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The Falling Cost of Computing

Programming Note # 19
Ravi Kochhar
Dept. of Physiology
Univ. of Wisconsin - Madison
Aug. 18, 1997
Rev. 8/1/2000
 

It should come as no surprise that computing costs have been falling steadily for the last several years. This report attempts to quantify that decline.

A rough measure of CPU speeds may be obtained by running the same program on different computers. The Basement Benchmark (BBENCH.EXE) is such a program that we have been running on different popular computers since the mid-1970's.

It consists of two separate benchmarks, (B2) a 10-point linear regression and (B6) a 1024-point FFT. Each is repeatedly run many thousands of times in a loop, and the time this takes can be used to compare CPU speeds. Note that both benchmarks use only single precision floating point arithmetic, along with some integer arithmetic. No double-precision is used, and no I/O (disk or graphics) is done.

The figures below are both derived from the first (B2) benchmark alone.

You can download the benchmark program by clicking here. If you run the benchmark on a computer not listed here, please send me the results at kochhar@physiology.wisc.edu and I will include it in a future update.

The figure below summarizes the results. Click on the appropriate link to see a larger version.

GIF version (26kB)
PDF version (9kB)
Summary: CPU cost (since 1980) has been declining by a factor of 2 every year for the last 19 years! (not even accounting for inflation).

The next figure shows how CPU speeds have been increasing over the last few years. Click on the appropriate link to see a larger version.

GIF version (25kB)
PDF version (9kB)
Summary: CPU speed is increasing each year by a factor 1.8 compared to the previous year, for the last 19 years approx.

The following table provides more details on the data used to make the above plots (sorted by CPU speed, fastest at the top):
CPU Description When Benchmark Time
(secs for 1M reps)
Rel. Speed
(microVaxII=1.00)
Cost (US$)
Dell 1000 Mhz Pent/III 7/2000 0.2758 1180 $3000
Dell 850 Mhz Pent/III 4/2000 0.3230 1008 $2500
Dell 800 Mhz Pent/III 3/2000 0.3462 941 $2100
Dell 750 Mhz Pent/III 2/2000 0.3697 881 $2500
Dell 700 Mhz Pent/III 3/2000 0.3926 830 $2100
Dell 600 Mhz Pent/III 8/1999 0.4605 707 $1900
Dell 550 Mhz Pent/III 7/1999 0.5047 645 $2500
Gateway 500 Mhz Pent/III 5/1999 0.5496 593 $2300
Gateway 450 Mhz Pent/II 12/1998 0.5853 555 $2200
DEC Alphastn 4/233Mhz 5/1995 0.640 508 $10000
Gateway 400 Mhz Celeron 2/1999 0.703 463 $1500
AMD K6-II/450 5/1999 1.097 297 $1400
Dell 266 Mhz Pent/II 8/1997 1.10 296 $3000
Dell 233 Mhz Pent/II 11/1997 1.24 263 $2500
AMD K6-II/400 4/1999 1.388 234 $1000
Gateway 200 Mhz Pent-Pro 3/1997 1.40 232 $2500
DEC 300 model 300L-AXP 8/1993 1.82 179 $10000
DEC Alphastn 4/100Mhz 2/1997 1.92 169 $5000
Gateway 133 Mhz Pentium 2/1997 2.65 123 $3000
DEC VAXstn model 4000/90 8/1993 5.46 60 ?
Gateway 90 Mhz Pentium 2/1995 8.00 41 ?
Gateway 60 Mhz Pentium 2/1994 11.00 30 $3500
Intel 486DX2 66 Mhz 1993 20.00 16 $3500
DEC VAXstn model 4000/60 1992 22.8 14 $12000
DEC VAXstn model 4000/VLC 8/1993 42.84 7.6 $5000
DEC VAXstn model 3100/38 1990 62.1 5.23 $8000
DEC VAXstn model 3200 1990 89.54 3.63 ?
DEC VAXstn model 3100/30 1990 92.05 3.61 ?
Gateway 486DX 25 Mhz 1992 120.0 2.71 ?
DEC VAX 11/750 1985 292.2 1.11 $50000
DEC MicroVAX-II 1986 325.7 1.00 $20000
SUN 3/160 1986 414.9 0.80 $25000
Intel 286/12 Mhz 1987? 2600 0.125 $4000?
Harris 6024/5 1975 3090 0.11 $50000
Intel 386SX 16 Mhz 1990 3600 0.09 ?
DEC PDP 11/23 1982 6155 0.053 $20000
IBM AT/6 Mhz w/CoProc 1985 6210 0.052 ?
Amiga ? 7240 0.045 ?
IBM AT/6 Mhz w/o CoProc 1985 10000 0.0325 ?
Leading Edge Model-D 1985 21200 0.0153 $1500
IBM PC/XT w/o CoProc 1983 72500 0.0045 $3000
Zenith Z-150 PC clone 1983 75000 0.0043 ?

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If you have any questions or comments about this report, please send them by e-mail to kochhar@physiology.wisc.edu

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