[Retro computing] Time passes, processors go faster, basic tasks take the same time.

This morning, having been playing with the Sinclair QL last night and having it still sitting on a coffee table I decided to see just how different the time it takes from powering up a computer until it’s ready for a basic task has changed in the 25 years between the QL’s manufacture and my MacBook Pro.

So, I devised a race. Which one could boot up from cold and load a spreadsheet application and be ready for me to start inputting a few numbers to add up. A simple task you might want to do any day and, once the machine is booted, mostly an input speed limited one rather than that requiring processing power.

In the red lane we have: Sinclair QL, 7.5MHz 68008, 640KB RAM (Sandy SuperQboard expansion), QL Abacus on Microdrive.
In the blue lane it’s: Apple MacBook Pro, 2.6GHz Intel Core 2 Duo, 4GB RAM, Numbers (iWork’08) on hard disk (7200rpm).

And they’re off….

Sinclair QL gets to the Abacus input prompt in 1’9"
Apple MacBook Pro get to the Numbers input prompt in 1’7"

I know that the two spreadsheet programs are vastly different, but for the task I’ve outlined they are both capable of doing the same thing equally easily. So, in 25 years there’s been 2 seconds taken off the time. But remember, the QL was using a slow tape drive to load the program, it would have been about 30 seconds faster if it had been on floppy disk.

Progress s a wonderful thing! 🙂

I’ve been rather neglecting LJ recently. I’ve nothing useful to say really as life is merely trundling on.

Christmas and New Year went by O.K.

I bought my Dad a Meade LX90 8" telescope but we didn’t have the weather to play with it a great deal. It does have a minor fault, the positive power lead from the battery compartment’s disconnected, but seeing as it’s going to be powered externally anyway it’s not a problem. The only problem was that the software and communication cable didn’t arrive in time for me to take them down to Cornwall with me. So, instead of my parents coming up to me for my birthday I’m going down there, along with all the technical gubbins.

Before Christmas I managed to rescue from the Physical Chemistry Department at work a bunch of old Sinclair computer equipment. Basically two ZX Spectrums and a QL. I found that one of the Spectrums (the newer, Spanish built one) was dead but the other was very much alive (but with a duff keyboard membrane) so I managed to build one fully operational Speccy. I couldn’t test the QL then as it didn’t have a power supply with it.

This re-ignited my retro-computing interest so i brought my old speccy rubber keyed case back with me from Cornwall so that I can re-fit the circuit board from the speccy+ "upgrade" case it’s currently in. I’ve just received a new keyboard membrane for it and also a QL power supply for the QL I obtained.

The QL, it turns out is a strange one… one of the ROMs is missing so that on its own it only half boots, From the socket tarnish it looks like the ROM’s been gone for many a year. Wierdly, however, if I pug in the "Metacomco QL PASCAL" external ROM (which came with this machine) it’s happy and boots normally.

I also had to fix the keyboard connector. As usual one had cracked, but by trimming the end got it functional again. I was even able to test the microdrives as it came with the Psion office suite. They’re still working after all this time. I can remember when the QL came out that the pundits couldn’t wait to damn the microdrives, deeming them unreliable. How wrong they were.