Sometimes I feel like the technology space moves slowly. Cool new devices appear every few months, but I want neat new things every day! When I feel like this, it’s tough to remember that technology moves quite quickly compared to most industries. I was recently at a book sale and picked up a techno-thriller from 1996 called Back Slash. As pulpy books go, it wasn’t half bad. Until I arrived at this passage about twenty pages into the book:
To the right of the desk, in an oak cabinet custom-built by Crane, were three midtower computer cases. Each housed a Pentium-based computer system capable of 166 MHz processor speed. Each had 128 megabytes of Random Access Memory (RAM) and a 1.6-gigabyte hard drive. The video card of each held two megabytes of memory, and he could channel the output from the three machines to either of his two monitors. He could also link them in parallel for greater computer power. Twenty thousand bucks, right there. ….
Directly above the desk, the shelves held a variety of easily accessible accessories: a 5-1/4-inch floppy-disk drive–in case he ever needed it, two 3-1/2-inch disk drives, two one-gigabyte tape-backup drives, three multidisc CD-ROM players, two 28.8-kilobytes-per-second fax modems, and on one shelf, ten 4.3-gigabyte hard-disk drives.
Crane figured he could store much of the Pentagon’s data here if he wanted to have their crap on hand.
I had to put the book down and leave it. The description of a “cutting edge system” was so jarring that I could no longer suspend my disbelief. A videocard with two megabytes of memory? Geez. It makes 1996 feel like this:
It makes me want to rev up my grumpy-old-man voice:
“Back in my day, we had 300 baud modems and we were grateful! Sometimes you’d type too fast and you’d have to wait for the modem to catch up.”
“You know, in our high school typing class we had to use mechanical typewriters. No joke.”
“We had to type programs into our Commodore 64 from magazines. And in those days, the magazines didn’t even have checksums!”
What old timey technology story would you tell?