Windows XP requirements, ten years later

The news has been making the rounds the past few days that Windows XP was released to manufacturing (RTM) ten years ago. 2001 was a bit too long ago for me to have many coherent memories about what the industry was like (I was 13), but apparently the OS’s system requirements were pretty high for the day and so many elites declared that they would stick with Windows 98 indefinitely for gaming (*cough*). I thought it would be interesting to look over these system requirements from the vantage point of 2011. They are indeed quaint:

  • Pentium 233 MHz processor (300 MHz recommended). This is laughable, both in that nowadays the name Pentium essentially doesn’t exist (save for being Intel’s value line now) and processors are more likely to have clock speeds in the 2000 to 4000 MHz range.
  • 64 MB of RAM (128 MB recommended). I’d expect any reasonable computer sold today to have between 2 and 12 GB of RAM, with 4 GB being a likely target. My web browser regularly cracks 500 MB used.
  • 1.5 GB at least of storage space. Hard drives today are measured in ones of terabytes, and 1.5 TB is fairly cheap, so there’s a thousand-fold difference.
  • Video card and monitor supporting 800 × 600 (0.48 megapixels) resolutions. How did people Back Then see anything? The HD resolution of 720p corresponds to 1280 × 720 (0.92 megapixels), and that would be brutal on a monitor. I’ve been doing 1920 × 1200 (2.30 megapixels) for four or five years now, and I think 1680 × 1050 (1.76 megapixels) has been a reasonable standard for years now. In the next few years we’ll probably see a move to 4K displays (there are various competing definitions for 4K, but I think 4 × 1080p seems likely, so 3840 × 2160 or 8.29 megapixels).
  • The other requirements are just the standard things like speakers and keyboard/mouse, but I’d like to point out the CD-/DVD-ROM requirement. The industry has moved on to Blu-Ray as the optical storage format of choice, and I think that optical drives are largely disappearing from computers (the one in my desktop hasn’t been plugged in for 10 months and my MacBook Air didn’t even come with one). We live in an age where wireless Internet is “good enough” and the only reason I ever see for an optical drive is installing Windows (and that can now be done via USB key).

Coming November 2016, we’ll laugh at the sys reqs for Windows Vista when it turns 10. Pencil it in.

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