Old computers were fast (back then)

Posted in Geekfest, Musings on April 9th, 2012 by juan


I have many vices. One of them is collecting old computers. To me, those are the 8 bit systems that were popular in the late 70’s and early 80’s. This last week, I was able to get a nice collection of Atari 800 and 400 machines from a local craigslist entry. Those are fun machines and bring me back to learning programming for the first time. My first computers was a TRS–80 Model 1, Level 1. However, the first machine I had access to that had “real graphics” was an Atari 800 in the computer lab at my middle school. I loved playing with the graphics and remember learning all sorts of tricks to make it faster.

I got to playing with the Atari’s and typed in some Basic programs just to see the thing do its thing. I remember them being fast back in the day. Well here I am 30 some odd years later with a computer that would seem as something out of a far future world to my little self then (4 processors! 4GB of RAM! 256GB of Solid State Disk! Wireless networking to the world at 50Mbit! Megapixel display with 32bits of color depth/pixel! On my lap! At it weighs less than 2 1/2 LBS! Seriously? That’s can’t possibly be! Oh – and that’s just my laptop. Don’t forget I have a “real” computer too.) Those ATARI’s were not fast.

Being the geek that I am, I had to see how much faster we have it today. I poked around the net for a bit and found an implementation of the Sieve of Eratosthenes on this site. I entered it into my Atari and it did come in at just around 5 1/2 minutes. I had to test it against my current computers, so I downloaded a copy of Chipmunk Basic. It seemed like a fair test to compare an interpreted basic to an interpreted basic. Here’s the basic version I wrote up:

10 dim flag(8191)
15 for a = 1 to 1000
20 count = 0
30 for i = 1 to 8191
40 flag(i)=1
50 next i
60 for i = 0 to 8190
70 if flag(i+1)=0 then goto 150
80 prime = i+i+3
90 k=i+prime
100 if k > 8190 then goto 140
110 flag(k+1)=0
120 k=k+prime
130 goto 100
140 count = count + 1
150 next i
160 rem print count
170 next a
180 print a;"iterations"

The big difference between my version and the ATARI version is that I had to run my version for 1000 iterations for me to get meaningful timings. The results?

[juan:~]$ time basic t.b
1001 iterations
basic t.b  7.63s user 0.00s system 99% cpu 7.639 total

That works out to be that my laptop is about 43,000 times faster than that ATARI. On one core. Let’s see what it’s like on all cores:

[juan:~]$ for i in {1..4}
for> do
for> time basic t.b &
for> done
[2] 30012
[3] 30013
[4] 30015
[5] 30017
[juan:~]$ 1001 iterations
basic t.b  18.80s user 0.03s system 98% cpu 19.029 total
[2]    done       time basic t.b
[juan:~]$ 1001 iterations
basic t.b  18.76s user 0.03s system 98% cpu 19.069 total
[3]    done       time basic t.b
[juan:~]$ 1001 iterations
basic t.b  18.80s user 0.02s system 98% cpu 19.069 total
[5]  + done       time basic t.b
[juan:~]$ 1001 iterations
basic t.b  18.79s user 0.03s system 98% cpu 19.097 total
[4]  + done       time basic t.b

Or roughly 70,000 times faster.

But wait. That site that had the listing for the Basic version also had one for one in Action! (which was a compiled language for ATARI’s). That version ran in about 1.5 seconds according to the Analog article ( I don’t have the Action! package to verify). Well I couldn’t not measure that too. So I wrote a C version of the Sieve. It’s a very dumb version intended to match the basic one as closely as possible:

#include <stdio.h>

int sieve()
  int flag[8192];
  int i,count,k,prime;

  for(i=0;i<8192;i++) {


  for(i=0;i<8190;i++) {
    if (flag[i]) {
      while(k<=8190) {

  return count;

int main()
  int c,i;

  for (i=0;i<=100000;i++)

  printf("found %d, %d times\n",c,i-1);

