Tuesday, February 21, 2012

A caring world

We all want our technology for less which is why the manufacture of much of it takes place in countries like China and Taiwan where labour costs are low. This does raise cause for concern in certain quarters because people do have a conscience about these things until they get to the shops that is.

Nike came under a lot pressure in the 1990s for using cheap labour in the far east to produce its goods. Now it is the turn of Apple to face the same dilemma.

Apple uses Foxconn plants in China to assemble iPhones, iPads, iPods and computers. Staff in the factories work for six or seven days a week, for up to 14 hours a day to earn 1,800-2,500 yuan (217 – 302 Euros) a month.

However, it isn’t just Apple that Foxcomm produce for; Xbox 360 video game consoles for Microsoft, and computers for Dell and Hewlett-Packard are also produced at their factories but the pressure at the moment is on Apple because of its success.

Of course, if we feel so bad about it,  we could return to sourcing components from countries where working conditions are more acceptable but then what price would we be paying for that new mobile phone or that laptop? In any case, Foxcomm employs 1.2 million Chinese in its factories. How would they feel if we stopped buying the products they produce? 

Apart from the advances in processor power, it is the price of RAM (the memory all these devices use) that has driven computing forward. In 1973 12 Kb of RAM would have cost you 4,680 US $, even in 1985 2Mb would have set you back 699 US $. Now you can buy 2 x4GB of RAM from Newegg for 39.99 US $.

Remember there are 1024 Kb in a Mb and 1024 Mb in a Gb so you can figure out what 8Gb of RAM would have cost in 1972 – I will spare you the maths it would have been 3,271,557,120 $.

Where goods are produced and the price of RAM reflects in the price we pay for our technology. Back in 1981, a Model A BBC computer, cost £235  with  16kKb of RAM and a 2Mz processor. Storage was via a tape cassette or a floppy disc drive. Today you can buy a Dell Inspiron for £269 with a 2.9Gz processor, 4Gb of RAM and a 500Gb hard drive. Components made in the Foxcomm factory of course!

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