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August 2001

It IS the Size That Counts
by Brian Dunning

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Motorheads know that a person's worth is measured by his total cylinder count. Take all motor vehicles (cars, boats, planes, motorcycles), add up the number of cylinders from all engines, then throw in such miscellaneous objects as chainsaws, weed whackers, lawnmowers, generators, etc. Totals in three digits are not uncommon, but even the lowliest of aficionados will have a count of forty or more cylinders to command any respect within the gearhead community.

Then there are the FileMaker developers who consider a large number of files to indicate a solution's high quality. This is somewhat akin to determining the excellence of a meal by the number of utensils it is served with. I do not subscribe to this philosophy. No, I prefer to consider a count of total megahertz to be the true measure of a techie.

Only computers that you own, and that function properly, count toward this total.

I set out to calculate my own megahertz count. I have two laptops, a G3/400 and a Pentium 333. Then there are my wife's G3/300 and my son's iMac 266. Daughter's talking Winnie the Pooh probably doesn't count. Total so far is 1,300 megahertz. Not very impressive. Too bad I can't count the stuff at the office.

So I began to scrape, and scrape hard. I found my Palm Vx and an old Palm III that still works. A Color Classic no longer on the physical premises, but that I technically still own. Chalk up a big 16 megahertz there. I don't even know what the Palms run, but I'll give them the benefit of the doubt and tally up 20 megahertz to this whole group. Total 1,320; could be worse.

While discussing this subject around the beach bonfire one evening, my friend Dan pulled out his HP calculator (yes, it was handy even there on the beach at night), pressed an obscure key combination and frowned critically at the readout. "My total megahertz count is 32.9," he said.

"What, that's all?"

"It's the only computer I own," he said apologetically. We all laughed. Some threw things at Dan or struck him. His calculator case was hurled toward the phosphorescent surf. Not a respected individual.

FileMaker luminary Don Wieland then gave his total. A blue & white G3 at 450, an eTower PC at 333, and a reliable old Performa 6400 at 180. "My total is 965," he said, which prompted a few minutes of debate about his arithmetic, and finally settled into grumbling acceptance of his pedestrian megahertz count.

Some, like Geoff Ryle, achieve respectable totals by piecing together all sorts of modest machines, some that most would be embarrassed to include on their list. But look at me, I threw in a Palm III. Geoff counts a couple of decent boxes on his desk, a G4 desktop at 450 and a PowerBook at 266, but it goes downhill from there. A PC from CompUSA at 190, an old StarMax Mac clone at 160, a Quadra and a Performa both running at 33, an Atari reputed to run at 30, and get this: not one, but two PowerBook 140's (remember those?) at 16 apiece. Geoff's total megahertz count, the number that defines him as a man, is 1,194.

Venerable Chris Moyer posts a surprisingly weak showing. Although he starts strong with a Titanium at 500 megahertz, he drops off quickly to a P233 desktop, a P90, and a 33 megahertz Performa, for a modest total of 856. Moyer was undaunted by this damning expose of his low worth as a person. "I like to feel that I have value as a human in other ways," he began, but was quickly drowned out by laughter and sprayed beer.

Noted developer Greg Lane was not physically present there at the bonfire, being located in Missouri and all, but he was represented on a PowerBook screen via satellite link. "Let me see now," said Greg, and looked around his office (out of our view, of course). He proceeded to list his P3 running at 733, a beige G3 at 266, a bronze PowerBook at 500, an iBook 333, a Toshiba Portégé P120, an IBM ThinkPad P100, a CTX 486/100 laptop worthy of any science museum, a homebuilt Cyrix 166 tower, and how's this for creativity: killing two birds with one stone, a PowerMac 6100/66 with a 486/66 DOS card built in. All told, he tips the scales at a healthy 2,450. His megahertz count is pretty big too.

Immediately there was suspicion and accusation, since Greg was not physically there and these numbers could not be verified. But nobody else, except Dan, had their machines present either, and so the inquisition lost steam and dispersed.

Once this big number was thrown out, the charlatans and wannabes came out in force. Trainer Bob Harrington stood, shook the cool nighttime sand off his 1985-era Jams trunks, and held up a hand to command silence. When he had everyone's attention, he announced calmly that his personal megahertz count was over ten thousand.

