This is the recovered Machine Room from 2005. Please don't expect wonders. The look and feel of this site is nine years
old, and so is its code. Some of the functionality has been recovered while the rest of
the site is modernised and restructured. Watch this space!
There's a number of available statistical charts. Each gives information on
the contents of the Machine Room or shows the progress of technology over the
past few decades. Feel free to use any of these charts with due credit, but
please remember that they do not necessarily represent the state of
the real world: only computers present in the Machine Room are used for
statistics. I think the sample is representative enough, but I have doubts as
to its accuracy. Anyway, here are the available charts:
different models of computers were released every year? Or, rather,
how many of them are in the Machine Room? This chart shows how the
computers listed in the Machine Room are distributed over the past
decades. The famous Home Computer Boom of the Eighties makes itself very
rate is not a measure of a microprocessor's speed compared to
other microprocessors. The comparison is valid only when
comparing certain microprocessors within one family of
chips. For example, the Zilog Z-80 at 3.5 MHz is slightly faster than
the 6502A at 1 MHz, but not faster by a factor of 3.5. CPU (and
computer) architecture is fundamentally important here. Having said
that, this chart shows how clock rates (not computer speeds)
have increased over the past decades. 'Speed' is a vector quantity: a
computer may be incredibly fast at one thing, but dead slow at
another. Plus, one microprocessor may execute commands in fewer clock
ticks than others.
How many 8-bit computers are listed? How about 12-bit
computers? What other exotic word lengths are there?
This chart shows the various word lengths (8, 16, 32 bits and the like)
represented in the Machine Room. Some really exotic (and rate) lengths are here, too.
Remember, this chart does not represent the real world, only the computers with
entries in the Machine Room (naturally, only entries that mention the
computer's word length are taken into account).
chart shows how colour resolution has changed over the years. Colour
resolution is the maximum number of colours the machine can display,
not necessarily at the same time (these days we'd talk of the
resolution of the RAMDAC). The baseline is of course monochrome, and
the modern acceptable resolution is 16,777,216 colours, or
How are colour resolutions distributed among computers? You'll be
surprised to see the most common state of affairs is monochrome!
You'll also see a few rather exotic colour resolutions that aren't
powers of 2, or aren't powers of two that are multiples of three.
What are the most popular computer emphases? There was a time when
computers weren't built solely as games machines or barely-interactive
television sets for the masses. This graph shows what was companies
aimed for (only tentatively, because it's difficult to see a
computer's target market sometimes).
Yet another unusually shaped chart. This one shows how graphics
resolution has progressed over time. The reason for the graph's
stability is that all graphics modes of all computers are
shown here. Since most computers, even today, have low resolution
graphics modes for backwards compatibility, games and what not, the
average resolution ends up being more or less stable! Since graphics
resolution is a two-dimensional quantity, this chart shows screen area
Here we have the canonical computer history chart: the one that shows how memory has
increased over the past, oh, forty years or so. This one is a must, if only because it
shows such a clearly increasing trend (even on a log scale, which we're using here).
Like the amount of main memory over time, the amount of Read-Only Memory (ROM) displays
the expected upward trends. Although not as steeply increasing as main memory, ROM size
has increased over time, as computers had more and more complicated bootstrap loaders,
built-in languages and applications.
Surprise, surprise: the average text resolution has more or less
remained a constant 80x25 (2000 characters). The maximum text resolution has
increased very slightly. The minimum resolution is an interesting case. With
the advent of the microcomputer for home use, text resolutions had to drop to make the
hardware cheaper and allow the computer to connect to television sets. This trend ended
very abruptly in the mid Eighties, when more and more computers started coming with high
resolution monitors. Since text resolution is a two-dimensional quantity, this chart shows
screen area in characters (number of columns multiplied by number of
This one is the a graph of the total peripheral storage capacity of
machines (different types of discs, in most cases). It's intriguingly
easy to distinguish the two clusters of data, the lower one being
floppy drives (usually a maximum of four units, each storing around
360 to 600 KiB), the upper one being hard drives. There are very few
cases where the middle ground was covered.
You always knew that the physical size of computers has decreased over
time. Now you can have proof, as well. This chart shows the physical
volume of computers. Since volume tends to increase quite rapidly as
dimensions increase, the vertical axis shows litres on a logarithmic
scale. A litre (liter, even, for people across the Great Duck Pond) is
1000 cm3. For the metrically challenged, this amounts to
around 61 cubic inches. Please note that the volume listed is the
volume of a box snugly fitting the computer. Few computers
are box-shaped, so the volume listed here may be somewhat
Unlike a computer's volume, its weight can easily be measured (unless we're
talking about some dinosaur like the IBM 360, in which case weighing is done
by trained professionals who have a hard time getting insured). This chart
shows the general drop in computer weight in recent decades. We go all the way
from big iron to little plastic. Note the immense drop in weight in the early
Eighties with the advent of the home micro.
These graphs were created automatically with Steve Grubb's Ploticus package.