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Samizdata, derived from Samizdat /n. - a system of clandestine publication of banned literature in the USSR [Russ.,= self-publishing house]


As I’ve recently been mentioning here, I have lately been doing lots of clearing out of junk from and organising of my home, which is a very satisfying activity. While doing this today, I had another of those haven’t-things-been-progressing-a-lot-lately? moments:


The point being that that’s 16 megabytes. Not gigabytes, megabytes. This thing came with one of my earlier digital cameras, from about eight or nine years ago, and in fairness 16mb was rather stingy even then. The card could only have accommodated four photos of the size of the photo I just took of it.

I seem to recall an earlier moment of this sort, also recorded here, and also involving an SD card. Yes. Despite all the financial woe we are now suffering, this kind of progress still seems to be hurtling along.

Just wait until I get stuck into all those back issues of Personal Computer World that I also find I still have.

20 comments to Progress

  • Yes, I think it was pretty stingy, even back then. My first digital camera was in 2005 and I bought it a 2G card. But the basic point is sound- progress, in those countries where we are free to make progress, hasn’t been reversed.

  • Andrew

    I remember buying a 128mb card for an early mp3 player (yes, before the ipod!), in about 2000 – cost me well over £100.

    By contrast, the other day I got a SD card 125x that size ……. for a tenner.

  • David Crawford

    The moment I felt old for the first time:

    In the early 00’s explaining to a just-out-of-college new hire why some of us older employees called any portable memory devise a “floppy”. Then digging back through our old audit files to actually find one to show them what one was. And the look on their face as they tried to keep from laughing at something that ancient.

    (For those that forgot, or forced themselves to forget, remember and shudder.)

  • Bruce

    I seem to remember that those dinky cards were also generally supplied with the camera at purchase.

    Then you had to go and spend some more money to get serious; still not cheap in those days.

    Of course, as the cards got bigger in storage capacity, each new camera iteration could generate increasingly larger, and hopefully better, image files.

    I remember some famous computer guru saying words to the effect of “64 kilobytes is all that a personal computer user will need.”

  • Bod

    The computer guru in question was Bill Gates himself, commenting on the memory addressing of MS-DOS, being limited to 640k, when the Intel/Zilog processors used in machines at the time were capable of real 16-bit addressing.

    Speaking of which – Brian, I have to wonder, were you one of the guys who used to participate in those contests they used to have in PCW, where readers were challenged to write the smallest possible 16-bit multiplication routines for the Z-80 processor?

    ‘cos those were awesome.

    I always imagined bearded guys dressed like Demis Roussos with rope sandals, sitting in research labs around the world, muttering about how they could trim another opcode out of the routine so they’d win in the next edition of PCW.

  • Jerry

    Not saying when but –

    $100 for ONE ( say it aloud – O N E ) meg of memory for a PC !!!
    Yep, I paid it and and got three more ( $400 total !! ) so that I would ALWAYS have enough !!!!! *

    * – along with my 40 MEG hard drive !!!

    Sigh !

  • Myno

    I was a developer on the original 128K Mac “Toaster”. And I bought a 5MB HD for it from HP. That drive measured approx. 15″ x 15″ x 4″. I was lucky enough to sell both to a company before the tech passed into obsolescence.

  • Bod writes:

    …, being limited to 640k, when the Intel/Zilog processors used in machines at the time were capable of real 16-bit addressing.

    Just so people don’t get confused, 16-bit addressing can span just 65,536 memory units.

    The issue with 640k was that it used less than that fully available on the 20-wire backplane; 20-wires giving 1MB of address space (1,048,576 bytes).

    However, on those old machines, most CPU instructions used 16-bit addresses, so one had to specify separately, which 64kB segment of memory was to be accessed. The 16-bit address then gave an offset within the currently selected memory segment.

    Such memory segment limits still matter, after a fashion, as shown by (part of) our enthusiasm for the move from 32-bit to 64-bit computers. However, 32-bit addressing (4GB) is sufficient within many individual computer programs, if not all of them.

    Reverting to consider Brian’s original posting, disc space addressing, once discs exceeded 4GB in size, is and always was more of an issue. The next following significant event was when individual disc files larger than 4GB could be stored on personal computers.

    I wonder if any of us who programmed assembler for CPUs limited to 16-bit addressing will still be alive when there is a common requirement for addressing above that provided by 64-bits (16 exabytes, or 16 million terabytes).

    And what will be the applications that need this within a single program.

    Best regards

  • Bod, Nigel,

    Back when I was writing commercial applications – accounts, job costing, stock control – in 8080 assembler in 2k of memory we worked on the basis that any program, every program, could always be reduced in size by one byte, and sped up by one clock cycle. We then crammed the programs into available memory by applying that on an iterative basis.

    Ah, them were the days. Young chaps today, with their C and C++ and ruby and python don’t know they are born I tell you.

  • PersonFromPorlock

    And what will be the applications that need this within a single program.

    Posted by Nigel Sedgwick at January 22, 2012 09:07 AM

    It’ll probably be from Microsoft, though.

  • RAB

    There go the techies talking in tongues again 😉

    Slightly off topic, have you bought your new camera yet Brian? And which did you decide upon, the Panasonic or the Canon?