It turns out that this compiled version is so fast that I had to run is 100,000 times to get measurable results:

[juan:~]$ gcc -O4 t.c -o t
[juan:~]$ time ./t
found 1899, 100000 times
./t  4.17s user 0.00s system 99% cpu 4.177 total

And to do it on all the cores:

[juan:~]$ for i in {1..4}
time ./t &
[2] 30449
[3] 30451
[4] 30452
[5] 30454
[juan:~]$ found 1899, 100000 times
./t  7.44s user 0.01s system 95% cpu 7.832 total
[5]  + exit 25    time ./t
[juan:~]$ found 1899, 100000 times
./t  7.51s user 0.01s system 95% cpu 7.850 total
[3]  - exit 25    time ./t
[juan:~]$ found 1899, 100000 times
./t  7.46s user 0.01s system 94% cpu 7.891 total
[2]  - exit 25    time ./t
[juan:~]$ found 1899, 100000 times
./t  7.49s user 0.01s system 94% cpu 7.897 total
[4]  + exit 25    time ./t

Or roughly about 80,000 times faster.

All that on my laptop while I’m sitting in bed. Running on batteries.

The future is cool.

so I remember

Posted in Commentary, Geekfest, Musings on March 10th, 2011 by juan

One of my clear recollections of my early computer usage was the day that I bought my first hard drive. At 5 MEGA BYTES it seemed a luxury beyond all imagining. It only cost me $3,000.00. In 1980.

Had the same feeling in the mid 80’s when I upgraded my Amiga to 2MB of RAM (remember the sidekick?) and a 40 MB hard drive. It seemed like RAM beyond measure. Storage beyond possible utilization.

In the early 90’s my work gave me a computer with a super high rez screen, UNIX, 4 MB of RAM, and 1GB of hard disk, and a SPARC Based UNIX operating system with INTERNETS. Mere PC’s were useless to me. Imagine the _power_ of my configuration.

In the early 2000’s (naught’s?), my laptop came with dozens and dozens of GB’s of hard disk space, and a Gigabyte of RAM. It used windows, but that’s before OSX became stable.

By the mid 2000’s my laptop had a 17″ screen with super high rez screen, 120 GB’s of hard disk, 1.5 GB of RAM, and UNIXes. Welcome to the vortex of Steve. The power was mind boggling.

In the mid 2010’s my laptop still had a 17″ screen, but hi-rez to a new level, 8GB of RAM, and 500GB of HD. The processor had two cores each of which is nothing less than a super computer.

By the late 2010’s I got the first desktop I’ve used consistently since the early 90’s UNIX workstations. It has a 27″ inch screen, 8 cores of super duper computer horsepower, more RAM than I have used yet (no swap), it’s connected to 20+ TB of storage in my home gigabit network. My DCF has officially exceeded a [LOC](http://libraryofcongress.gov).

My current laptop has 128GB of storage, 4GB of RAM, and two cores.

Say what?

What just happened? When did it become a feature for less to be more?

Simple: we have too much juice. All around. What we __can get__ and what we __use__ are worlds apart now.


Tags: , , ,

Post PC world

Posted in Commentary, Geekfest, Musings on March 6th, 2011 by juan

## It’s about who uses it

So I’ve been ranting about how, for me, the iPad is not the device for content creation. After further reflection, that needs to be revised. I should change my tone because it could be for others. At the iPad 2 introduction The Steve made a point of mentioning that this is the intersection of technology and liberal arts. That’s it. That’s who can use the pad for _creation_. My world is emphatically not liberal arts. My passions all revolve around technology. My work is _all_ technology. Interestingly, my content creation, although putatively creative, is all technology driven. The closest I get to liberal arts is … media consumption. Aha.

Now, the truly creative folks – the artists/authors/painters – they are typically not technology driven. They want something to capture their creative expression in an intuitive way. They could care less about the megaseekels and geegasquirtz. They care that it turns on, they point, and it does. iPad.

