We've come a long way, baby: the iPhone 4 vs. the IBM PC (Infographic)

We've come a long way, baby: the iPhone 4 vs. the IBM PC (Infographic)

Summary: Check out this amazing infographic. You'll be astonished and amazed. You'll laugh and you'll chuckle. You'll tell all your friends. Look how far computing has come.


Have you ever wondered just how far we've come since the early PCs? Back in 1981, more than 30 years ago, IBM introduced the first IBM PC. Since that time, the computing world has been, essentially, a PC world.

Until recently.

Recently we've moved from the big-box-with-disks model to a world where most computing devices will be smartphones, where the cloud is the center of our universe, and what doesn't fit in our pockets can be pulled from the air.

In the spirit of that transformation, my Internet Press Guild colleague Alfred Poor (@Alfred Poor) set out to create an infographic showing the difference between an ancient PC and a current iPhone. He calls the infographic "unfair comparison" and in a minute you'll see why.

Before I show you Alfred's work, I wanted to thank Input Creates Output Editor-in-Chief Esther Schindler (@estherschindler) and the kind folks at HP's Input/Output site for permission to re-run the infographic, which originally appeared at 30 Years Later: an Unfair Comparison between an IBM PC and an Apple iPhone 4.

One other note: even though Input Creates Output is a vendor site, some of the very best tech journalists on the planet write for Esther, so take a few minutes and give Input Creates Output a read. It's got good, hard-hitting stuff and is definitely not your typical self-serving vendor mouthpiece.

While Alfred wrote the infographic, David Foster designed it. So I'll leave you with a disturbing thought David shared earlier today: neither device can run Flash.

Image used with permission.

Topics: IBM, Hardware, iPhone, Mobility


David Gewirtz, Distinguished Lecturer at CBS Interactive, is an author, U.S. policy advisor, and computer scientist. He is featured in the History Channel special The President's Book of Secrets and is a member of the National Press Club.

Kick off your day with ZDNet's daily email newsletter. It's the freshest tech news and opinion, served hot. Get it.


Log in or register to join the discussion
  • iphone?

    I don't get it. This is also true of my dvd player and my GPS and probably more true of Raspberry Pi.

    I'm not really astonished or amazed. Not chuckling. Definitely not telling my friends.
    • looks like another ad to me

  • Battery?

    What does the battery refer to in the IBM PC? The clock battery?
    • Battery? Yes: RTC.

      Good call, dsf3g! The PC battery is indeed the Real Time Clock battery which was responsible for making the computer remember the date and time. As I recall, they were good for five to 10 years by which time most users had upgraded. They weren't rechargeable, which is why they had such a relatively large capacity for such a trivial power demand.

      Alfred Poor
      • Battery...

        I bought a IBM knock off, can't remember the name or model, but I had the RTC batteries run down. I said 'batteries' , because it contained 6, a count of 6, AA cells...ran down every 4 months, could not figure out why...after a 2 year run, I turned it all into a boat anchor...worked well in that capacity...
  • also

    clock speed is wrong, its 2ghz counting both cores. or is it quad core now? I cant remember
    • Wrong phone

      It's the iPhone 4 on the infographic, not the 4S.
    • Not how clock speed is counted

      Clock speed is always listed [b]per[/b] core, not a combination of both cores.

      The reason is, unless your app is optimized to take advantage of multiple cores on a machine (note: not just iPhone x, but any Linux/Wintel/Apple machine), a dual-core processor clocked at 1GHz per core will still run at about [b]half[/b] the speed of a processor clocked at 2GHz.

      That's why I bought the quad-core Phenom II for my latest PC instead of the sextuple-core: my particular usage (even with games) wouldn't stress the quad-core (let alone a 6-core processor), but the individual cores each run faster.
      • Not quite

        THe difference i the OS is highly optimized for multithreading and multiple CPUs, so system services are not taking away from the main thread and any threading in your app can dispatch to multiple CPUs by the OS without the user needing to do anything.
    • The Apple A5 and A5X CPU are dual core

      even though Apple likes to obfuscate things by claiming the A5X has quad-core graphics...

      Well looking at it this way, then the Nvidia Tegra 3 has five (5) ARM CPU cores and twelve (12) cores GPU.

      Only in the ARM Cortex-A15, to be used in the future Apple A6 CPU and others, will they be quad-core CPUs. The number of GPU cores is irrelevant to the discussion about CPU cores.

      Words are important. If you cannot say what you mean, then you cannot mean what you say. A gentleman always says what he means.
      ~ Peter O???Toole in the Last Emperor[/i]
      • I would say horse power in general is the wrong metric.

        Apple having control over all phased of development/design can optimize well everything to work together to get the most out of a given device so rather than considering raw horse power consider the actual devices real time performance.

        Pagan jim
        James Quinn
      • I would say battery life is inversely proportional to computational power.

        @James Quinn

        Certain trivial tasks, such as viewing the Internet over HTML or reading/replying to emails or documents require virtually no CPU power.

