Wednesday, 8 April 2009

After all this time, I am still mad

The Cost Of Reading This Rubbish

Have you any concept of how difficult it is for somebody who has escaped from long term incarceration in a mental institute to find work? Getting access to a computer and a broadband account was the hard work, extracting myself from 'the facility' after I had illegal access to the database was merely problematical. To facilitate my work, and to cover my movements, I recently purchased an external hard drive. Take note of this next sentence, it is very important.

I bought an externally powered, USB connected, hard drive unit with a three hundred and twenty gigabyte capacity at a cost of thirty five quid, or pounds (£35) to use the vulgar term.

People reading this are now divided into two camps, those with acne and no brains thinking 'Yeah, so what?' but in text speak, and those with lank hair and no mates thinking 'HOW MUCH?' in capitals.

So what is remarkable about the sentence? Well, let me take you back to about fifteen years ago when I bought my first hard drive, which I still have, along with the receipt. This internal IDE hard drive cost one hundred and forty quid (£140) and had a forty Megabyte capacity. That was considered a decent size and a cheap price in those days, 350p a Megabyte as opposed to the current hundredth of a pence a Megabyte. At the time I worked for a company of some seventy lost and desperate souls where we had a never ending stream of issues with network capacity. To solve all these problems the company invested a thousand pounds, vulgar term, on a one gigabyte hard drive. A hard drive so large it could not be formatted by the usual operating systems. Using Novell NetWare and the large drive utility Compserf, the drive was formatted and partitioned in to blocks that could be read by Windows 3.11. Like most companies at the time take up of Windoze 95 was slow. This huge hard drive solved all our data storage problems. Now such a drive would not even accommodate a MicroSoft bloat ware operating system.

The forty megabyte drive, which could still accommodate some of the smaller Linux operating systems, was more capacity than I could fill. (I am speaking of a time before the popularity of the web which now provides me with unlimited amounts of specialist images for the undiscerning gentleman). After I had loaded windows 3.1 I still had nearly two thirds of the drive to run Doom and Ultima Underworld. Unless you were there when the Shareware game Doom arrived on the scene, you can not even begin to estimate the impact it had on the computing, let alone gaming, world. MicroShaft, jealous of this success, decided to ruin the computing world's shit by bloating their operating systems. Soon even a massive forty megabyte hard drive could barely contain their gross, blubbery, hugely redundant, Easter egg ridden bloat ware. Famously Windoze 95 almost became Windoze 96 because customers all wanted it to do the same thing, run Doom. Nobody was going to buy a system that couldn't and it took MicroShaft 6 months to get it working. Hence the September, rather than March, release date.

So we were sold disk compression utilities. This was software that, in theory, could double the size of a hard drive with clever, hidden, software. What it actually did was kill the performance of the machine and delete all of the data on the hard drive. Also Doom, with its Dos4GW dos extender, did not like it. So pretty much nobody used it. As a direct consequence hard drives got bigger at, so we were told, tremendous cost and expense to the poor, nay destitute, drive manufacturers.

Cirrus Logic then threw a spanner in the works with their one megabyte video card. This retailed at ca. £300 a unit. It was also starting to reach the end of its development cycle. In June 1993 they made an announcement, from August, this same card will be available for £57.50, an 80% cut in price. All the other manufacturers started wailing and wringing their hands in despair, warning that they will all go bankrupt and there will never be new development of video technology, ever. Now if you quickly wish to lose the desire to live, ask a geek what video system he has in his desktop. Long before he has finished droning on about SLI and Crossfire and pipelines and shaders you will be trying to kill yourself by ramming a pencil into your ear.

What has transpired is that all those years we pumped all those hard earned pounds into the pockets of the manufacturers were pretty much wasted. Equipment was vastly overpriced and development deliberately slowed to force the suckers, sorry customers, to buy it. These days, thanks to the video wars between Nvidia and ATI, development is screaming along at a pace that game developers have given up trying to match it. Drive technology is becoming so cheap they will soon be coming free in boxes of cornflakes. This despite experts informing the world that a two and a half inch platter will never be able to hold more than a gigabyte of data. Even memory, despite the conflagration at the Kobe semi conductor factory, is as cheap as the proverbial chips, which is not surprising because that is what they are.

So why is it ten years ago when I bought a cutting edge, state of the art, future proof for at least for a couple of weeks, desktop computer it cost £2,500 and last week when I bought a cutting edge, state of the art, future proof for at least for a couple of weeks, desktop computer it also cost £2,500?

And they call me mad! Even without finding the bodies.