Monday, January 28, 2008

Nostalgia: VAX, CRAY, and Moore's Law

When I was a kid, my dad got me an account on Dalhousie University's VAX mainframe system. It was my first introduction to programming beyond LOGO and BASIC, and an older friend of mine helped me write a simple authentication program. He even showed me how to download Pink Floyd lyrics saved by University students. Since this was in the mid 1980's, graphical user interfaces were a long way off from anything more sophisticated than different-coloured text. This is part of the reason we thought CRAY mainframes were so cool - There was one at the same school, but no one we knew had an account - We had only heard rumours of the how cool GUIs and graphics applications were.

So why was I thinking about this? Last weeks "I, Cringley" post was about Moore's law and a new technique for manufacturing chips so that they can manage heat better. He speculates that this will help keep Moore's law valid for another 15 years. For those that aren't familiar, the law states that the number of transistors that can be inexpensively placed on an integrated circuit is increasing exponentially, doubling approximately every two years.

Another item in the news recently was the release of a new video card from AMD. This monsterhas a pair of high-end graphics processors, and costs about $500. So how does this tie-in with mainframes and Moore's law? That new video card is 1000 times more powerful than the aforementioned CRAY-1.

I can't wait to see what the next 15 years brings.


  1. yeah, it's a good time to buy videocards with big tech jumps like that.

  2. I missed VAX programming until I moved to my current company. We sill use them :-)It's actually not that bad, and we;ve even written C++.Net apps against it with MS Host Integration Server.