"The most amazing achievement of the computer software industry is its continuing cancellation of the steady and staggering gains made by the computer hardware industry." — Henry Petroski (1942-2023)— Programming Wisdom (@CodeWisdom) September 28, 2023
This tweet got me thinking
Is software getting slower?
Obviously, I don’t know the answer. I suspect the answer is both yes and no. It is true that in days long past, software used to run just fine on hardware orders of magnitude slower than we have today. You’ll often here software folk who grew up in that time yearn for the good ol’ days of software.
Please remind me how we are moving forward. In this video, a machine from the year ~2000 (600MHz, 128MB RAM, spinning-rust hard disk) running Windows NT 3.51. Note how incredibly snappy opening apps is. 👇 pic.twitter.com/YEO824vIqI— Julio Merino (@jmmv) June 22, 2023
But most of the complaints miss one thing: software today just does a whole lot more. If you’re looking at the evolution of web interfaces, we’ve gone from simple static websites to full-blown interactive ones. Even desktop app UIs have gotten significantly more advanced. We’ve gone from 8-bit games to incredible photorealistic games with amazing physics effects. We’ve made advancements in science (AI, genetics, etc) purely from the level of demanding simulations we can run. In this sense, software isn’t getting slower, it’s just doing more.
On the other hand hardware is fast enough that, for the most part, we just don’t have to worry about performance anymore. And with that comes care-free software development – we’re happy to just ship an unending number of features without optimising the performance to any significant degree. That’s probably why complaints about slow software are mostly reserved for consumer software. It’s the one area where a) performance doesn’t matter nearly as much b) there are financial incentives to shipping faster at the expense of performane and c) Electron.