireless networks achieve up to 54 MBits/s and more using multiple frequencies, while the wire-bound versions reach up to 1 GBit/s. Put another way, data transfer speeds between two networked computers today are higher than what PCs were able to process internally ten years ago. The memory subsystem of the Pentium 60 was able to handle about 40 MB/s - a Gigabit Ethernet network can push twice as much of that.

The 3.5" Floppy Is The Last Surviving Dinosaur

One stalwart component has survived through all of these innovations: the 3.5" floppy. Originally designed by Sony, it quickly became a standard feature on IBM-compatible PCs (remember when they were called that?). The floppy is the only component that still remains in use today, practically unchanged in its 18 years of service, running at 360 rpm and offering a transfer rate of 34 kB/s. Once again, let's put that in perspective with regard to today's world: Transferring a file to your computer from a server that is 10,000 miles away on another continent is three times or even faster than getting it from your internal disk drive. And despite all this - the floppy lives.

React To This Article