Black And White Days

29 Jun 2020

40 years ago (1980) I was a new Trainee Data Processer. For me this was a big step up from my previous job as a NATO SPLC writer, but in reality it left me with my feet firmly planted at the bottom of the ladder.

To put this into context, part time cleaners felt at liberty to cock a snoot at me when I was working. HR didn’t exist, and a safe space hadn’t been invented for me to seek solice in. I was the machine-room “punch bag” newbie.

I got delegated away into some dark corner to operate an “end of life” IBM 360/85. Left to my own devices I recall running it as being quite fun, so today I decided to try and look up the specification of this behemoth. This proved quite difficult as it seems not many of these things of wonder were ever made.

From what I can gather (after a bit of Googling), it could process 3.5K’s worth of instructions per second, had 2Mb of memory and 32K of cache. This machine consumed vast quantities of electricity, weighed around 6500 Kilograms and was about half the size of a tennis court. By today’s standards that’s not much computing power for two million quid…

Roll the clock forward to today. My son has given me a Heltec single board computer. It’s got a built in screen, runs at 240Mhz, has 4MB of flash memory and 320KB of RAM (Ebay sell them for just under 8 quid).

I can’t be bothered to try and work out just how many times faster this little board is, but it’s easily going to kick the IBM 360 into touchdown. Maybe it’s an unfair comparison to make but on the other hand, if I were to look at a Raspberry Pi 4……