On a Friday night in 1985, I was reading a copy of Scientific American in bed. I came upon a fascinating article by Martin Gardener on something called the Mandelbrot Set. The article included some stunning graphics which come from the trivial recursive formula Z=Z+C. The next morning, Saturday, I rushed to my office at ASEA-Atom to write my own program to create such graphics. I happened to have a Textronix color graphics terminal on my desk, plus access to banks of the most powerful minicomputers in the world at that time. Being a veteran FORTRAN programmer it took me only minutes to write a program which began producing wonder opus graphics. I played with that program for weeks, and shoes it to all my friends and neighbors. It was great fun.
What prompted this post today is that I discovered and downloaded an app yesterday to do Mandelbrot graphics on the iPad. My God, what an unbelievable difference 30 years of technology makes. The number of pixels and the beauty of the screen are much better on the iPad. Most amazing, the one hour wait for a new calculation is now reduced to a second or less. It happens so fast that the eye can barely catch something that looks like a flicker. The iPad must be on e order of 10,000 times faster than those superminis from 1986. Even more amazing, I have reason to believe that the Android phone in my pocket is more than 5 times faster than the iPad. The pictures posted here came from that app (in Libby's hand I might add.)
When I first started working professionally with computers in 1966, computers cost millions of dollars and many were as big as houses. They were roughly, 10,000 times slower than 1986 computers or, 1,000,000,000 (one billion) times slower than my phone. Memory cost $1 per bit and my wage as a graduate electrical engineer was about $4/hour. Today memory costs are lower by a factor of 100 billion, but wages are higher by a factor of 15, so bits per hour of labor is up by about 5 billion to one.
It has been a wild and wonderful ride for tekkies of my generation. Just to remain useful and to avoid obsolescence of skills, we had to surf on the leading edge of that fantastic tidal wave. I'm very grateful for the privilege of having been a part of it. Perhaps now you understand why my fascination with all things computer continues even during our cruising life years.