Tuesday 29 March 2011

Benchmarking, 1993 style

In 1992, I started my tech publishing career with Ziff Davis UK, working in PC Magazine Labs as a tester. Along the way I accumulated all manner of memorabilia, including this old promotional video from the US parent company.

ZD Labs was built in 1991 in Foster City, California, as a shared resource for all the tech magazines, and cost an absolute fortune (PC Magazine also had a 5,000 sq. ft. lab in New York). It's amazing how much effort was put into testing for magazines in those days - it was all part of Bill Ziff's publishing philosophy. Our labs in the UK were also very expensive, but nowhere near the scale of this. ZD created its own benchmark suite (WinStone, WinBench, NetBench and 3D WinBench), which it gave away free to anyone who wanted it.

These days, we're reduced to testing kit at our desks or in a broom cupboard, but that's the way it goes. I must say that the years I spent testing hardware and software at PC Mag were very enjoyable on one level, but an enormous drudge on another - I came across an old feature table for a notebook group test the other day that has over 400 rows of features for each of 30 products. No wonder I hate Excel so much.

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