        But take for instance compiling software, that usually consumes up 100% of available CPU power. Or playing serious games without any lag (visually and networking). In my gaming rig composed of a liquid-cooled two distinct (2) Nvidia GTX 580 Hydro-CopperII running overclocked in SLI mode and also of a separately liquid-cooled overclocked i7, just the two video cards comprise 1024 cuda cores, and over 6 billion transistors, without counting the video-DDR5 RAM. Those two boards alone require +12V @ 84Amperes continuous, that's without the CPU or any other peripherals.

        Let's say some things are better left to wired powerful sources. Such things like your fridge, dishwasher, laundrywasher, power drill, saws, and elevators.

        The Space Elevator will be built about 50 years after everyone stops laughing
        ~ Sir Arthur C. Clarke[/i]
  • Wow a lot of Picking of Nits here:P

    But the point remains.... Heck in 30 years what have been the dramatic changes in say the automobile? How have other devices changed in so short a time period?

    Pagan jim
    James Quinn
    • Actually, we need to correct David over the weight issue.

      Speaking of nit picking, David has committed the MOST GRIEVOUS of oversights when he calculated the weights of the two devices .. specifically, the iPhone 4

      Whereas the IBM PC includes the speakers inside the PC case, the iPhone 4 leaves the ear buds unattached until needed.

      David, much to his great shame, has overlooked the weight of the ear buds! I'm thinking those are worth at least 0.5 oz, wouldn't you say?

      Actually, speaking of weight issues, David .. hmm?! Grin.
      • Weight issues!?! OH SNAP!

        Good one:)

        Pagan jim
        James Quinn
      • Adding a correction to the correction on weight issues

        The IBM PC had a single speaker inside the case but so does the iPhone 4. No earbuds needed when we have that glorious monophonic speaker to listen to.
  • If you adjust the IBM price for inflation

    you get $7,583.31
    • My first IBM-XT with 5.25" 10 MegaBytes HDD cost me well over $9K back then

      and it was a clone, running the NEC V20 turbo CPU chip and also PowerVR graphics acceleration... Just like what's used in the Apple A5X of today.

      Don't worry, I go much further than that, to Verbatim cassette tapes, and punched-tape!

      I wonder what $9K in 1984 represents today when adjusted to inflation?

      There is nothing new under the sun, but there are lots of old things we don't know.
      ~ Ambrose Bierce

      I transmit but do not create. Being fond of the truth, I am an admirer of antiquity.
      ~ Confucius[/i]
  • The Apple iPhone 4 Processor Instruction Size isn't 128 bits.

    All ARM (Advanced Risc Machine) RISC (Reduced Instruction Set Computer) are 32-bit CPU architecture, all the way to the quad-core Cortex-A15. There are NO 64-bit ARM CPU out in the wild. PERIOD.

    So if a CPU architecture has a 32-bit wide data bus, and also a 32-bit wide address bus, and also 32-bit registers, does that make it a 32-bit processor?

    Unfortunately your technical research lacks somewhat in precision. Or worse, are you are implying the iPhone 4 has a 128-bit CPU?

    Substantiation: Google [b]arm processor instruction size[/b]
    The ARM Instruction Set
    simplemachines . it /doc/arm_inst.pdf
    File Format: PDF/Adobe Acrobat - Quick View
    The ARM Instruction Set - ARM University Program - V1.0. 9. * When the processor is executing in ARM state: ??? All instructions are 32 bits in length ...

    Reducing Code Size on ARM/Thumb processors
    simplemachines . it /doc/ARM_COMBO_ap01.html
    Some ARM processor cores support two different instruction sets. ... where each instruction occupies 32 bits, and also the reduced size Thumb instruction set, ...

    ARM architecture - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
    en . wikipedia . org /wiki/ARM_architecture
    As of 2009, ARM processors account for approximately 90% of all embedded ..... instruction set more breadth, thus producing a variable-length instruction set.

    ARM Holdings - List of ARM microprocessor ... - ARM Cortex-A8 - ARM Cortex-M
    The ARM Processor Architecture - ARM
    mobile . arm . com /products/processors/.../instruction-set-architectures.p...
    The ARM architecture forms the basis around which every ARM processor is built. ... A32 (or ARM): a 32-bit fixed length instruction set, enhanced through the ...

    32-Bit Microcontroller Code Size Analysis - ARM
    www . arm . com /files/pdf/ARM_Microcontroller_Code_Size_(full).pdf
    File Format: PDF/Adobe Acrobat - Quick View
    Min. Max. ARM. Min. Max. PIC24. 16. 32. 48. 64. Figure 1: Size of a single instruction in various processors. Within a compiled program for Cortex-M processors, ...[/quote]

    Also please note the latest 32-bit dual-core Apple A5X CPU is built on .45nm geometries. Whereas the new 64-bit Intel Ivy Bridge is built on .22nm 3D geometries... The point being low-power versions of 64-bit CPUs from Intel are sure to follow. At least these will allow the full x86/x64 PC vast ecosystem of software to run both legacy, and new code under Windows 8. Mobile devices included.

    To tell only half the truth is to give life to a new lie.
    {Chinese Proverb}[/i]
    • Perhaps but what I find difficult to imagine is the ability to

      run efficiently a legacy app on a mobile device? Most especially a phone. How does a legacy app macically recognize touch? How will an app designed to work on a full sized monitor look on a phones screen? From where I'm sitting I think it might be a neat trick but practical not so much.

      Pagan jim
      James Quinn