S h o r t S t o r i e s

// Tales from software development

Where are we now, or, what can you get for £99 ?

with one comment

Last week I bought a new Dell SC440 PowerEdge server that was on special offer at £99. This is for a complete ‘box’ (with processor, memory, disk, etc.) but without the keyboard, mouse, and monitor.

It seemed almost too good to be true so when it arrived this week I was pleased to find that there was no catch and it really was a great deal. It got me thinking about how cheap computers have become in the past few years…

The first computer I owned was a second hand Sinclair ZX Spectrum. It was 1983 and the price of a new 16K model had just dropped from £125 to £99 but I bought an early 16K model with the 32K RAM extension for £80 from a work colleague.

So, in 1983, £99 bought you a new home computer with:

Zilog Z80 3.5Mhz 8 bit processor
16Kb of memory
Video adapter (RF output to television) with a resolution of 256 x 192 pixels and 4 bit colour depth (16 colours).

There was no non-volatile storage media but you could hook up a cassette recorder to load and save programs.

So, 25 years on from the Spectrum, was does £99 buy these days ?

Intel Dual Core 1.8Ghz processor 32 bit processor (with 64 bit extensions)
512Mb RAM
160Gb SATA disk
DVD-ROM drive
Integral video card giving up to 1920 x 1200 resolution at 32 bit colour depth

It’s diffcult to assess the relative power of the processors but in terms of raw speed, the Dell is running over 500 times faster than the Spectrum and has over 16,000 times as much memory. If that doesn’t sound impressive enough, consider that the difference in processor speeds means that the Dell is running 52,000 per cent faster than the Spectrum.

The hard disk and DVD-ROM drive are devices that I could only dream about in the days of the spectrum. Actually, I did eventually buy a hard disk for the spectrum. I forget the details but it was more expensive than the Spectrum itself and had a capacity of just a few megabytes.

With the effect of inflation over the past 25 years, £99 today is not worth what it was in 1983. Using the Retail Price Index as a guide to inflation, a rough calculation indicates that the equivalent value today of £99 in 1983 is £250. So, my new Dell is not only a lot faster and more capable but is actually only 40% of the cost of the Spectrum, or the equivalent of £39.60 in 1983 pounds.

Incredible… 

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Written by Sea Monkey

May 3, 2008 at 7:45 am

Posted in Comment, Hardware

Tagged with ,

One Response

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  1. […] described in previous posts, Where are we now, or, what can you get for £99 ? and Adaptec RAID 1220SA card, I recently bought a server and wanted to install a RAID Contoller in […]


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