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French Version

Computing today: Organized money grabbing!

If you've been in computing for over a decade, then you remember the days when a great application fit onto a 1.4 inch floppy disk.

If you've been in computing for over a decade, then you remember the days when a great application fit onto a 1.4 inch floppy disk. Such a 'small' application packed in all the features you needed and offered comparable performance at the time to the basic functions now on offer from a 100MB application! Although this may seem like an overstatement to you, let's take a look at some of the evidence.
Word-processing has been around since the late seventies. Up until the introduction of Windows in the early nineties, word-processing applications were light, little applications that offered you all the type styles (bold, italic, underline...etc), many fonts, spell checking and even neat features like Mail Merge.

Microsoft itself first introduced 'light' versions of Word which came on two disks. Today, Word is an over-weight giant of an application which can't even cope with it's own features and crashes regularly! WinWord alone, as an executable file without all it's sub-files, is 8:39 MB.

But that's only one of the Microsoft office applications. The whole office suite weighs in at 151MB. This is horrendous. I remember only six years ago when my hard disk was only 120MB, and I had Word, Excel, PowerPoint and dozens of other applications. There are more obvious examples in the games industry. Who of us didn't enjoy those great games of the late eighties which fit into one or two disks at the most and had music and graphics all squeezed into under 3 megabytes! Most importantly, the focus was on playability.

Today's games are high on effects, always, but rarely high on playability! Game software writers think that they can make up for concept and playability with loads of sampled music, digitized video and all round effects that make a game more like a movie. As for the game play, well that's not as important.

Of course, people will say that these are not problems as long as memory chips and hard disks keep on getting cheaper. Well, the bigger the hard disk, the more the memory SIM chips installed, the more bulky your computer. Not to mention the size of the processor needed to 'crunch' all those applications. Today, a 1 Gigahertz Pentium is huge, with multiple cooling systems (fans), and sounds like a tractor! It's a vicious, never-ending cycle which although resulting in more appealing software, that looks great and packs every feature in the universe (most of which you'll never use), has caused an almost exponential growth in memory and storage needs. Although this argument may sound to a lot of you like a 'nostalgic' blast, I urge you to look at the evidence: Your full hard disk (housing less than one hundred applications, utilities and games per each gigabyte- that's 10 MB per program), your Ram memory of 128MB RAM, which still gives you ridiculous messages like 'insufficient memory', and regular requests from your computer to 'clean-up' the hard disk which just can't handle it all! At the 'base' of these problems is the operating system itself, the first thing you install onto your computer is probably the largest single piece of software! My Windows 98 installation currently stands at 769MB. If things go on like this, standard RAM memory in your computer will hit 480MB, and standard hard disk sizes will go up to 30GB within the next three years! Somehow, it all seems connected. Microsoft introduces a new version of Windows, a power hungry application-needing a faster processor, a bigger hard disk, and consuming more system resources, therefore, needing more RAM. They're all driving one another, making you spend, and ensuring that you spend again within one or two years.

Conspiracy theory? Paranoia? Call it whatever you want, I call it organized money-grabbing.

Zeid Nasser
The Star

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