iMac Pro memory comparison

January 22nd, 2018 2:26 PM
Filed under Hacks & mods;

Last week was the beginning of the semester at Emerson College, where I teach a graduate course on electronic publishing. To give my students context, I start each semester with a history of computers, the Internet, and data storage. That last aspect includes a brief mathematics lesson about binary, bits, and bytes, as well as how they scale to kilo, mega, giga, tera, and beyond.

Sometimes, even I need a reminder of just how massive the difference is in the scale between the Apple II and modern computers. The latest model of iMac Pro debuted last month, and with 11 times more memory than an Apple II, said one Twitter user. That's not surprising: early models of Apple II shipped with 48K of RAM, so 11 times that would be only 528K, or a bit more than half a megabyte.

But what Bruce "Tog" Tognazzini, Apple employee #66, was referring to wasn't a comparison of a single Apple II to a single iMac Pro — but every Apple II ever, combined:

It's an impressive comparison — but is it true? Let's check the math. Six million Apple II computers at 48K each is 288,000,000 kilobytes of RAM, or 281,250 megabytes, or 274 gigabytes. Hmm… that's not quite right. Let's work backwards: 64 gigabytes is 67,108,864 kilobytes, divided by six million is 11 kilobytes each.

I don't have a precise number for the average amount of stock memory shipped over the lifespan of the Apple II and its various models, but I would guess it was more than 11K. Perhaps Tog is taking into account other factors, like SSD storage… but it still doesn't seem an Apples-to-Apples comparison.

But I appreciate Tog's intent, which may be more applicable to that hard drive. 4TB of storage is equal to 15,339,168 double-sided, 5.25;" 140K floppy disks. That's a lot of disks! I wonder how many floppy disks were ever made?

I'd love to get an unusual yet mathematically sound comparison of these two platforms' attributes that would help my students understand how far we've come. Please leave a comment with your suggestions!

(Hat tip to Luke Dormehl; featured image courtesy ReActiveMicro)

Wozniak's memories of memory

August 30th, 2010 9:30 AM
Filed under History, Mainstream coverage, Steve Wozniak;
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Steve Wozniak, who this month turned 60, recently spoke at the Flash Media Summit in Santa Clara, California, in his role as chief scientist of solid-state drive company Fusion-io. In his closing keynote speech, entitled "Driving Innovation with Solid-State Technologies", Wozniak reflected that hardware memory has played a pivotal role in all his designs, from the earliest to the latest. The IDG News Service reports:

"The biggest decision I made in most of the projects of my life was what memory to use that's the exact right, smallest, simplest, and more importantly, the cheapest there is," Wozniak told the audience in a packed auditorium.

Even the first major commercial product he designed with co-founder Steve Jobs, the Apple II, was defined largely by memory. Facing the problem of how to refresh the characters on the screen fast enough to keep up with a microprocessor that could do a million operations per second, he came up with the idea of devoting some of the computer's dynamic memory to the display, he said.

You know what my favorite part of that passage is? Not the technical details, or the acknowledgement of the Apple II, or even the genius of Woz. It's the "packed auditorium". Twenty-five years after he left the company he founded, Steve Wozniak is still a superstar. It's not just his appearance on Dancing with the Stars that has put him in the spotlight. Engineers, programmers, designers, and geeks across the globe recognize the brilliance and courage that has continuously allowed Woz to work magic.

Although he was no longer with Apple Computer Inc. by the time the "Think Different" campaign was unveiled, Woz is nonetheless the embodiment of that advertisement.

"When you're in school, you're always taught that the right answer is the same answer everyone else has," Wozniak said. It's a lesson he's learned several times in years of engineering. "Clear out your mind of the way the world is today," he said.