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The Astounding Performance Value Of PCs In A World Of $11 Cauliflowers

Updated on July 23, 2008

I have just left a cauliflower on the checkout stand at my local Safeway. I had plunked into my cart without noticing that the price was per pound and not per each, and thus my four-pound cauliflower cost $11.17. Considering that the same supermarket has beef roasts on sale for a lower per pound price than they are selling cauliflower, I refuse to spend the same money on cauliflower that I do on roast beef.

I can't believe that the hourly wage of many people I know is insufficient to take home one cauliflower. I work too hard in one hour to earn a cauliflower. Safeway and any other grocery retailer can take their cauliflowers and stick them in their flowering caulis for all I care.

The skyrocketing cost of fuel is exploding the prices of every single commodity which has to be transported. Personally, I don't know how much longer the average working stiff is going to be able to max out their credit cards in order to eat. Sooner or later the breaking point is going to arrive, and when it does, it will be major league ugly for all of us.

However, how does this affect computer prices? Of course if you are shipping a full size tower case with a 28 inch flatscreen monitor by UPS or FedEx, be ready to clutch at your chest and gasp for air. But for lighter and smaller components such as CPUs, motherboards, video cards, etc., the price is diminishing by the day and the price to performance ratio is shooting to stratospheric heights and beyond.

To fully understand the extent of this astounding ratio we first have to determine what benchmark to use in order to calculate the performance of various computer systems and thus be able to understand how the price has diminished while the performance has gone up and up and up and up.

I chose PCMark 2005 simply because it is a fairly straightforward CPU-dependent benchmark. The current king of the hill is the Intel Core 2 Extreme QX9770 Yorkfield scoring in the PCMark at just over 10,000. That should serve as a current state of the art benchmark.

There are plenty of perfectly good Celerons which score well under 1,000 on this benchmark, so we can definitely call that the threshold of current usability. However, it wasn't too long ago when CPUs were in common use which would score under 100 on the PCMark. No, this was not in the age of Mac 512Ks, but in this very decade when these processors were used for pretty well the same purposes we use them today, including accessing the internet.

When I was attending UCLA, the computer sciences building had an entire floor that was exclusively dedicated to its mainframe computer. The entire processing power of this floor would hardly have ranked a 10 on the PCMark. That installation cost well over $2 million which is $14 million in today's money. Therefore, we can establish a basic 1970s ratio of $1.4 millon per PCMark point.

If we had maintained that level of price/performance ratio the Intel Core 2 Extreme QX9770 Yorkfield 3.2GHz LGA 775 136W Quad-Core Processor Model BX80569QX9770 which now retails for $1,470 would cost over 14 million dollars or the same as the UCLA mainframe. Therefore, we can confidently establish that in the last thirty years, the actual cost of computer power has diminished by a ratio of 1,000.

What has happened to other consumer goods since the Seventies?

  • Cost of a gallon of regular gasoline: $0.36
  • Cost of a first class postage stamp: $0.06
  • Cost of a median new home: $26,600

OK, so let's adjust them for inflation:

  • Cost of a gallon of regular gasoline: $2.52 in today's money.
  • Cost of a first class postage stamp: $0.42 in today's money.
  • Cost of a median new home: $186,200 in today's money.

Hmm... that's really not that much of a difference isn't it? Sure, they have outpaced inflation by a bit, but really not much more than 20% or so, as the median new home price is currently $231,000.

Now let's factor in the Median Household Income which was $8,734. In today's money that would be $61,138. The actual income in the United States is $48,000, so then again, there is some discrepancy but not a huge amount. It seems that income has not quite kept up with inflation, but it hasn't lagged anywhere near as much as most people would believe.

Don't get me wrong, I've just filled up my unleaded regular gas tank for $6.13 a U.S. gallon (remember that I'm in ripoff Canada) and I'd not just love to see $2.52 a gallon for gasoline, but I'd likely go build an underground storage tank and fill it up with gasoline which in the future may just be more valuable than gold! I don't know what is going to happen to fuel prices and just how much more pain the average motorist can stand. I remember filling up my Corvette 427 four-speed 435 horse with extra pricey Sunoco 260 fuel and getting enough change from a $10 bill to buy lunch. A good lunch at that! But when you consider that ten dollar bill is now really seven ten dollar bills, it no longer sounds quite so obscene!

Computers are not just an incredible value, they absolutely defy description. Computer technology has achieved increases in performance and decreases in cost unlike any other consumer products in the history of humanity. I can go onto and buy a Intel Celeron D 315 Prescott 2.26GHz Socket 478 73W Single-Core Processor Model NE80546RE051256 which will score somewhere around 3000 on the PCMark for less than the price of four cauliflowers; an Intel Pentium E2180 Allendale 2.0GHz LGA 775 65W Dual-Core Processor Model BX80557E2180 is less than six cauliflowers; an Intel Pentium E2220 Allendale 2.4GHz LGA 775 65W Dual-Core Processor Model BX80557E2220 is about eight cauliflowers; and even the mighty 45 nm Intel Core 2 Duo E7200 Wolfdale 2.53GHz LGA 775 65W Dual-Core Processor Model BX80571E7200 will only set you back about eleven cauliflowers.

But I do miss my special recipe cauliflower and cheese sauce... sigh...


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    • Hal Licino profile image

      Hal Licino 9 years ago from Toronto

      Make sure you get a Pentium IV Prescott, as they ran so hot that they will make a really nice, bubbling cheese sauce!

    • CJStone profile image

      CJStone 9 years ago from Whitstable, UK

      I wonder what Intel Pentium and cheese tastes like? At this rate it's all we'll have left to eat.