[Vm-dev] historical memory sizes (was: PICs)

Phil B pbpublist at gmail.com
Wed Aug 1 19:59:26 UTC 2018

I would have been so envious... $5-10k for bragging rights alone might have
been worth it back in '81! 😀 (I'm guestimating that the exchange rate with
the USD was 1.5-2.0 as that's vaguely what I remember it bouncing around
back then)

On Sun, Jul 29, 2018, 4:42 PM Eliot Miranda <eliot.miranda at gmail.com> wrote:

> Hi Phil,
> On Sun, Jul 29, 2018 at 12:38 PM, Phil B <pbpublist at gmail.com> wrote:
>> Jecel,
>> Sorry I can't do inline right now (stupid Gmail Android client must have
>> 'fixed' something)...
>> Ok, I wasn't clear that the study had that much lag (my fault for not
>> reading it). What threw me for a loop (and still does) was the claim that
>> the 'average' Sun machine had that little RAM at any time in the 90s.  I
>> don't ever remember using a non-x86 Unix system in the 90s with less than
>> 16M.  And I went into 1990 on 16mb PCs (I was a day 1 adopter of Win 3.0 as
>> it was the easiest sell to get business people off of DOS... to all human
>> beings who have suffered as a result: sorry, but as bad as Windows is/was,
>> DOS was worse).
>> An aside and minor correction to your point re: PCs: *most* people didn't
>> have software that could use more than 1m+64k (himem weird feature).  But
>> there were commonly available exceptions for example: iirc Lotus 123 v3 was
>> still a DOS app but was able to use extended memory (subject to the
>> constraint that only labels could go into extended memory) so you could
>> effectively use up to 2-3 meg in a DOS-based spreadsheet.  And there were
>> CAD systems and databases that could directly use up to 4-8meg or so via
>> DOS extenders. There were also crude task switchers, TSRs, etc that
>> clumsily allowed using more RAM.  It was pretty hellish, but possible to
>> break the 1meg barrier in the DOS days.  And there was also Windows 286/386
>> pre-1990.  (It was bizarre, you couldn't convince most business people to
>> look at anything that wasn't DOS or later Windows usually citing cost as a
>> reason (really it was fear of the unknown) but they'd spend a small fortune
>> having their config.sys/autoexec.bat optimized to find an extra 50-100k of
>> low memory so that they could keep limping along in DOS)
>> No doubt RAM was rediculously expensive in the 80s and 90s (I remember
>> paying ~$1000 for the last 128meg in that 192 meg machine) but Sun
>> machines weren't cheap either.  That is why I was surprised that apparently
>> so many people skimped on RAM in the workstation world... seems like
>> putting a 4 cylinder engine into a high end luxury car.  The low end of the
>> PC world on the other hand has always been terrible for skimping on
>> everything.
> I went to work at Rutherford Appleton Lab in 1978.  In 1979 or 80 the
> Bubble Chamber Research Group bought a DEC 11/780, and in '80, '81 or
> thereabouts we added, gasp, a whole extra megabyte to the machine.  We got
> a quote from DEC for the megabyte, which was, you guessed it, £11,780.
> Needless to say we ended up buying the memory from Megatech for
> considerably less, but it was still several thousand pounds. Gulp.
>> Thanks,
>> Phil
>> On Wed, Jul 25, 2018, 10:27 AM Jecel Assumpcao Jr. <jecel at merlintec.com>
>> wrote:
>>> Ben Coman wrote on Wed, 25 Jul 2018 12:36:18 +0800
>>> > On 25 July 2018 at 08:00, Phil B wrote:
>>> > > On Tue, Jul 24, 2018, 7:18 PM Jecel Assumpcao Jr. wrote:
>>> > >>
>>> > >> One of the papers in that list is the 1997 techical report "The
>>> Space
>>> > >> Overhead of Customization". One of the reasons that Java won over
>>> Self
>>> > >> was that its simple interpreter ran on 8MB machines that most of
>>> Sun's
>>> > >> customers had while Self needed 24MB workstations which were rare
>>> (but
>>> > >> would be very common just two years later). Part of that was due to
>>> > >> compiling a new version of native code for every different type of
>>> > >> receiver even if the different versions didn't really help.
>>> > >>
>>> > >
>>> > > Just had to interject... are you sure about the year and RAM sizes
>>> below?
>>> > >  If correct, was this a lowest common denominator RAM size or
>>> perhaps a
>>> > > report from several years earlier?
>>> Self 3/4 was indeed from 1993 to 1994 while they paper that did that
>>> space analysis was from 1997. The decision to drop Self and TCL in favor
>>> of Java was from late 1994 and cited the installed base at that time,
>>> not the machines that were being sold then.
>>> > > I remember in 1997 (might have been early '98) buying a Sun
>>> Ultrasparc 2
>>> > > with 256MB RAM for work (for a workstation, not our servers which
>>> had far
>>> > >  more) and having 192MB RAM in one of my machines at home.  Seems
>>> > > strange that 'most' of Sun's customers would be at 8 meg in that
>>> timeframe
>>> > > as 16-32 was fairly common even on PCs on the low end of what I was
>>> working
>>> > > with.
>>> >
>>> > I got curious...
>>> > 1993 = 66-MHz machine 16MB RAM
>>> > 1997 = 233-MHz machine 64MB RAM
>>> > 1999 = 500-MHz machine 128MB RAM
>>> > https://www.pcmag.com/article2/0,2817,2390914,00.asp
>>> When I talk to students about researching computer history, I always
>>> caution them to take old magazines with a grain of salt. I point out
>>> that these tend to focus on the very best products and not what typical
>>> people actually bought. If they looked at car magazines, for example,
>>> they might conclude that in 1978 everone was driving around in Ferraris
>>> and BMWs.
>>> And like I said above, you have to take into account that most computers
>>> at any moment in time are older models and not what is being sold then.
>>> Though we like to make graphs that show smooth growth in computer
>>> history, that isn't always the case. For disks, for example, we got
>>> stuck with 5 and 10MB for nearly half a decade before stepping up to
>>> 20MB (and then a quick jump to 30MB with the switch from MFM to RLL).
>>> Soon after that an exponential growth started that is still going on
>>> today.
>>> In the same way, two factors slowed down memory size growth between the
>>> late 1980s and early 1990s. One was the antidumping actions by the US
>>> against Japanese companies and on PCs there was a problem that people
>>> didn't have software that could use more than 1MB even if they were
>>> buying machines with 4MB. Workstations and Macs (and Ataris and Amigas)
>>> didn't have that problem nor did PCs after Windows 3.1 become popular.
>>> -- Jecel
> --
> _,,,^..^,,,_
> best, Eliot
-------------- next part --------------
An HTML attachment was scrubbed...
URL: <http://lists.squeakfoundation.org/pipermail/vm-dev/attachments/20180801/11a7365a/attachment.html>

More information about the Vm-dev mailing list