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Check the graph on dematerialization

Marian Tupy says Computers Allow Us To Accomplish More With Less, and It’s Only Getting Better — “Researchers have just developed a way to fit yet more transistors into less space, creating an even more efficient computer chip.”

Computers have come a long way since the days of ENIAC. The first computer was a $6-million-dollar giant that stretched eight feet tall and 80 feet long, weighed 30 tons and needed frequent down time to replace failing vacuum tubes. A modern smart phone, in contrast, possesses about 13 hundred times the power of ENIAC and can fit in your pocket. It also costs about 17 thousand times less.

A megabyte of computer memory cost 400 million dollars in 1957. That’s a hefty price tag, even before taking inflation into account. In 2013 dollars, that would be 2.6 billion. In 2015, a megabyte of memory cost about one cent. … since 1980 [] the cost of a gigabyte of RAM fell from over 6 million dollars to less than five dollars; a gigabyte of hard drive storage fell from over 400 thousand dollars to three cents.

[computers]also enable a process called dematerialization—they allow us to produce and accomplish more with less.

This last point is supported by a chart from Cato showing a table of 5 by 13 icons from a camera to a level that you might find on a modern cell phone.

I still wonder about spending $3,000 for a TRS 80 model 1 tricked out system compared to a $5 microcontroller loaded with FOSS Microsoft BASIC compatible firmware (the Micromite) that has specs an order of magnitude better in all dimensions (e.g. RAM, ROM, speed, word size, built in peripherals).

It is easy to compare and contrast hardware cost and capability but it is the software side that utilizes the hardware that puts the technology on the table. That is seen in the Cato chart. It is also visible in what is replacing BASIC. The 4k or 16 Microsoft personal computer firmware has made way to Integrated Development Environments supported by massive libraries of pre-built code and support for modern ideas and paradigms in software design.

Compare the old baked in BASIC with the new MicroPython as a REPL (run, execute, print, loop) environment to play with super simple computers. If you learned programming with FORTRAN or BASIC, Python can look somewhat similar. What tells you about how things have changed is when you figure out how Python implements concepts such as aggregate data objects, control structures, and iteration through data objects. There’s some meat for dinner there.