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The Computer Buzz December 14, 2006


Nome and Paul Van Middlesworth - owners - The Computer Fact
ory
 

 

Looking Back

We decided to go back ten years and compare the PCs we built in 1996 with the PCs we are building today.

A basic 1996 PC would have looked like this. A Mini tower with a 230 Watt power supply, a 1.33MHz Pentium CPU, a 1.2Gb hard drive, 4Mb of RAM, a CD-ROM player, a 1.44 floppy drive, a 1Mb video, an 8 bit sound card, a 28.8Kb modem, a mouse and keyboard, a pair of stereo speakers and Windows 95. It would also have a 14-inch CRT monitor. We sold these systems for $1000.

A basic home or office configuration today would be a mini-tower with a 375 Watt power supply, an AMD 3000 CPU, a 160Gb hard drive, 512Mb of RAM and a DVD-R/W. Features built into the motherboard are 128Mb video, Dolby 5.1 sound, Ethernet and USB ports. Windows XP home is the operating system. Our modern PC would not have a floppy drive or dial-up modem. Including a 17-inch LCD flat panel monitor, this system is priced at $760.

While a basic PC system costs nearly as much today as it did ten years ago, there is a tremendous difference in power and capabilities.

Applying the 1996 component prices to our 2006 PC system leads to some hilarious results. For example, in 1996 RAM cost $40 per megabyte. Today's price for RAM is around 13 cents per megabyte. Today's basic PC with 512Mb of RAM has $20,480 worth of RAM at 1996 prices. In 1996 a 1.2Gb hard drives cost $150 or $125 per Gb. At that price, the 160Gb hard drive in our basic system today would be worth $20,000. The AMD 3000 CPU is 12 times faster than the $300 1.3GHz Pentium CPU. That would make it worth $3,600 at 1996 prices.

In 1996 a CD player cost over $100. Today a DVD-R/W costs less than $50. A 17-inch CRT monitor weighed 40 pounds and cost $500. Today's 17-inch LCD weighs 10 lbs and costs less than $200.

The cost of low tech components like the cases and power supply have changed little because their price is determined to a large extent by the cost of copper, steel, petro-chemicals and labor. Increasing costs of commodities and labor have largely offset improvements in technology.

One item has bucked the trend. In 1996 the Microsoft Windows 95 and Microsoft Office 95 together made up about 20 % of the cost of a fully configured basic PC. Today, Windows XP and Microsoft Office 2003 Office comprise 35% of the cost of a fully configured basic PC.

Microsoft's products are the only part of our PCs not subject to competition. In the last 20 years Microsoft has managed to establish and maintain a monopoly on operating systems and common home and office applications software. Improvements in Microsoft products have been glacial. Microsoft products need be neither cost effective, high quality or reliable in order to sell.

Beware of Vista.

 

 

 

 

 


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