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The Innovation and Advancement of Computer Hardware

written by: •edited by: M.S. Smith•updated: 5/30/2010

What changes you can expect to see in the coming years when it comes to advancement in computer hardware.

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    Advancement of Computer Hardware

    The advancement of computer hardware is fun to track if you look at how much things have changed over the past few decades. Hard drives are getting smaller while holding more, flash drives are getting bigger and cheaper, processors are adding more cores and getting faster, and that’s just to name a few things. With the release of Apple’s iPad, it looks like tablet computers are going to be a big deal in the very near future. In this article, I’ll provide an overview of the changes that are on the horizon, as well as what’s available right now.

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    SSD - Solid State Drives

    sandisk ssd My first computer was an Apple IIgs and it didn’t even have a hard drive. My second computer had a 20 megabyte hard drive and no CD-ROM drive. The computer that I have now has almost a terabyte (1,000 gigabytes) of storage between two hard drives, plus it has a DVD burner. I recently bought a $10 flash drive at Wal-Mart that has more capacity that the total hard drive space of my first three computers combined. My little iPod Nano has more storage space than the computer I used to get through my undergrad degree in college.

    The days of the traditional mechanical hard drive are numbered. What’s going to eventually take its place are solid state drives, also known as SSD. Solid state means that it contains no moving parts, so basically it’s like a giant flash drive. You can buy a few new computers now with solid state drives, but they are pricey and the capacity is not very big compared to much larger and cheaper mechanical drives. The main reason for the big switch is speed and heat. Solid state drives are faster because you don’t have motors moving arms and spinning discs to have to read files. Solid state drives are cooler because they don’t have moving parts which make noise and generate heat inside of your computer. Solid state drives won’t wear out as fast as a mechanical drive, either.

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    Processors Galore

    nvidia tesla Processors, also called the CPU, truly represent the never ending advancement of computer hardware. As far back as I can remember, processors have been gaining speed and power. First you had single core processors with speeds that could be measure in low megahertz rating, like an IBM I had that was a 386sx/20 which was a 386 Intel core running at a whopping 20 megahertz. Don’t laugh, but it was pretty sweet at the time. Now you can buy computers with four cores built onto one chip, and each core running thousands of megahertz. The desktop model is the first to come out, then the chip is made smaller and less heat sensitive so it can go into notebook computers.

    Processors are equally important now when it comes to video cards and high end GPU cores. To meet the demands of high-end gaming as well as video editing and compression, video cards now have their own processors and memory. Adding a video card to your system is like installing another miniature computer inside your PC. With the development of GPGPU apps, we’re going to see a lot more advancement when it comes to utilizing that video card processor for other tasks.

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    Green Computing

    Another big thing driving advancement of computer hardware is the push toward green computing and electronics components with a low impact on the environment. A big step in that direction is the RoHS (Restriction of Hazardous Substances) Directive currently being pushed in Europe. The RoHS Directive is designed to stop the use of hazardous materials in the building of electronic components. This helps to make the construction process safer for the workers as well as the environment, plus it saves trouble in the future when it comes to disposal of those products.

    With so many electronics components being made for dirt cheap in some of the poorest third world countries, it is important to have measures in place like the RoHS Directive. Nobody wants to find out years from now that the hot new gadget you’ve been using could be hazardous to your health, or anyone else’s.