Saturday, April 18, 2009

Memory and phones.

Years ago, I had a Sinclair ZX81 computer with one kilobyte of memory. I bought the expansion that made it 16K because that made it an actually useful computer. Even so, I could write a program that was too big for it, but it took so many hours to type in that it was rarely an issue.

I then bought an Amstrad PCW, a machine that ran CP/M, not MSDOS, and which boasted an astounding 64K memory. From there, I moved to real PC's running MSDOS. The first one had two whole megabytes of memory and a twenty megabyte hard disk! Funnily enough, it was all I needed to contain my written reports, draw graphs and so on. It whizzed along at, if I remember correctly, around 40 MHz.

The computer I'm sitting at now has 512 megabytes of memory. It has a 160 gigabyte hard disk. It's powerful enough to run a small country and it's far from being top of the current range of machines out there.

Why? I type no faster than I did before. I can't even argue that the increased storage is to look after my years of accumulated knowledge because with all the changes in format and programs along the way, most of the old stuff is only accessible in its printed form anyway. So what's it all for? I have barely made a dent in this 160Gb disk. What do I do with the rest of it? If it breaks down, I'll be unlikely to be able to buy another this small!

This train of thought has come about because I've just replaced my phone. Mobile to the Brits, Cellphone to the Americans. I bought a basic model, very cheap, because I have no interest in websurfing or emailing from a phone and don't care about the camera either. I just want it for phone calls and texts. That's it.

This basic phone surfs the web, checks Emails if I let it, is capable of acting as a radio and MP3 player and I've no idea what else.

It has TWO GIGABYTES of memory! It's a phone! What does it need all that memory for? How many people does it think I know? I could get every phone number in the UK into that memory. The last mission to the Moon had far less computing power than this. Heck, the Mars rovers aren't as powerful as this little phone.

I must be getting old. I can't see why I could run a research project perfectly well using a computer with 2 Mb memory, but now I have to have 2 Gb in my phone. Expandable, I might add, to 4 Gb, presumably in case I need the entire population of France in there too.

I'm not one to turn away gadgetry. I love gadgets but I prefer them to have some practical use. I see no reason for a phone to have gigabyte-sized memory. I see no reason for it to take photos and video either, but there's no escaping that these days.

There must be a limit to information. Once every scrap of information in the universe fits on your phone, what's left to do?

Perhaps we could go back to just making phone calls with them.

Update - it gets worse. I cannot persuade the phone to just go 'ring'. It insists on playing a ridiculous tune. Don't they even make phones that sound like phones any more? Sometimes I despair.


Southern Writer said...

I can't reply to this right now; my blood pressure will shoot up 50 points.

Romulus Crowe said...

I'm beginning to hate this phone. It has a menu system that makes Windows look easy. Somehow I have two copies of every phone number now. I don't know how that happened.

The thing is, this is one of the cheap ones. What on Earth do the expensive ones do?

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