Tuesday, June 07, 2011

How Big Is Big, How Vast Is The Internet?

My first computer was a TRS-80 Pocket Computer, Model 1. It was slightly larger than a cell phone today, had a QWERTY keyboard, and 4k of memory (there was no distinction between RAM and ROM then). I still have it; all it needs is some hearing aid batteries and it should fire right up. I don't remember much about my 2nd computer except that it was essentially a keyboard that plugged into the back of a TV set--but here's some info on it, God love the internet! Both of these computers were programmed in BASIC, which anyone interested learned merely by buying a book and reading it.

When I got to West Point we used terminals connected to mainframes. The manufacturer was Terak, and they were so old even by the time we got there that we referred to them as Terak-dactyls. Our required computer science course was in the FORTRAN language.

My first computer that anyone would recognize as looking like today's desktop computers--I bought it from a catalog in the early 1990's for about $1400. Its hard drive was 40MB, and I swore I would never be able to fill 40MB! That was about 20 years ago, and we all know how much space 40MB is today. Heck, on this blog I've stored over 170MB just of pictures! That's a very long lead-in to this article about IP addresses on the internet, which will be all used up unless we switch from Internet Protocol version 4 to IPv6. Version 6 has many more usable addresses:
The original version of the Web's addressing system, IPv4 (Internet Protocol version 4), had a shorter range of numbers — think a phone number with only, say, ten digits — that yielded roughly 4.3 billion available addresses or combinations. With IPv6, more digits are being added to that phone number, thus "increasing the number range," Lee says. "The whole address is now 2^128, which is a huge, nearly infinite number." According to one report, IPv6 will enable 340 trillion, trillion, trillion addresses.
I predict I'll see the limitations of this "nearly infinite number" within my lifetime :-)

Update, 6/8/11: I always marvel when I remember that the computer that runs the electronics in my car has more computing power than the Apollo lunar modules did, and the desktop computer on which I'm typing this probably has more computing power than did all of NASA's computers in the Apollo era (a fact I'd love to be able to confirm).

Update #2, 6/10/11: Check out the picture here, and marvel that that monstrosity on a forklift held 5 Mb.

7 comments:

David said...

I'm working on a review of "Father, Son, & Co," the memoir of long-time IBM CEO Tom Watson Jr. It's interesting to look at the prices of some of the products he mentioned. IBM's first product that used electronics was the IBM 603 Electronic Multiplier, released in 1949. Its function was to read two numbers from a punched card, multiply them together, and punch the product back out, at a rate of 100 cards per minute. This machine rented for $350/month, which in today's money would be about $3300/month or a purchase price equivalent of perhaps $120000.

Anonymous said...

If we run out, we'll be using more than one IP address per gram of matter on Earth.

I'd take the "no" at fourty years :-)

-Mark Roulo

scott mccall said...

it's surely possible, but i doubt you'll see the IPv6 limits being used. the cause for us reaching IPv4 limits is due to reservations (it's divided into 4 categories where the higher ranked the category, the more reserved IP addresses for corporate companies for example) combined with many computers having multiple network cards. and it's not just computers anymore, it's now cell phones. when they get on the internet, they need an IP address. so think of the average (american) person who owns one cell phone and one computer, where the computer has a wireless and an ethernet adaptors. So, that "average" person has 3 addresses for himself....multiplied by how many people?

gets used up quick

KauaiMark said...

My first computer (that I actually paid $$ for) was an Apple II with TWO optional 5 1/4" floppy drives. Don't remember what I paid for it.

The computer "screen" was a small portable TV I scrounged from a garage sale.

My 2nd computer was a KayPro-10 "luggable" with a 10Mb hard drive that I actually used to write/edit/debug programs for people who actually paid me for them! It cost me $2700!!!

Carol said...

I still miss the ability to organize files the way I want with DOS. Microsoft really made it hard, when they decided to make it Easy. Is Apple just as bad?

Polski3 said...

I have a certificate of computer compentency for learning about a Commodore 64.... my girlfriend in 1990 had an Apple IIe. I thought that being able to type up and save things for use in my classroom was just the cats eye...!

What will be available in 10 years?

Steve USMA '85 said...

I remember when Grace Hopper came to West Point to talk to those of us taking computer classes. One of her teaching points was for those of us with digital watches to hold up their hands. This was back when a digital watch told time and you pressed a button to show the date. Expensive digitals actually and a button to light up the screen. The ones for rich folks might have a stopwatch function.

Anyway, then-CAPT Hopper told us that we wore on our arm more computing power then existed amongst ALL the warring nations in WWII.

Amazing how far we've come and where we are going.

And just to chime in, my first computer was a top-of-the-line Tandy 1000TL I bought new for $1800 in 1989. I paid extra to get 16-bit color and thought it worth every penny. It had 640KB of RAM and no hard drive. One 5 1/2" Floppy and one 3.5" Floppy. Programs would be run from the 3.5 and data/files saved on the 5 1/2. I felt I was cooking with gas the day I upgraded it with a 40MB hard drive for only $240!