who’s gonna drive you home

It’s amazing how quickly storage sizes have jumped on computers. The first hard drive I ever owned was 80MB MFM drive for my 8086 computer – purchased in 1989 or 1990. It was a full height 5.25 inch drive that had to have an external enclosure built because there was no way it would fit inside the computer. I paid about $400 for it. I was ecstatic to get such a good price, since I was only making about $5/hr at the time.

Now my desktop computers all have 80GB drives – 1000 times the capacity of my first drive. Those drives cost me about $100 each and were purchased about two years ago, with my income considerably higher than it was 13 years earlier. Even my laptop has a 40GB drive.

In both cases, I did not get the biggest and best drive available at the time. I believe 120MB was the latest and greatest when I got my first drive. These days, 400GB is the current hot item, and if you really want to spend some money, you may be able to get 500GB. New magnetic technology promises to increase storage tenfold in the near future

Both then and now, felt that I would have an extremely difficult time filling up the available disk space. With that first drive, it took a while to fill it up, but it eventually happened. With the newer drives, I have found it easier to use space, particularly with my camera. I have taken almost three gigabytes of pictures in the three months I have owned this camera – and I’m not even using the camera’s raw image format!

Programmers used to be a delightfully clever bunch. Faced with extremely limited resources in both memory and disk space, they would write programs that were full-featured, yet tiny. With only a few exceptions, programs and games for my Atari 800XL computer were so small that you could cram ten or more of them on a single 90 kilobyte diskette, yet they were very entertqaining games and very useful programs. In those days, a programmer would optimize everything and often rewrite entire sections of their program to make them faster, smaller, and more elegant.

These days programmers do not have to be clever, and in some cases do not actually write most of the code they produce – they use modern application frameworks, which offer a drag and drop GUI to write and rewrite most of the actual code. It’s a very clever idea, but results in a much larger program than you would get if you simply coded it from scratch yourself.

Not all programmers write this way, though. This game proves that a good developer can still write a tiny program that is not boring or useless.

2 responses to “who’s gonna drive you home”

  1. The latest hard drives we purchased at work are 4 terabytes each, and we’re putting twelve of them in one machine, with multiple machines. When I wrote this eight years ago, I was excited about the 500GB drives that were available if you didn’t care how much you spent. Today, that’s on the low end of what I find acceptable even for a desktop computer.

  2. Further update, less than a year later: six terabyte drives are now available, and they’ve been around long enough that the enterprise class versions are also available, not just the desktop class drives.

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