Monday, November 27, 2006

Another Tech Milestone

A Penny Per MIPS!

The unofficial motto of high tech may be "smaller, cheaper, faster," but it's easy to forget how far we've come and how fast. In a post Sunday, Chris Anderson, of Long Tail fame, took note of a milestone in computing economics -- we have recently reached a consumer price on processing power of a penny per MIPS (million instructions per second). Intel's Core Duo running at 2.13 GHz costs around $200 at retail and can perform about 20,000 MIPS. "I remember my first 6 MHz 286 PC in 1982 that did 0.9 MIPS," Anderson writes. "I have no idea what the CPU cost then, but the PC it came in cost nearly $3,000 so it couldn't have been cheap. Say it was around $1,000/MIPS back then. Now it's $0.01/MIPS. I know I shouldn't be astounded by Moore's Law anymore, but that really is something."

Alec Saunders offers a few more data points:
• In 1977, Digital Equipment’s Vax 11/780 was a 1 MIPS minicomputer, and the Cray-1 supercomputer delivered blindingly fast execution at 150 MIPS.
• A 1999 era Pentium III/500 delivered 800 MIPS of processing power.
• A year later, in 2000, the Playstation 2 pumped out an astounding 6000 MIPS.
• Current embedded processors (like the PXA900 in [the] Blackberry Pearl, or the ARM 1136 in the Nokia N93 ...) are capable of 2000-era desktop processor speeds — in the range of 1000 MIPS, depending on battery consumption.

"It’s 2006 now." Saunders writes. "If the current trend holds true, and we can each carry 20,000 MIPS of processing power in the palms of our hands by 2012, what will we do with that power?"

We'll see!


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