I get it.

But not for me.

Tags: , , ,

boo got shot

Posted in Humor, Musings on February 18th, 2008 by juan

Neal Boortz (boortz.com) is a nationally syndicated radio show host based out of Atlanta. Amongst many other things, he is the author and main proponent of the fair tax law movement. Those of you not familiar with this, I strongly encourage you to read through this. Well, Neal is also a funny man. A few years ago he and his crew took an interview of a local crime witness and “translated” it for the rest of us. Well, I just found this animated version of it. Enjoy:

Boo Got Shot – AnimationThe most amazing videos are a click away

mental sausage

Posted in Commentary, Geekfest, Musings on February 14th, 2008 by juan

Merlin Mann might be one of the funniest, but also most insightful people ever. He recently made available the presentation he gave at MacWorld. In this brilliant presentation, he talks about how to keep our time and attention focused. He also gave me another reason to buy a domain name – mentalsausage.com.

Check out the presentation:

get better at shooting with the wheel (redux)

Posted in Commentary, Musings on February 12th, 2008 by juan

While sitting on a boring con call, I went ahead and re-did the shooting wheel into a PDF. This is a nice big sheet version of this so that you can take it to the range with you. This is a great tool to improve handgun shooting accuracy.

 Shooting Wheel

SSD’s are going enterprise

Posted in Commentary, Geekfest, Musings on January 25th, 2008 by juan

Hot on the heels of Mac announcing that there’s going to be a an SSD option to their Mac Air, comes the news that EMC is going to offer SSD’s on the Symmetrix: StorageMojo » EMC’s new flash drives. Can’t wait to see what a fully loaded all SSD Symm runs for. My guess is the GNP of Guatemala. However, it should smoke just about anything out there. Finally a good use for all those fancy 4 and 8Gb Fibre HBA’s everyone’s been buying.

macbook pro here!

Posted in Commentary, Geekfest, Musings on January 26th, 2007 by juan

First of many updates. I promise to do one on the migration process from the PowerBook to the MacBook. That’s an un-believable thing.

However, this update is on a nerd speed thing. I downloaded John the Ripper, my traditional test of speed on new computers. Just wanted to see where the new box stood. Here’s the basic results of three machines I have at home. All three of these are the output of “john –test”:

Test on a MacBook Pro (2.33GHz Core Duo):
Benchmarking: Traditional DES [128/128 BS SSE2]… DONE
Many salts: 1961K c/s real, 1976K c/s virtual
Only one salt: 1628K c/s real, 1635K c/s virtual

Benchmarking: BSDI DES (x725) [128/128 BS SSE2]… DONE
Many salts: 63846 c/s real, 64361 c/s virtual
Only one salt: 62233 c/s real, 62735 c/s virtual

Benchmarking: FreeBSD MD5 [32/32]… DONE
Raw: 6359 c/s real, 6397 c/s virtual

Benchmarking: OpenBSD Blowfish (x32) [32/32]… DONE
Raw: 388 c/s real, 391 c/s virtual

Benchmarking: Kerberos AFS DES [48/64 4K MMX]… DONE
Short: 308531 c/s real, 309770 c/s virtual
Long: 825344 c/s real, 828658 c/s virtual

Benchmarking: NT LM DES [128/128 BS SSE2]… DONE
Raw: 9090K c/s real, 9144K c/s virtual

Test on a Powerbook G4 1.6GHz:
Benchmarking: Traditional DES [128/128 BS AltiVec]… DONE
Many salts: 614247 c/s real, 785738 c/s virtual
Only one salt: 601600 c/s real, 719617 c/s virtual

Benchmarking: BSDI DES (x725) [128/128 BS AltiVec]… DONE
Many salts: 25856 c/s real, 27216 c/s virtual
Only one salt: 20403 c/s real, 26429 c/s virtual

