[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! 🙂