There was awed silence for a few seconds, until the jeering started. It quickly came out that Bob was including the 24 IBM ThinkPads he travels around with for his classes. Pretty lame, Bob! He was driven from the bonfire with stripes.

This whole time, everyone had their eye on David Haney, who occupied an entire log on one side of the fire and looked immovable, like an ancient Buddha you'd stumble upon inside a forgotten vine-entangled temple on a foggy Chinese mountainside. He puffed serenely on a cigar and was not about to volunteer anything. He confidently waited to be asked, and knew that he would be. But nobody had yet, because we all knew that David's vast megahertz count was the result of an insane obsession and would be untouchable.

Finally there was no one left, and the bonfire was getting low. "All right David," I said, "let's have it."

Of course he made us all wait for a couple more cigar puffs. He allowed the pause to last just long enough to build drama, but not so long that the audience grew annoyed. At last he began.

"Well if Bob can't count his training computers, I guess I can't count my 38 Pentium laptops. 400 megahertz each, over 15,000 right there." He said it in such a way calculated to make us all feel guilty unless we counted them. So we did.

"I have five G3 PowerBooks. I just can't seem to throw anything away."

"How fast are they?"

"Well, there's a 233, a 266, a 300, a 400, and a 500." We all shifted uneasily. Then he continued:

"I have thirteen iMacs at my house. I think six of them are 333's, and the rest are 400's. Then there are the G3 and G4 towers. Three 266's, three 300's, and three 400's. I have eight Pentiums, four 800's, two 500's, and two 300's. Then there are all the little guys."

He paused for a reaction, but no one would meet his eyes. He grinned involuntarily, but checked it and stuck the cigar back in to continue.

"It's just a few. A PowerWave 180, a 10 megahertz Mac IIci, and a 40 megahertz Quadra 700. I think that's about it."

The gentle whoosh of a wave washing high up the beach broke the silence and announced the rising tide. People collected their stuff. The last scraps of woods were dropped onto the embers. Some left without a word, a few said "Good night," or "See you later." Buddha stayed behind for another satisfying cigar.

Nobody bothered to add it all up.

Browse Mode
Jan 10 Solving Performance Emergencies with FileMaker Server
Aug 06 Top Ten Sessions Cut from the 2006 FileMaker Developer Conference
Jul 06 Who's Driving This Thing, Anyway? Or, How Marketing and Engineering Buried the Hatchet (Warning: Contains a Curse Word)
Nov 05 Shingle Grandiloquence
Oct 05 In Celebration of Geek Magnetism
Aug 05 A Rogues' Gallery of Devcon Attendees
Mar 05 Lies, Damned Lies, and Project Specifications
Feb 05 Pick the Right Tool for the Job
Oct 04 Home Media Server Requirements
Jul 04 Leveraging Your FileMaker Lingo
Apr 04 Technical Support Redux
Mar 04 Enforce Seats in FileMaker 7/8/9 Commercial Solutions
Feb 04 Reinventing the Wheel
Oct 03 WAP: The Technology That Wasn't
Aug 03 Brian Dunning's California Governor Election Platform
Jul 03 Sex and the Single Software Developer
May 03 XSLT: Creeping Out of the Closet?
Feb 03 A Consultant's Guide to Traveling
Nov 02 Adventures of Bat Magnum, FileMaker Consultant
Sep 02 FileMaker at Area 51
Aug 02 FileMaker Terminology
Feb 02 Computer Shunts
Dec 01 Aquabase Alpha & the Consultant's Challenge
Aug 01 It IS the Size That Counts
Jun 01 On the Trail of Sasquatch
May 01 Spring Cleaning
Feb 01 FileMaker Mobile Survivor Challenge
Jan 01 Letter from Nürburg
Dec 00 Performance Anxiety
Nov 00 Objection, Your Honor
Oct 00 Leveraging Convergence: Jargon for the 21st Century
Sep 00 Top Ten Things to Do at Devcon
Aug 00 Aesop's FileMaker Fables
Jul 00 Ten Commandments of FileMaker Pro
Jun 00 Explats Cross Examined
May 00 iMac, Therefore iServe
Mar 00 Valley of the Dollars
Jan 00 Are You Up for a Review?
Nov 99 Tales from the Script
Sep 99 Tech Support Revisited
Jul 99 Moderns vs. Classicals
Mar 99 Nashoba, We Hardly Knew Ye