100x Faster Computers?

100x Faster Computers?

Technology is moving very very quickly. While certain computer components do not change much, the over-all architectures of PCs have taken a huge leap in the last few years. Historically, it was the rave that a particular PC went from a Pentium 100 to a Pentium 200, and so on. Those days are now long gone. Today the question is how many cores does the computer have. That means, each motherboard is now hosting multiple CPUs that run in parallel with each other. Thus it isn’t a matter of my Pentium runs twice as fast as your Pentium, its a matter of, my computer has 4 to 64 times the processing power as your single processor computer! Does that mean they can be 100x faster — eh, I haven’t done the benchmarking myself, but essentially yes, if you compare a 2000 computer with a 2020 computer of similar quality.

Other factors come into play as well — in 2000 almost all laptops were equipped with traditional hard disk drives (HDDs). Those are the drives that have a physically spinning magnetic plate. The read/write speed on these disks is relatively fast, but still limited by physics. Today, nearly all new laptops are equipped with solid state drives (SSDs), with no moving parts. They look and work much like a Thumb drive works, but their interface is especially equipped to handle much faster transfer rates. What is the speed difference between an HDD and an SSD? About 80-160Mb/s versus 200 – 600 Mb/s; that is, SSDs are 200-600% faster than HDDs. (Be sure to read Mb/s as megabits per second, versus the 8 times larger quatity, MB/s, megabytes per second. Transfer speeds are almost always in bits per second, while file sizes are typically listed in Byte sizes.)

Finally, one must compare other components, such as the Graphics card that must process all the images, then the traditional RAM memory component, and something most people don’t think about — the bus subsystem. The bus system is what connects the processors to the screen, RAM, and drive. One very easily observed speed difference is in the USB 2.0 versus USB 3.0 specification. In virtually all retail stores it is possible to purchase a Thumb drive (aka Flash drive, but I figure they will always be about the size of one’s thumb or thumbnail, while the technological term, Flash, may change tomorrow). If you review the packaging, you will see it is likely either a 2.0 USB drive or a 3.0 USB drive as of November 2023. What is the speed difference between 2.0 and 3.0? 10x the speed. In order to get the 10 fold transfer increase, your computer must also have a USB 3.0 interface. The drives usually tout backwards compatibility, but that simply means they can still read and write at the slower rates, in case your computer only has 2.0 slots. For lightweight uses, this might not be a big deal, but if you consider trying to save a 4GB movie (that is roughly the content of a single DVD), to a 2.0 external drive at a maximum of 10 Mbps, you are talking about 1 hour. Under 3.0, that would be 6 minutes. (Please understand, I am not referring to reading a DVD to a USB drive, which would be much slower due the DVD drive read rate. I am referring to transferring the amount of data a DVD could hold directly from your computer to a USB Thumb drive.)

Incidentally, DVD devices are on their way out…..they are very slow, and DVDs scratch relatively easily, subjecting you to a huge potential data loss. New software now typically must be downloaded or comes on Thumb drives, which are still a bit vulnerable, especially if they are dipped in peanut butter and left around a Labrador, for which you can thank your two year old. ;-)

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