Benchmarking: FreeBSD MD5 [32/32 X2]… DONE
Raw: 4187 c/s real, 4408 c/s virtual

Benchmarking: OpenBSD Blowfish (x32) [32/32]… DONE
Raw: 284 c/s real, 301 c/s virtual

Benchmarking: Kerberos AFS DES [24/32 4K]… DONE
Short: 110284 c/s real, 117825 c/s virtual
Long: 308889 c/s real, 325146 c/s virtual

Benchmarking: NT LM DES [128/128 BS AltiVec]… DONE
Raw: 5263K c/s real, 5551K c/s virtual

Test on PIII 800MHz “server”:
Benchmarking: Traditional DES [24/32 4K]… DONE
Many salts: 65024 c/s
Only one salt: 52434 c/s

Benchmarking: BSDI DES (x725) [24/32 4K]… DONE
Many salts: 1790 c/s
Only one salt: 1423 c/s

Benchmarking: FreeBSD MD5 [32/32]… DONE
Raw: 1450 c/s

Benchmarking: OpenBSD Blowfish (x32) [32/32]… DONE
Raw: 92.1 c/s

Benchmarking: Kerberos AFS DES [24/32 4K]… DONE
Short: 56941 c/s
Long: 130843 c/s

Benchmarking: NT LM DES [32/32 BS]… DONE
Raw: 805506 c/s

So – the basic math works out to what Apple claims. MacBook is roughly 3X speed of PowerBook. And roughly 30X the speed of the PIII server! F’ing cool.

As an aside – I remember being extremely proud of at one point around 1991 making a Sun Sparc1 workstation run the Crypt routines at roughly 1,400 crypts/second. New MacBook is … 1,400 times faster. What 15 years gets us, huh?

PC 25?

Posted in Geekfest, Musings on August 11th, 2006 by juan

It’s the PC’s 25th anniversary, or so the headlines say. I thought this would be a good time to recollect on the computers I’ve owned, still own, or lust for:

 Images Computer-Model1X3001) TRS-80 Model 1. All of 4KB of RAM in the first cut with a cassette recorders at 300 baud. Upgraded it later to 16K with a floppy disk drive. Man was it cool not to have to wait for minutes, many minutes to load my programs and games. Total cost when all told was about $3,500. Still own one. It still runs and it’s fun to type in the very first program:

20 GOTO 10

The lightning that struck with that has never been repeated. Sheez, if I’d only known.

 Images Atari800
2) Atari 800. To be fair, I didn’t own this during it’s heyday, but I’ve since acquired one. I did program on them in middle school and even into high school. Yep, Palmetto Sr. High was very advanced. The graphics on these were amazing for their day. Hardware assisted sprites with collision detection. I spent many hours figuring out how to make silly little blobs move around the screen and bounce of off each other. Some of the games were also way before their time. Own one of these.

 Photos Uncategorized Ti994A
3) TI-99/4A. Also one that I didn’t own in it’s heyday, but I did spend a whole bunch of time on this one. The best part of these was the 16-bit processor. The clock speed and the re-interpreted, interpreted BASIC were all bummers. However, if Cosby said you should own one, by God, you know somewhere along the lines, people bought them. Also own one of these. Still works too. The best part of this is that it still amazes small children. Cool.

 Images Imagedb2 298 29845 L
4) Apple-II. Everyone knows about this one. Also another that sucked up a whole bunch of my time that I didn’t own until much, much later. Many of my friends had these, so I got to enjoy them in their prime. It was fun figuring out the 6502 assembly and diving into the early BBS scene. Oh for those 300 baud modems. It took me many years to finally get one, but it’s in the collection now. Now I only wish that I had a color monitor to show off all of those “Hi-Res” games that I have for it.

