Innovation in PC tech: a slow but steady march forward

Posted on Friday, Aug 16 2019 @ 17:59 CEST by Thomas De Maesschalck
Innovation in tech often happens a lot slower than we want, but if you look back ten or twenty years, you can see clearly that the tech world has come a long way. In this article I’ll highlight a couple of major changes that we’ve seen along the way.

Optical mice
A small but very welcome improvement was the arrival of the optical mouse. These days we can barely remember the era of the ball mouse, but twenty years ago almost every mouse used a mechanical design based on a ball and two freely rotating rollers. Not only was this system less accurate but it also required a lot of cleaning. The mouse ball and the rollers picked up a lot of dust and dirt and eventually ceased functioning correctly, requiring you to open the ball compartment and clean the moving parts.

Displays: from CRT to LCD
Twenty years ago we all used small, but massive CRT displays. While CRT displays had some advantages, like the capability to scale to various resolutions, overall they were pretty awful. These flicker machines were huge, generated a lot of heat and had significantly worse image quality than today’s LCD displays. Today’s OLED-based LCD panels are much more energy efficient and they’re also easier on the eyes.

Hardware: the need for speed
These days video games and heavy-weight professional applications are pretty much the sole reason why you would need more performance. Back in 1999, computers were a lot slower and often even basic operating system tasks or office tasks felt very sluggish.

Just like tech in sports betting products has improved, slow performance is no longer the case thanks to big gains in processing speed and much faster memory. We’ve seen clockspeeds ramp up into the gigahertz range and once that was no longer a viable means of increasing performance we saw a lot of improvement from microprocessor architectural improvements as well as the arrival of multi-core CPUs.

This brings us to GPU. Twenty years ago 3dfx was making 3D video acceleration mainstream with its Voodoo graphics cards and after the turn of the millennium NVIDIA and ATI (now AMD) really made the GPU the new focal point of a gaming PC. In the past, the processor was the most important part of a computer, but these days it’s very common to spend more on a GPU than a CPU.

SSD: Say goodbye to sluggishness
If your computer feels like a snail, chances are that the installation of a solid state disk will do wonders. For many years, we saw very little innovation in the storage market. HDDs got a little bit better but they remained extremely slow versus the fast lane (CPU/RAM/GPU). This all changed with the arrival of the flash-based solid state disk. It’s truly a miracle how much faster a SSD made a computer feel. Boot times got decimated and Windows and most apps you run started running at light speed!

The Internet Last but not least, the Internet is one of the technologies that has totally changed our lives over the past two decades. Having total access to world’s knowledge and entertainment has really been a game changer.