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The One Way Your Laptop Is Actually Slower Than a 30-Year-Old Apple IIe

Accepted submission by AnonTechie at 2017-12-29 20:16:06

Have you ever had that nagging sensation that your computer was slower than it used to be? Or that your brand new laptop seemed much more sluggish than an old tower PC you once had? Dan Luu, a computer engineer who has previously worked at Google and Microsoft, had the same sensation, so he did what the rest of us would not: He decided to test a whole slew of computational devices ranging from desktops built in 1977 to computers and tablets built this year []. And he learned that that nagging sensation was spot on—over the last 30 years, computers have actually gotten slower in one particular way.

Not computationally speaking, of course. Modern computers are capable of complex calculations that would be impossible for the earliest processors of the personal computing age. The Apple IIe, which ended up being the “fastest” desktop/laptop computer Luu tested, is capable of performing just 0.43 million instructions per second (MIPS) [] with its MOS 6502 processor. The Intel i7-7700k, found in the most powerful computer Luu tested, is capable of over 27,000 MIPS [].

But Luu wasn’t testing how fast a computer processes complex data sets. Luu was interested in testing how the responsiveness of computers to human interaction had changed over the last three decades, and in that case, the Apple IIe is significantly faster than any modern computer. []

Original Submission