Musing: Your iPad is a bicycle for your mind

The actual (somewhat contested) attribution to Job’s at the time was “Computers are like a bicycle for our minds.”  And that was back in the early eighties. (Did you note the gent toward the end of the video sitting before an IBM PC in coat and tie?  That was the “mind bicycle” of that time.)

But what a soaring flight of imagination. Let’s see, that’s about 20 Moore’s generations ago.

To put this into some kind of context, I have “calculated” in the roughest and most questionable form imaginable, that the bang per something (buck? gram? mm3? second? instruction? clock rate?) of a 600 gram iPad 2 relative to the hefty 13 metric tons of the UNIVAC 1, the first full-scale commercial computer put on the market in the US in March 1951, that with all its horsepower for a simple addition instruction took about 100 microseconds (said to be about 200,000 times slower than a Pentium III back in 1999).  And just so that you have my number, my rough guess is that the iPad outperforms her grandfather by a factor of > 1 trillion to 1.

Now you may not like my number, and you may have a better figure — and if you do send it along with the base of your calculation. What we know is that it is not going to be a modest hike.

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Eric Britton
9, rue Gabillot, 69003 Lyon France

Bio: Educated as a development economist, Eric Britton is an American political scientist, teacher and international sustainability activist who has lived and worked in Paris since 1969. Professor of Sustainable Development, Economy and Democracy at the Institut Supérieur de Gestion (Paris), he is also MD of EcoPlan Association, an independent advisory network providing strategic counsel for government and business on policy and decision issues involving complex systems, social-technical change and sustainable development. Founding editor of World Streets: The Politics of Transport - . | Britton online:

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