Now! Slower than 1GHz!
2014 was the year the computer world began running backwards.
Those of us growing up with personal computers in the 1980s and 1990s experienced ever increasing speeds. Some of us remember desktops with TurboBoost! buttons that sped up the PC from 4.7MHz to 10MHz. (The reason for the button: some software was written for 4.7MHz in mind, and would not work properly at other speeds.) My policy was to buy a new desktop computer anytime a newer CPU was at least 3x faster.
The last time I bought a new desktop was quite a few years ago. Intel can't get its chips to run faster than just over 4GHz. The silver lining: no need to buy a new computer any more!
As replacements for Intel's failure to meet our expectations, ReadyBoost was helpful in speeding things up on Windows computers, as does replacing hard drives with solid state drives on any computer. Ha. For the price of a new computer, I could put in a memory-based hard drive.
Last fall, I needed to replace my miniMac. (Short version of the story: I tried replacing the hard drive with an SSD, and thoroughly screwed up the old miniMac.) Since I need a Mac only occasionally, like running a CAD package for a few screen grabs, I got me the cheapest one.
This latest model has a multi-core i5 CPU running at around 1.4GHz and Turbo Boost up to 2.7GHz, supposedly. (Heh: the TurboBoost button turns into software.) Decent specs, I'd've thot. But slow! It feels like it has a 486 running in the hundreds of MHz. No sense of Turbo Boost every kicking in. Starting OS X and then a CAD program is like the old days, when engineers went on a coffee break to wait out the launch sequence.
Here's the thing. I bought the cheapest one, which also happens to be the miniMac model promoted by the big box stores in their weekly flyers. You know, "Give Mom the gift she loves: a new computer." So this painful experience is what Apple expects new users to suffer through? I guess it makes sense to somebody at One Infinite Loop.
It could be worse, I suppose, but a baulking computer is one you don't want to use. Remarkably, Apple has introduced even slower computers: new MacBooks that run slower than 1GHz. If the miniMac is nearly unusable at 50% faster than this, how bad must the single-ported MacBook in terms of UX?
Why Laptops Are Being Made to Slow Down
The dirty secret is this: computer makers are making laptops slower to juice battery life. High CPU speeds drain the battery. For the marketing department to land their claims of "all day battery life," the engineering department is being forced to slow things down.
Battery life is stalled, just like CPU speeds stalled. We can't compute longer and we can't faster. There is no need for consumers to buy new computers. Hence, apocalypse nearing.