And Time Marches On

If you asked me in the past what drove progress in PC hardware I would have said ‘Games’ and I would have been right. Some time back with the Pentium 2 we crossed the line for the amount of power that a simple PC needs. Everything else is for games. The AGP bus (1x, 2x, 4x & 8x), 200+ million transistor graphics cards, 3D surround audio cards, and 3+ GHz processors with 1MB L2 caches all for the Internet? No silly for Games.

In rescent times users have started to do things with their computers and make demands of their equipment that have actually started to drive hardware design in new directions.

  • Rip, Mix, Burn, Encode, Compress, Backup, Share(legally of course)
    Suddenly people started to collect huge amounts of large data files. Audio and Video files. They started editing movies at home, encoding their albums, compressing their DVD’s. Compression uses raw CPU power and now you have another reason to want a fast CPU. This has also caused a quiet revolution in storage. Most PC’s now have more than one hard drive. Moving all this sats around between partitions and disks takes bandwidth and fast spinning drives. So now we have SATA, 8MB caches on the drives, 10,000rpm Raptor drives from Western Digital, 300+GB drives from several vendors. No one has yet told us how we are supposed to backup or protect a 300GB hard drive full of family video and music. I think a quick buck could be made on solving that problem next.
  • When the Internet Attacks
    Someone at AMD took notice of all these systems being compromised by buffer overflow attackes. The NX or No eXecute bit was created and now Intel, Via and Microsoft are getting in on the action. No more can a buffer overflow cause arbitrary code execution. NX capability is a must for your next computer, perhaps more than x86 64.
  • Cool and Quiet Computing
    Cool computers are easier to keep quiet, they require less cooling aparatus and slower spinning fans. Suddenly everyone has become a quiet PC nut. The computer is moving into the living room as the HTPC and it cant make any more noise than the AV hardware the masses are used to. 100 watt heat output isnt going to let this happen, even with water cooling. Both Via and Intel are maving to build ultra low heat/low power chips that can be used in an HTPC or a laptop. For high end chips the tak is now about dual core CPU’s that feature twice the transistors at 1/2 the speed for almost equal performance. Of course all this messing with the CPU’s innards has caused everything you ever understood about Megahertz to become myth and ledgend from a time long past. Intel and AMD will both be using model numbers on their chips from now on. Via is getting away with quoting their CPU power in watts of heat disapated.

These are interesting times indeed.



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