Q: What’s dropped in weight by a factor of 304 and increased in capacity by a factor of 131,000 in 55 years?

A: a computer.

As you are well aware by now, I get a kick out of Mark J. Perry’s blog, Carpe Diem.  He links to a photo comparing an IBM supercomputer with 5MB storage being lifted into the side of an aircraft with a forklift in 1956 to a 128GB flash drive today:  1st Super-Computer (1956) v. Today’s Flash Drives

That prompted me to make another comparison of then versus now.

I picked for comparison the first laptop that showed on an Amazon search.

  • 1956 supercomputer vs. Dell Inspiron 14RM
  •  Weight – over 2,000 pounds, versus 6.57 pounds – improvement of at least 304 fold
  • Hard drive storage – 5 MB versus 640 GB, increase by factor of 131,072
  • Cost – unknown but I’m guessing $100K or more in 1956 dollars versus $580 including shipping
  • Transport method – forklift versus bag that goes over your shoulder
  • Wow factor – astounding then versus boring today

The more astounding idea is that the comparison is actually between a top-of-the-line-only-a-research-scientists-gets-to-use-it computer then and an average, normal commodity today.

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