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

Jecel Assumpcao Jr. jecel at merlintec.com
Wed Jul 25 14:12:16 UTC 2018

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

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

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