The Rise of Freeconomics

Lovely post by Chris Anderson (he of Long Tail fame)…

It’s a big day for Moore’s Law. I’m not sure anyone else has noticed this, but by my calculations we have in the past few months reached the penny-per-MIPS* milestone. Intel’s Core Duo running at 2.13 GHz now costs around $200 at retail (it’s around $180 at volume), but can do about 20,000 MIPS. I remember my first 6 MHz 286 PC in 1982 that did 0.9 MIPS. I have no idea what the CPU cost then, but the PC it came in cost nearly $3,000 so it couldn’t have been cheap. Say it was around $1,000/MIPS back then. Now it’s $0.01/MIPS. I know I shouldn’t be astounded by Moore’s Law anymore, but that really is something.

Good Morning Silicon Valley picked up on this and added an interesting quote from Alec Saunders, who added some extra historical perspective:

  • In 1977, Digital Equipment’s Vax 11/780 was a 1 MIPS minicomputer, and the Cray-1 supercomputer delivered blindingly fast execution at 150 MIPS.
  • By 1982, 5 years later, a 6 Mhz 286 had about the same equivalent processing power as the Vax.
  • Sometime in the mid 1990’s, Cray’s benchmark was finally passed on PowerPC processors, as PowerMac’s emerged benchmarked at 150 to 300 MIPS.
  • A 1999 era Pentium III/500 delivered 800 MIPS of processing power.
  • A year later, in 2000, the Playstation 2 pumped out an astounding 6000 MIPS.
  • My 2002 vintage Athlon XP clocks in at 4200 MIPS.
  • And today, for about $200, you can buy a 20,000 MIPS processor.
  • *Note for non-geeks: MIPS stands for “million instructions per second”, a standard measure of CPU power.