Looking at PCs today, it’s easy to take so much for granted compared to what we had ten years ago in the way of cases, cooling gear and modding accessories. I was actually holding a water-cooling compression fitting at the time I thought about writing this article. I remember thinking that compression fittings are amazing – they’re so much better than what went before them and make things so much better for enthusiasts.
This got me thinking as to what else we use today that we would have given up a year’s worth of cheesecake for if the year was 2002. Even though the PC enthusiast, modding and water cooling scenes were very much established, they were still in their infancy and off the shelf parts were far fewer in number than they are today. Here’s my list of modern marvels and feel free to add your own in the comments below.
Solid State Disks
I’m still in awe of what the modern SSD has achieved. Speed, durability, noise and space reduction – they’re all benefits that have meant more and more people are willing to shell out a little more than they would for a hard disk for the biggest storage performance upgrade most of us have ever seen. Even immediately prior to the first generation of Intel SSDs and Indilinx-based controllers, which are generally seen as the first products that offered better-than-hard disk read and write speeds, with most also supporting TRIM, hard disks were still loathe-worthy bits of hardware.
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While capacity was still increasing at a reasonable rate, and costs were continually falling (remember the days when 1TB drives could be had for around £35?), they were still the bottleneck in a lot of situations and had been for many years. Booting Windows, transferring or unzipping files, opening programs – all this became so much quicker with SSDs. For those of us who like our PCs to be seen and not heard, it was also time to get rid of the hard disk entirely, perhaps by using a server or NAS box in another room, meaning our PCs just got a lot quieter. SSDs barely produce any heat too so combined with their small size, this means you can do away with bulky drive cages and mount your SSD where you like.
All I can say is that ten years ago, the hard disk was still lacking in speed and capacity, and if modern SSDs had somehow found themselves on etailer's shelves (along with SATA 6Gbps ports of course) back then, I’d have been even more excited about owning one.
2TB Hard disks
The flooding in Thailand last year has had unfortunate consequences for the hard disk industry. Costs have skyrocketed and until recently, even getting your hands on a hard disk was difficult too, such was the chaos in the Thai factories that were completely submerged. However, prices are beginning to fall again and supply no longer seems to be a major issue. Before the floods, though, hard disk prices were nothing short of awesome. Awesomely low that is. 1TB hard disks cost barely £30 and even £75 was considered expensive for some of the cheaper 2TB models.
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My photos and videos take up more than 200GB alone and combined with everything else I need stored permanently, a 2TB hard disk is a godsend. The ability to store that much data on a single device is incredible, and with another located in a NAS box or external hard disk, you’ll have a simple way to backup all your data. Rolling back to 2002, the average hard disk size was around 20GB – 100 times smaller than a 2TB hard disk.
I already owned an MP3 player and digital camera back then, and with Microsoft Flight Simulator 2002 taking up 2GB alone, space was definitely still a premium, and definitely more of an issue than speed at the time, unlike today. Technological limitations aside, had 2TB hard disks rolled out ten years ago, I’d probably have waived my purchase of an Athlon XP 2600+ and ATI 9700 Pro and got one instead.