At some point, more speed will no longer be worth more money

Now that Intel Corp.'s Pentium MMX chips finally are filtering into the federal
pipeline, let's hope things will calm down for a few months so agency managers can get
something done besides readjusting their PC buying timetables.

 But dips in the chip market could mean a smoother ride for buyers over the next year
or two.

 The Pentium MMX-a Pentium Pro version is waiting in the wings-will run ordinary
office applications a little faster, but few apps can use the MMX multimedia commands so
far. 

If you do little multimedia work, there's no call to pay anything extra for an MMX over an
equivalent clock-speed Pentium.  


Hayes Microcomputer Products Inc. of Atlanta and Boca Research Inc. of Boca Raton,
Fla., have announced upgrade programs to get their new 56-kilobit/sec modems onto your
desk. Just send Hayes your ancient, 2,400-bit/sec or faster modems and enjoy a price break
on new ones.

 Boca isn't quite so generous, accepting only 28.8- or 33.6-kilobit/sec units in
trade. 
I wonder what they'll do with them. Readers who have been around half as long as I have
will wonder about the standards compatibility of the new modems.

 The standards committees once more lag far behind the industry, so fast modems again
have been designed on an interim standard.

 The Telecommunications Industry Association has pushed back adoption of its expected
56-kilobit/sec standard until late fall at the earliest. Worse, the International
Telecommunications Union won't take a serious look until a working group is named.

 It's hard to believe that standards committees would act to make an installed base
obsolete. Hayes and Boca already are poised to ship 56-kilobit/sec modems in
quantity. 
Of course, these days it's likely that anything they sell is easy to upgrade in software
to match small changes in the final standards. 


John McCormick, a free-lance writer and computer consultant, has been working with
computers since the early 1960s. E-mail him at jmccormick@penn.com.
 


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