It’s a common saying to hear things like “We have more power in our phones than NASA did in the 1960’s to put a man on the moon” — and it’s right! If anything, it’s a huge understatement.
Rodney Brooks wrote a great article for IEEE Spectrum where he broke it all down, but his main comparison was a modern laptop compared to the IBM 7090, the first all-transistor mainframe, which cost around $20M in today’s dollars. The comparison?
A week of computing time on a modern laptop would take longer than the age of the universe on the 7090.
It’s not that we just have “more power” than NASA did back then, but we have more power than we can even begin to understand.
The 7090 was an amazing machine, with a single one often shared between an entire company or campus, but you can perform calculations roughly a quadrillion times faster (1,000,000,000,000,000) on your laptop. It’s really hard to understand a number that large, but Brooks’ comparison is pretty solid. Perhaps more mind-bogglingly, can you imagine what computers will be able to do in the next 60 years?
In the meantime, are you making good use of what you have in your hands today?