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Ed Grochowski

Home PC Tenth Anniversary

Ed Grochowski

Posted 8-29-2013

homepc1
The Dell Dimension 8300 in 2007

Introduction

In the early 2000s, Intel Corporation offered a $1,000 benefit to employees towards the purchase of a new personal computer. The goal of the Home PC program was to increase computer usage among employees at home, and hopefully to encourage other companies to offer similar programs (the latter didn't happen).

I ordered my Home PC from Dell in September 2003. I bought a high-end configuration with a then-blazingly-fast 3 GHz Pentium 4 processor and ample memory and storage.


A Decade of Progress

It is interesting to measure the progress made by the computer industry since the Home PC of 2003. To do that, I went to Dell's website and configured a modern PC from the same market segment. The results are shown below.

A Decade of Desktop PCs
ModelDell Dimension 8300Dell Alienware X51Improvement
Year20032013-
Processor3 GHz Intel Pentium 43.4 GHz Intel Core i7-4770-
SpecIntRate200610 (estimate)21622x
Memory1GB16GB16x
Hard Disk120GB2TB17x
Display19 inch CRT, 1600x120024 inch LCD, 1920x10801.1x
Price$2,180 (2003 dollars), $2,770 (2013 dollars)$1,4501.9x

Moore's Law states that the number of transistors on an integrated circuit doubles roughly every two years. Over the course of a decade, we would expect to see five doublings, or a 32x improvement.

The growth in memory capacity from 1GB to 16GB is a direct consequence of Moore's Law. The CPU performance improvement is an indirect consequence of the additional transistors on the CPU die. The growth in hard disks follows a similar trajectory as the growth in semiconductors even though the two technologies are completely different. All of these parameters grew by roughly 16x, or four doublings, over a ten year period.

What happened to the fifth doubling? The answer is in the price: for the same price as the 2003 PC, one can buy two PCs today. Comparing the 2003 PC against two 2013 PCs, we see that the computer industry has succeeded in doubling speed and capacity every two years.

Unfortunately, display manufacturers have not been on a similar trajectory.


Upgrades

Given such rapid improvements in technology, my Dimension 8300 didn't stay stock for long. Within a year, I had upgraded the memory to 2GB, the hard disk to 400GB (2x200GB), and the operating system from Microsoft Windows to Slackware Linux. This has remained the machine's configuration to the present day.

I also put in two repairs, the graphics card and fan. I was happy when the fan needed replacement. The Dell Dimension 8300 was one of the loudest production PCs ever, making as much noise as a vacuum cleaner. The replacement fan is notably quieter.


Conclusion

I used the Dell Dimension 8300 as my main PC from 2003-2006, and afterwards it became my backup server. A backup server is a good use for a computer that, by the ever-increasing standards of the computer industry, is now a turtle.