Posted on Thu 10 February 2022

in 2022 there are no slow computers

It is 2022. There are no slow computers1. There is a lot of slow software.

In 2000 a desktop computer might take 3-5 minutes to boot from power-off to being ready to read your email, enter data into a spreadsheet, or play a game. An Intel Pentium III cpu was a 32-bit, single core, single threaded unit running at something less than 1GHz in the middle-grade systems normal for business, and 128 to 512MB of RAM was normal. A big hard disk for a desktop would be a 2GB device on a 66MB/s interface. A nice monitor would be 17" on the diagonal and show 1280x1024. LAN speeds were 100Mb/s ethernet and a small office might have a 1Mb/s DSL link.

In 2022, a desktop computer takes 30 seconds to 2 minutes to boot. A normal office CPU is a 4 core, 8 thread 64-bit system running at 3-4GHz, with 8-16GB of RAM and a 1TB SSD running at about 500MB/s. A cheap monitor is 1920x1080 at 24" or so. A small office will have 400Mb/s WiFi, 1Gb/s ethernet, and an Internet link might be 100 to 900Mb/s.

So: 50x faster, 16x as much memory, 10x faster disk transfer (and 1000x more operations per second), and an Internet that runs 100x faster.

The nature of office work has not changed significantly since then. To a certain extent, people are asking their computers to do more – push more pixels, calculate smoother fonts – but the actual work has not changed much. Yet complaints about slow computing are rampant. Why is this?

I already told you: it’s the software. The normal load-out of Microsoft Windows, Office 365, two anti-malware scanners and a diet of heavy JavaScript applications split between remote servers and your local browser eats all of those hardware and infrastructure improvements.

I blame object-oriented software development, the practice of writing software at the highest level of abstraction possible, and the commercial pressures of feature checklists over performance – plus general sloppiness. It’s possible to avoid much of this when an informed user picks and chooses the software that they are going to run, but if your software choices are made for you by an enterprise IT department, you’re sunk.

  1. for the purposes of normal desktop activities

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