I started college with a new Post Versalog sliderule, a High School academic award I still have (current picture).
In my sophomore year, my roommate purchased an HP35, one of the first scientific calculators. It used Reverse Polish Notation which was cool, and likely politically incorrect today.
The sliderule, Dwight’s Table of Integrals and a CRC were no match for the HP35C. But at a cost of >$1000 in today’s money it was out of my budget, so he let me share it until TI introduced a cheaper, albeit clunkier clone. .
The computational analysis for my PhD thesis was done on the school CDC Cyber 70. A screaming 25MHz 60b mainframe with 256KB of core memory. I entered Fortran 77 programs on the IBM029 key punch. Make a mistake, start another card – at least it buffered characters. I carried my programs and sub-routines in a shoebox. When I started at Texas Instruments, shoeboxes of keypunch cards were a common sight. Now I have a tinge of regret for tossing mine.
When I was developing TI’s first semi-custom CMOS design, I stored my design files on a removable 50MB platter. I carried it from my office to the design center and it never left my sight at work. .
In 1984, I established TI’s first ASIC design center and got my own TI personal computer, a virtual clone of the one IBM introduced in 1982, except with a 5MB hard drive instead of dual floppy ports. It used a 4MHz Intel 8086. I outfitted the center with Daisy Designstations based on the 80186 and Mentor/Apollo DN workstations which used Motorola 68K processors. One of my clients designed ASICs for the first 68030 MAC, the IIfx. We are constantly using today’s computers to design tomorrows.
We uploaded design files to Dallas for mask generation using a dedicated 9600baud modem (the rest of the TI sales office shared a 9600baud modem and they were a bit jealous).
I went through a succession of personal computers at work, based on 286, 386, 486, 586 (Intel renamed to Pentium before introduction to further isolate AMD), Pentium II, Pentium III, M, Centrino and currently a 2GHz Dual Core Macbook. My first portable computer was a Compact III . I lugged it around the US and overseas visiting customers for Actel. There was enough empty space in the back to hide bombs, drugs or small endangered animals, but no airport security ever asked to open it.
At home, I was one of Pac Bell’s first residential ISDN customers with effectively 56K of bandwidth. I was one of their first DSL customers, suffering through 3rd party maintenance and support nightmares. When it worked it screamed at 1.5MBps. A few years ago, I pulled all the plugs on Pac/SW/AT&T. My “triple play” is a 15Mbps cable modem, an off-name VOIP and an ATSC antenna.)
If the cable goes down (which has been very rare) I get Google Free Wifi at ~2Mbps (benefit of living in GoogleTown).
In my professional career, I’ve seen ~5 orders of magnitude increase in bit/sec processing and ~7 orders of magnitude increase in bit storage density with substantial price declines. But I’ve also seen the price of gasoline increase from 25c to $3.50 while the average gas mileage of a US automobile only increased from 15mpg to 25mpg, a net increase of 3X in $/mile. The attributes of Moore’s Law have not made much of an impact on transportation or energy consumption yet.