Computer technology is a mess. The CPU is far outpacing everything else. It's like a marathon runner dragging his entire support staff behind him. CPU's have reached outstanding speeds. They could be even faster if they weren't limited and held back by all of their support hardware, and the need to maintain backwards compatibility. Let me explain.
Since CPU's have been accessing memory and I/O devices, they have been doing so at a relative similar speed until the early 1990's. If a CPU was 100MHz, it's memory was 100MHz. Things were pretty much equal. Then you started noticing the CPU's started to go progressively faster and faster, many times faster than the speed of memory was getting. A relatively cheap technology called "dynamic RAM" allowed memory sizes to increase, but speed suffered. Dynamic RAM needs to be refreshed thousands of times a second, otherwise it forgets things. It also requires multiple CPU cycles to supply valid data or be ready for data to be written to it.
Certainly, RAM technology has improved, but still lags behind CPU technology by many many many generations. The fastest memory of today still causes your CPU to sit and twiddle its thumbs waiting for the data to become ready. The interface or "buss" which the CPU uses to access memory is considerably slower than the internal buss of the CPU. This is a big bottleneck. Sure, things like "Cache" can help, but it's not a great solution. Cache, by the way, is a bit of internal RAM inside the CPU that runs much faster than the external buss, that keeps recently accessed memory values locally to speed up many calculations and such. It's an effective method to increase speed, but it's not the best method. Slow memory has to be accessed at least once before cache memory can be effective. It's a bandage, not a cure.
Frankly, if a CPU is 3.3GHz, then the memory should be 3.3GHz, without any wait states. Until such things happen, the CPU will be greatly limited in its speed and effective number crunching capability.
Now, here's the other frustrating bottleneck. This would be permanent storage. We are STILL using mechanical storage in a solid state world. FLASH is a start, but like dynamic RAM, is very limited in its capabilities. Hard drives may be getting very very high in their capacity, but they are also getting much less reliable. It's obvious why. They are machines, and when you push machines to their mechanical limits, they begin to wear down quicker. They are at the point to where you just cannot rely upon them for reliable storage.
FLASH memory, or "SSD" is a newER technology, but it is not a replacement for a harddrive. FLASH memory has a limited number of times you can write to it; and each time you write to it, it gets progressively slower. There will come a day when you cannot write to it at all, and the data contained on it will be effectively permanent. This is why things like laptops and portable phones have special software to limit how they write to solid state devices (SSD's), because there is a countdown to when you can't write to them anymore. They are expensive and their sizes fall way behind hard drives.
Personally, they are a step in the wrong direction. What is needed is memory that keeps its data when turned off and still can be accessed like normal memory with the same speed and same ability that normal memory has. No limited reads, no limited writes, and no need for refreshing, no need for batteries, no need for anything like that. When storage and memory is on par with the CPU, only then will computers be the high tech machines of science fiction.
It's like placing a race car engine in a Yugo. The race car engine being the CPU and the Yugo being the rest of the computer. The PC (and Mac) of today, is basically the same design it was back in 1970. Sure, the Yugo has rear spoilers, a tuned suspension, a turbo charged V8, racing tires, etc. yet it's still just a Yugo.
OK, now after making your eyes glaze over, here's why this kind of stuff happens.
Once upon a time Patents and Copyrights were under 15 years. This was a capitalistic idea. This allowed the inventor to profit from his (or her) invention for a time, but it also encouraged future innovation as the patent would run out and everyone would now be making your widgets. This would flood the market with copies and would give you an incentive to make something new. The U.S.A. had its greatest growth under such patent and copyright rules. It literally brought the world out of thousands of years of technological stagnation. The freedom to innovate and the right to have exclusive rights to profit from it, for a time, brought vast technological advancements. Everything from Electricity, to the light bulb, to the mass produced automobile, to the air conditioner, to the refrigerator and on and on, were all because of patent and copyright laws at a sensible length of time.
Then came the monopolists and their progressive big government buddies, they caused the patent and copyright laws to be extended and made into the ridiculously limited forms they are now. Instead of breading innovation, they now encourage hoarding, litigation, and fear of innovation. This is not capitalism. This is monopolism, and is the epitome of greed. The only difference between a Monopoly and a large government is one collects taxes. Both limit innovation, both encourage greed, and both cause technology and society to be stagnant.
The computer industry, my occupation, was this grand and vast melting pot of innovation and development in the 1970s and 1980s, and a bit into the 1990's. However, due to the arcane patent and copyright laws, you now are limited in your choices, and those choices can be expensive. Intel and Microsoft are not the monoliths of capitalism some may think. They are in fact, the bloated monopolies that are a direct result of flawed patent and copyright laws. Instead of designing new products that are vastly improved over the old ones, they just upgrade the old technology a bit at a time. All for licensing and "backwards compatibility" reasons. Can you imagine how things would be if patents were only 15 years long and copyright was only 15 years? Do you really think Intel and Microsoft would be only ones on the block? Of course not, vast innovations would have replaced these old and run down technologies masquerading as "high-tech".
Just sit back and think about it. I am a capitalist, and a believer in the rights of the individual. Nevertheless, both cannot benefit if they are allowed to sit on the back of an old invention. Capitalism requires change, competition, and innovation.
The very complaints against so-called "capitalism" by Marxists, are misplaced. Their examples and complaints about "capitalistic greed" more rightly apply to "monopolistic greed". Whereas Marxism is total government, monopolism is total stifling of the free market by a single entity. Both do the same thing. Marxism, by regulation, and monopolism by eliminating competition. Companies like Proctor and Gamble, Microsoft, GE, and other large conglomerates are a disgrace to the free market system. They depend upon the developments and profits of their previous generation to maintain the status-quo. Innovation threatens a "stable" product that needs to see its end, but due to patents and copyright over extending, keeps feeding the monster with mediocrity.
Oddly enough, it's these big monopolies that feed the b
ig government monsters. Why? Simple, they will profit from exclusive access.
So, why is your computer just a suped up version of a 1970's design? Simple, the need to really innovate isn't there.