 History Osborne-1
5) Osborne 1. This one I did get. $1795 was the price. That got you two floppies (each at 80KB – awesome storage levels). 64KB of RAM and all the software you would ever need to own (MBASIC, WordStar, D-Base II, SuperCalc all on CP/M). The 5 1/2″ screen was AWESOME. I later upgraded the video display on this to the 80 column card! Man that was some dense text. Even later, I went for the ultimate upgrade and swapped out the floppy drives for the new double density drives. Man, that was nirvana. This was the first portable and at 26LBS, it got me into shape. Loved it. Still own it.

 Museum Photos Osborne Executive 3
6) Osborne Executive. The big brother of the Osborne 1. Upgraded to 7″ screen with 128KB of RAM (bank switched) and CP/M 3.0 (aka CP/M Plus). The disk drives were also the same double density drives at 180KB per drive. Never thought I’d fill that space up. I spent many, many hours learning some heavy duty stuff with this one: pascal, C (that was crap on an 8 bit system), wordprocessing for the masses (WordStar 3.0!). This is also the machine that finally got my first 1200 baud modem. That was cool. First time that the text came in faster than I could type and almost as fast as I could read. My phone bill went up!

 Photos Uncategorized Model100
7) TRS-80 Model 100. One of the first laptop computers. My mother bought one of these. I hooked it up to her car mounted cell phone in 1985 with a thermal printer so that she could send/receive TELEX messages while she was running around. This was critical for her Import/Export business at the time. I should have patented that and sold it. Crap. After a while it became mine. Still own it. The most amazing part of it all, like all of these machines is that it also still works. The keyboard on this one might just about be the most perfect laptop keyboard ever.

8) Amiga 1000. This is one hot, sexy machine. In 1985 it hap a fully pre-emptive multi-tasking OS. It had dedicated chips for sound, video, and in the keyboard. One of the most amazing things it did was to be able to display multiple resolution virtual screens at the same time. For example, you could create one running at 320×200 and another at “hi-res” 640×200. When one of them was running full screen, all you needed to do is move the mouse to the very top of the screen and drag that screen down. The other, lower-rez screen would show behind it. It actually changed the monitors resolution half way down the screen! Loved this one for many, many years. Still own it.

 ~Schaelss Vintage Images Mac512
9) Mac 512K. Also one of those that I didn’t own at the time, but do now. Everybody knows about these, and they were great. Ah, for those simple times. I tried to learn how to program one of these. I did not have the patience to deal with the single floppy drive systems that my friends had. Compiling anything on these was nothing short of a pain in the ass. I also always expected Borland to follow through with their promise of Turbo Pascal for the Mac. Never came to be, and the Mac dropped out of my life for a long, long time.

 Storia Img Parte3 A3000
10) Amiga 3000. This baby was the first, real affordable video editing station for the masses. With 200MB of hard disk space. I was set for life! Life! Still own it. Still have the hardware necessary to come up with some of those kicking 80’s video overlays. It still does stuff that’s hard to get on cheap computer systems even today. Those knuckle-heads at Commodore wasted a gold mine not knowing how to fight the right fight. The AmigaOS even in the 3.x series (early 1990’s), there was stuff that only recently is appearing in the Mac or Windows world: hardware assisted windowing system, hardware assisted sound generation, speech synthesis as an integral part of the OS, IP networking (I know, I know, but in the early 1990’s this was amazing), and many more things.

11) Sun 3/60. For a while, I couldn’t afford the computers that I really wanted. Luckily, my job at Ga. Tech allowed me to work with some very cool stuff. This was the first workstation that was officially issued to me. 4MB of RAM and it ran a full UNIX with X-Windows. Man, the joy of discovery. Not sure this is a PC class thing, but I used it much like I use my current computers. So, to me, that qualifies. Wish I owned one of these. The best part of these was that I was able to run my own UNIX (Sun OS 3.x) on my own box and screw it up as much as I wanted to. That was a good thing, because at the time I had huge gaping chasms of knowledge. That naturally lead to huge flaming OS disasters.

