Calling back the past

Consumers are under continual pressure with prices rising like rockets all around and we, as South Africans, seem to be more tightly squeezed than just about anyone else.

I won’t go down that particular road this week, however, so all you middlemen can breathe a sigh of relief. I just mentioned prices because I was reminded again the other day that not all of them go up.

I was going through my bookcase and I came across the file that I use to store the invoices for equipment I’ve bought over the years. One of the invoices which caught my eye, was for the laptop I bought in 2001 before heading overseas to seek my fortune.

It was a Toshiba Satellite 1800-100 with a snail-like Celeron 800 CPU, a 15Gb hard drive, 128Mb of RAM, CD-ROM, a floppy drive, and a 56kbps modem. It was pretty much the cheapest machine available with the features I needed, but it and a decent bag still cost me R15000.

In a column at the time I reported that it was a good quality computer but that, at the price, it bloody well should have been. My notebook is now a distant memory (gone to feed a Scottish teenager’s dope habit) and you can now get vastly better ones at around a third of the price.

A quick read through the adverts in this supplement will reveal notebooks with recognisable brand names, starting at less than R5000. One, featured last week, had a Celeron 1,4Ghz processor, 512Mb of RAM, a 60Gb hard drive, modem, network card, wireless networking and a dual layer DVD writer.

Only R5000! I darn near rushed straight out and bought one but luckily remembered just in time, that I don’t have any money. My plans for a shiny new notebook were dashed so I continued to consult my file to see what else had gone up or down.

On the 19th of July, 2000, I bought a desktop computer with a Pentium III processor, 192Mb of RAM, a 10,2Gb hard drive and a video card with an unprecedented 8Mb of its own RAM. It was quite a speed merchant and cost R6577.80, not including a screen or CD writer.

The computer’s 192Mb of RAM was quite lavish for those days and was comprised of a 128Mb chip and a 64Mb one. The 128Mb unit cost me R1379.40, or R10.78 per Mb; today the price of RAM per Mb seems to be about R1.

These days, an entry-level desktop costs about R4000 and what you get is way, way faster than the machine I bought in 2000. For about what I paid back then, you can get a very potent computer indeed.

I’m agog to see if the present trend can continue and whether computers and other electronics can carry on getting cheaper and more potent. LCD screens started out hideously expensive but, in the last year, have became pretty affordable for the average user; one of these days, I may even be able to afford a digital projector.

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