When discussing technical matters, I am normally interested, frequently fascinated, and sometimes surprised—but rarely shocked.
About twenty years ago—perhaps a little more—I was shocked rigid when a friend in the computer industry told me that computers were now as powerful as were needed, but that the software still had to catch up.
I thought then that he was nuts—and still do—because I had already come to the conclusion that power was the way to go even if one’s primary task was something as relatively undemanding (in CPU terms) as writing. Even then, when the internet was still a toddler, I could see a time when it would not be unusual to have a dozen programs (or more)running-and it was my ambition to be able to be able to switch from task to task instantly so that my focus would be entirely on my work, and not on the sputtering of the computer.
Sputtering is being polite. The dinosaur days of Windows were awful, computers were grossly under-powered, RAM was expensive and so inadequate, and hardware reliability left a great deal to be desired. We pressed on because the promise was there, but I have to say I thought it would be realized sooner. My worst case scenario was that by 2010, computers would be near instantaneous, operating systems would be stable and user friendly—and software would be relatively bug-free.
Well, clearly I was wrong—especially where the Windows world is concerned—though my friends with Macs seem happy enough. So my general sense is that we are getting there, albeit behind my schedule. By that, I don’t mean that computers won’t need to get ever more powerful (“Speed is life,” as fighter pilots like to say), or that software development will plateau out (quite the contrary), but more that authors like me will be able to work at our respective peaks without running out of system resources, being hindered by slow hard drives—and so on.
Apple’s new Mac Pro seems like a quantum leap in that direction. I’m truly blown away by their creativity. Just for starters, for all its power, the thing is tiny! It’s just 9.9” tall and 6.6” in diameter though its specs project raw power starting off with a quad-core Intel Xeon E5 processor.
Best you check out the Mac Pro on Apple’s site, but now you know what I hope will turn up in my Christmas stocking (as and when). I rather fancy working with a truly powerful computer before checking-out.
Meanwhile I think Apple are to be congratulated for raising the bar yet again.
Happy New Year!