 Jason Articles Historyofcomputers Sparcstation1
12) Sun SPARC-1. This was AWESOME. Had my own MIPS to spare. I spent almost a year porting and or re-compiling all of the Computer Science’s software repository on one of these. Sun moved their entire line from the 68030/40 line to Sparc. I cussed and I bitched, but these things were FAST for their time (12.5 MIPS!). I would love to have one of these too. I still remember feeling extreme jealousy when one of the research professors got one of these before I did. I wanted to kill for it, but the joke was on him. He couldn’t run any of the software he needed for his research until I got it ported over to the SPARC platform. Because he had pulled strings to get it before the guys in IT could get one, he had to wait. He waited longer than most.

 Data Models 100
13) PowerBook 100. After I left Ga. Tech, I ended up at a software company (Epoch Systems). They issued Powerbook laptops to all field personnel. My sales guy had the 130, but I had the PowerBook 100. Man was this thing cool for its time. I used to travel and all of the nerds in every room would crowd around to see this puppy. With all of 20MB of HD, this thing could do just about anything you would want a computer to do: modem built-in, word processing, spreadsheets, ….. I would love to have one of these beauties also.

14) The PC and laptops. After that PowerBook, if fell into many years of crappy PC’s and crappy PC laptops. None were very remarkable in their own stead other than I just kept moving my files from one to the next. Over the years, I’ve accreted many gigs of files that I will never look at again. But there they are, just in case. The good thing is that many of the later models (as of about 6 years ago) are still running in my home as Linux computers serving multiple purposes. This is a better fate than many of the older models got – death.

 Attached Pics Computerhistory Articles Komputerdlaresztyznas Alpowerbook17
15) PowerBook G4. The computer I’m currently using. Mac-OSX gives me the best of the UNIX, Amiga, and PC worlds all in one. Once I get a new MacBook Pro I’ll have it ALL! ALL I tell you. Have to hold out. The latest rumor is that the Merom based MacBook’s will be out in September. MUST … BE … STRONG…..

Wow. I’m a total f’ing nerd.

the (temporary) loss and a new experiment

Posted in Commentary, Fanboy, Geekfest, Musings on May 31st, 2006 by juan

The other day, with no warning, I was dumped into a nightmare. My PowerBook‘s screen develop a nasty, pixel wide, always on purple line. A call to Apple Care confirmed it – laptop needs repair (no duh). They suggested that they send me a box to pack my laptop into and then ship it back to them and then 5-10 business days they would have it back to me. The kicker – they recommend that I back it up before I send it because “sometimes the depot finds that the hard drive is bad and they will replace it out of courtesy.” Crap. Next step – go visit the closest Apple store. Seems to me that they would be able to figure this out, order me a new display, let me go home with computer, call me when the display comes in, another quick dash, slap the new display in, run back home in joy. Nope. Apparently fixing computers requires centralization (one of Houston or Memphis). Apparently, screwdrivers and Apple stores are not allowed to co-exist in the same spatial coordinates.

So, I am not faced with a dilemma: what do I do for 5-10 business days without my laptop? Fortunately, I have a work laptop I can use. However, I refuse, refuse I tell you, to use Windows as the primary OS. So, looking around, it seemed to easy to use Fedora. I have three other machines at home running it now. Looking around I have a zillion choices of Linux and BSD distros to use. Without much scientific effort (read: a complete rectal extraction), I chose SuSE 10.1 (new shinny) to use as the base. The installation was awesomely easy. Linux has truly come a long way. The only thing not detected was my wireless. That I’m working on. Next was to try to use Evolution to connect to corporate email. Quickly, I got stymied – no CISCO VPN client available (at least to me). So, install VMWare – install winblows + sp2 + all the other crap + office + cisco vpn for windows. That gives me working access to the work stuff I need to do to pay for this computer habit of mine.

Logo Suse-2
The box from Apple Care is on it’s way. The SuSE box is ready with VMWare giving me a back line to the office. With this comes my great experiment: How do you survive Post Windows, Post Mac, into Linux in the corporate world?

Stay tuned.