1970 to Today: Computers From Then and NowOn January 11, 2021 by Julia Weber
1970 is a radically different time period than today. If you’re like me, your parents were born around then, and if you’re a teacher, it’s probably close to the time you were born. The seventies were famous for their disco music and bell bottom pants, but it was a rocky time for technology. Sure they had computers, but they were as deep as they were wide. According to USA today, a basic model of an HP computer cost $95,000, over a million dollars in today’s money. This means that only the richest of the rich even had access to one of these blocky things. Having heard this, I was curious: How big would a computer in 1970 have to be to have all the same features as my phone?”
I have the iPhone SE, but for a more impressive result, I will be comparing the iPhone 12 pro max to the Datapoint 2200, pictured above. Let’s start off with a relatively basic spec, the display. The iPhone 12 has an impressive resolution of 2778×1284 pixels, and is able to display movies, text, and do almost as much as any computer today. The Datapoint 2200, which was released in June of 1970, was only able to display text, and only 960 characters at that. To get the resolution of the iPhone, you would need around 3,750 Datapoint 2200s. This would cost a whopping 18 million 1970’s dollars, equal to 125 million in today’s money, and that’s just for the display.
The next spec that I will review is RAM. If you don’t already know, RAM stands for Random Access Memory, in other words, the speed of the computer. The Datapoint 2200 has just 1 kbit of RAM, but the new iPhone has an astounding 6 gigabytes. For some comparison, 1 gigabyte is equal to 8 million kbits, so it would take 48 million computers to reach the same speed as the latest iPhone. If you were to line up all the computers it would take to have equal ram capacity, it would be as long as the journey from LA to New York twice.
The last part of the computers that I will be looking at is memory. Most phones now have between 64 and 256 gigabytes, GB, of memory. This is enough to hold all your photos and videos without any trouble, and you can always get more on the cloud. For example, the iPhone 12 pro max has 128 gigabytes of memory, and nobody is complaining about the amount of space they have. For some comparison, the Datapoint 2200 only has 4 kilobytes of memory, meaning you would need to purchase 32 million of them to have the same amount of memory.
In summary, technology has advanced in such a way that in just half a century, computers have not only gotten cheaper, but they have also gotten literally millions of times better. If you wanted to have an iphone in 1970, it would be longer than traveling across the US twice. This only leaves me to wonder: what will computers look like in another 50 years?