Please visit the active Ultrasparky blog to browse the for the content that has accumulated since this all began in 1996.

« Gothamish | Main | Archives | More Studio Tips »

The Relentless March of Progress

Through the misty shroud of time long past, picture a young Sparky full of optimism and armed with a shiny new BFA in graphic design chirping with glee over his shiny new Mac IIci, juiced up with 12 megabytes of RAM, an 80-megabyte hard drive, and a luxurious 80-megabyte external hard drive. Imagine how drunk with power I felt! This first system still holds a record for being the priciest set-up I’ve ever owned: about $7,500 for the whole kit and caboodle, including a full version of Adobe Illustrator, version 3 or 4 or somesuch. (I make a point of buying at least one fully licensed piece of software everytime I buy a new machine.) Just think of the perks: high-density 1.5MB floppy drive!, I could have attached a 2400-baud modem if I were feeling extravagant. Or maybe a second floppy drive. Or I could have stored shoes or something in all that extra space inside the case.

Some twelve years or so later (so I’m old sue me), and I’m on my eighth computer (my seventh Mac, my fourth laptop) which cost about half as much for its gigabyte of RAM (now, keep in mind that a gigabyte is 1,024 megabytes) and 40-gigabyte hard drive (not to mention all the other Star-Trek-future enhancements like wireless communication and rewritable CDs and more kinds of peripheral support than you can shake a stick at). In fact, just about every system I’ve bought has been cheaper than the last, except for this last leap from a modest iBook to a supercharged PowerBook. (By the time I bought the PowerBook, the price of an iBook had dropped below what I’d originally paid.) And the advances in related gadgets and doodads! For the price of a couple of theater tickets I just bought a 160-gigabyte backup drive, just so my ass could be covered in case of a disaster. (Yes, that’s 2,048 times the capacity of my first drive, which made me feel like such a goddamn hotshot at the time.)

I’m always awed by the pace of progress in this sort of technology when I look down at my own timeline like this. Even though I’ve known about things like Moore's Law for ages, it's astounding what invention and market forces and whatnot can accomplish over a relatively short span of time. I suppose the greater complexity and adaptability of digital technology is the main reason for this madcap pace of feature development. There was only so much you could do with the telegraph or the manual typewriter, after all. Every iteration was pretty much like the last, so unless you wore the hell out of what you had there wasn't much need to upgrade. With computers, every couple of years I find my precious, delicate tool bursting at the seems, taunting me with its encroaching obsolescence.

Granted, I put my machines through their paces. Just about every computer I’ve owned has moved on to a happy life elsewhere, proving to be more then merely adequate for someone else's needs. But c'mon, even a couple of years seems like a ridiculously short lifespan for such an investment.

For the sake of my own future reference, here is a round-up of the machines I’ve owned:

  1. Macintosh IIci (I think I passed this on to my friend Miki.)
  2. PowerBook 540c (Left in custody of asshole ex-boyfriend.)
  3. Power Macintosh 7200? (I can't remember exactly which it was. The only used computer I’ve ever bought. Donated to Miki.)
  4. Power Macintosh 6500 (Later passed on to nephew James for Christmas.)
  5. Dell Inspiron (I don't even remember the model, but Charlie has it now, so he can remind me. The only Windows headache I ever owned.)
  6. iMac DV SE (graphite) (Wonderful machine, now in custody of my brother-in-law.)
  7. iBook (Dual USB) (Another great one. I sold mine, but the Rooster still swears by his.)
  8. PowerBook G4 (15" FireWire 800) (My current pride and joy.)
« Gothamish | Main | Archives | More Studio Tips »
Powered by Movable Type 5.2.13Creative Commons License