  • Only off the topic the techies were talking about. Very much on topic as far as progress is concerned, and a camera was mentioned in the posting.

    I haven’t yet bought anything. Like I say, I’ve been indoors tidying. But I will quite soon, and it will probably be the Panasonic. The reviews have been slightly better. It seems to be better at video, and in particular better to use with a microphone, which I may need. RAW is not now an issue for me, but might be in the future. 24x zoom should be plenty.

    Also, I prefer it physically. It just looks and feels slightly nicer to me. That matters with kit of all kinds, I find. If you like it, you use it more.

  • @RAB: I am not sure that tribalising things into techie/non-techie is going to improve the world.

    Firstly, IMHO, because tribalism is a subset of anti-libertarianism.

    Secondly, because (as discussed here on Samizdata), techniness is so big (and so deep) that no techie can really know even the scope of it, let alone understand it all. As for being able to do it all !!!?

    Thirdly, because you show insufficient respect for (the skills of) the chief, or at least first, Kitty Counter.

    Then there is the ability to write an address. I remember being taught how to do that at school in the mid 1960s: nothing much techie about it; just formatting and accuracy. Things have moved on since then. But “http://http//www.countingcats.com/”? Really!

    However, I too am keen to know about Brian’s recommendation on cameras. I wonder if he will give reasons for his choice: non-techie ones, of course. :))

    Best regards

  • RAB

    Tribalism?!! Please God you are joking, arn’t you Nigel?

    I know sweet fuck all about computers and computing past the point of turning them on of a morning, and Cats knows this only too well (I double posted a post once on Counting Cats). I haven’t the slightest idea what http means or html or any of that stuff, the highest tech goodies I had as a kid was Etch a Sketch!

    I aint proud of it, but I’m an Ancient and venerable humourist, who isn’t too proud to show my lack of knowledge, and shout for help if I need it. Cats sent me Windows Live Writer just before Christmas, that makes Posting a piece of piss for village idiots like me, so I’m well pleased, and thanks again Cats!

    And thanks for the reply Brian. I had come down on the side of the Panasonic myself. My only problem now is that I have a £148 voucher for Comet, and the bastards don’t seem to be stocking that model! Guess I will have to spend that on something else entirely and get the Camera from Amazon or somewhere.

  • Brian, thanks for the posting. So much of what we examine here is very depressing, that it is good to step back every so often and appreciate what IS right with the world.

    It is an amazing time, where tech advances continue to advance at seemingly greater and greater warp speeds. I nurse profound wonder on a regular basis at the camera tech I use for my hobby. I had a Canon 40D camera, which I thought I would never outgrow. A trip to Moab, Utah swept that assumption away quickly, so I stepped up to a Canon 7D.

    That hardware, plus a lot of obsessive practice and study, allows me to do work like this:

    ModelMayhem link

    In my case, right now, I have a couple 16Gig cards (of the highest speed), and they are starting to not be enough. I can get about 650 raw images on one card, which is a 4 hour session with a model. I have to swap cards for a full day’s work of over 1000 photos. I can’t imagine a similar workflow at this point with film.

  • The first computer I played with was a ZX-81 belonging to a friend with the 16Kb Ram pack. My current desktop machine has 16 Gb of RAM and a 1Tb disk. In the next year I shall upgrade it to Crossfire graphics and 2x1Tb striped RAID with a 2Tb back-up drive. Back then high capacity offline storage was a C-90. Floppy disks be buggered! Those were for posh sorts.

    I call her Hecate. RAB calls her “The Deathstar”*. I am typing this on a Lenovo S205 lappy with 3 Gig of RAM and though Hecate is a midi tower (and weighs a ton – though very quiet and runs cooler than a penguin enclosure) this little machine I’m now using probably weighs little more than that ZX-81. That’s progress. And at 300 quid does it really cost more than a ZX-81 did thirty years ago? I think not.

    I mean when I was a really young kid computers were still things (in my mind) that Bond villains had which required huge numbers of fit birds with short lab-coats and clipboards. I now have six in my house. Including The Deathstar.

    *The machine is entirely black apart from white fans and stuff. It is sinister. I love that.

  • J.M. Heinrichs

    We used to have fights to see who could use the card punch machine which printed the line of code at the top of the card. Otherwise you had to read the holes as punched … Programs were downloaded to the computer via Canada Post Parcel Service.


  • One of the reasons I like putting up postings about ancient computer technology is that there invariably follows a re-run of the Monty Python rich blokes boasting about how poor they were sketch, rehashed as old techies boasting about how crap their old tech used to be.

    You had a 5mb hard disc? We used to dream of having a 5mb hard disc. Etc. etc.

    The other techy version of this sketch I like is competitive catastrophe boasting.

    A month’s payroll figures gone? That’s nothing, I once crashed an airplane, at the Paris Air Show. An airplane? I once took out the entire electricity supply for the East Coast of the USA. For a week. Hah! I came within half a second of starting World War 3. I did start World War 3. Etc. etc.

  • Mendicant Bias

    Neo-Geo game cartridges contained up to 716Mb in the early 90s, making them by far the largest storage medium of the era.

  • I use these for my xbox all the time