anders tonfeldt

Dissecting my amiga childhood
2018-01-16 11:52

I just finished uploading a few videos of me dissecting one of my amiga 500s. It struck me just how much our view of technology has changed, yet how little the actual technology has changed. In many ways our technological progression has even reversed.

Back in those days a new computer could mean an entirely new architecture, custom dedicated chips, entirely new input methods and, of course, massive leaps forwards in raw processing. What exactly do we get these days? 8% better performance. A bit more diskspace. Once in a blue moon maybe an interesting new connector and underlying technology (really quite fascinated by usb-c). Underwhelming doesn't even begin to describe it.

The pioneering spirit is dead. Its grave has been cemented over and a basketball court serves as its gravestone. Don't get me wrong, I get it. Developing CPUs and GPUs is -expensive-. So expensive that we've pretty much ended up with two behemoths to pick between, intel and amd. Throw in nvidia as a competitor to amd when it comes to GPUs as well.

Exciting. I can pick between x86 and.. x86. Between radeon and geforce. Man, building computers today sure is a thrilling experience. To be even more petty; if I hear one more person brag about how deep their understanding of technology runs because they can slot pci-e cards into their pre-designed, pre-mounted, clearly marked sockets I will bludgeon my inner child to death with a boredom stick.

There's more to my reasoning than just a sense of elitism and illusionary superiority however. Since the amount of choices we have is limited to one or maybe two in rare cases people of today, and more importantly the youth of today, has no reason to ever look outside that narrow viewframe. Attempting to discuss the architectures themselves is impossible since they never have, nor do they have any reason to, tried anything besides x86. Even trying to broach the subject of instruction sets is impossible unless you're talking to an engineer.

Programmers of today seem to just vaguely know what the heap and stack is. It's so abstracted that they have no reason to learn anything beyond what is the latest buzzword they can throw around. Not just no reason but it would actually be a detriment for them to spend the time to learn what their own code actually does since the employers value the buzzwords, not deep understanding.

I keep hearing we live in the "age of choice" yet for every gadget launched it seems the amount of choices decrease. 5000 different cellphones all running the same hardware and one or two operating systems.

A part of me keeps telling me that I'm just entering the "grumpy old fart" phase of my life and that "life wasn't better before". But it outright frightens me when we're grooming entire generations of youth into this mindset, meanwhile outsourcing actual fabrication (and in most cases, design) to other parts of the world. What exactly would happen if you took the seas of javascript and c# developers and tried to get them to solve a mission critical device. What if the device controlled societal services. Essentials.

Our technology isn't just stagnating because of disinterest, it's stagnating because future generations will reason that they have no reason to advance the technology itself, they just need to learn the latest abstraction of an abstraction of an abstraction of the hardware. Then keep insisting that their customers buy the 8% faster version because their stack is 9% slower in each iteration.


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