The Power Of A 500 MHz Pentium III System With 128 MB of RAM

Thanks to an article on, I was reading about the Asus Eee PC 701 system. One interesting thing about this system is that it will reportedly run a variant of Xandros Desktop Linux.

The article goes on to note that this device will apparently have 512 MB of RAM. It’s the paragraph following that portion of the article that I find most interesting: While this may not sound like enough RAM to run Xandros, this Linux operating system is well-known for its ability to run with a bare minimum of RAM. In a review in 2006, we were able to run the latest version, Xandros Desktop 4.0, on a far less powerful system: a 6-year-old Compaq Deskpro EN Desktop with a 500MHz Pentium III processor, 128MB of RAM and a 10GB hard drive.

I find it laughable that 128 MB of RAM is considered “a bare minimum” today. It’s actually a very large amount of RAM. Back in the 1980s and even into the late 1990s, those of us in the corporate world would have been amazed to have that much RAM at our disposal. At one job, we used a Sun SPARCstation 1 with 1 MB of RAM. This was around 1991 or 1992. On this system, we ran not only a fairly busy email server, but also a couple of databases and several other backend applications. Looking back, I don’t know how we got by with such a system. Perhaps software was written with more care in those days. Regardless, we had some of the older system administrators telling us how lucky we were to have 1 MB. They recalled the days when 64 KB of RAM was considered a lot.

When it comes to desktop systems, there’s absolutely no legitimate reason why a capable desktop system needs more than 128 MB of RAM. In the early 1990s we had NeXTstation systems that worked comfortably with 12 MB of RAM. Keep in mind that these systems came with a very capable suite of desktop software, still comparable in many ways to Mac OS X today. And even then, we were dealing with relatively heavy-weight technologies like Objective-C, Display PostScript, Mach, and so forth. Yet those systems still performed very well, with 100 times less RAM than the typical low-end consumer PC today!

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3 Responses to “The Power Of A 500 MHz Pentium III System With 128 MB of RAM”

  1. Bill says:

    I would have to agree with you about the “low memory” systems of today…

    This machine has 2GB installed, it works well with Windows Vista H.P. My laptop has 256MB, and it’s a P2 400 thinkpad running Kubuntu 7.04. Believe it or not, the laptop does many of the same things the desktop does at nearly the same speed!

    I even still have a working Amstrad PPC512, which has only 512KB RAM installed, and no hard disk, yet it works perfectly for word processing or as a terminal.

    My wife has a laptop with 64MB RAM, Pentium 266 MMX, running Puppy Linux 2.15CE. It doesn’t have any problem going online with a Prism2 PCMCIA card, though you must be patient with some sites.

    Point is, you don’t need tons of RAM to make a system usable, it just depends on the Operating System you choose for it, as some are resource hogs and some are more efficient.

    My first computer was a TRS-80 model 4, I think it had either 32 or 64 KB RAM in it, and it had an external hard disk. I used that machine right into high school with no problems for text-only stuff until it finally died due to a power surge.

    Anyhow, that’s my 2 cents worth.

  2. @OlhoNaTV says:

    It´s so powerful!

  3. Calin Vlad says:

    Oh yeah those were the glorious days of the computer… When with 64 kb on a 286 and EGA graphic adapter you could run MS-DOS with Norton Commander and also Windows 3.1 and you could play games like Prince of Persia or Commander Keen… It makes me feel odd now with all this multi processor environments and tons of RAM people are still unhappy… never tell you that symphony of the Tape charging Ghost buster in my zilog80 makes me thing …. when the hack we will use AI in our day-life … Remember Asimov…

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