back to article Remember the turbo button on PCs? New AWS instance has one for CPU burst

Amazon Web Services has unveiled a cheaper EC2 instance type that's geared for running small workloads at low cost. Crucially, it can temporarily ramp up compute performance when it's really needed. The cloud giant reckons its new T2 instances provide affordable options for users running less-demanding applications, such as …

  1. LaeMing

    For those damned yoof amongst us:

    The 'turbo' button on PCs of old was a button that, when activated, had the PC run at its full rated speed (generally 12 or 16 - or 20 if you were posh - MHz). When de-activated it would slow the PC down, preferably to 8MHz (though it often just halved the clock frequency).

    Why would anyone want to slow down their PC? Well, some games back then, instead of using the PCs clock to pace themselves, relied on the processor speed for timing, so if you tried to play your game with the Turbo button on, it would run rather faster than you might find playable!

    Why 'Turbo' on by default and not 'Slow' off by default? Marketing, of course.

    1. stucs201

      Re: For those damned yoof amongst us:

      Often accompanied by a dual 8-segment led readout of the current speed on the front of the case. This wasn't actually a measurement, the two values were set with jumpers and so could be unrelated to the true speed (some systems used HI and LO instead of numbers).

      1. Conrad Longmore

        Re: For those damned yoof amongst us:

        I worked with students around the time these buttons were popular. And OF COURSE they are going to press a button with TURBO written on it. But the problem was that they'd tend to fiddle with it and leave it in non-turbo mode instead which slowed the machine to a crawl.

        The other way around it was to let the students use the Amstrad PC1640s we had which were just slow all the time..

      2. joeW

        Re: For those damned yoof amongst us:

        And with a bit of trial and error, and possible a few extra jumpers, you could make it read out anything you liked (within the constraints of either two or three letters, depending on the readout of course).

      3. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: For those damned yoof amongst us:

        Which meant if someone was asked if he could do something about the computers in his section he might change the jumpers so that the PCs were supposedly the worst in the Department and would be next in line for upgrading..., if someone was so inclined to be devious and underhand... <cough>

    2. Annihilator

      Re: For those damned yoof amongst us:

      And for the slightly older yoof, you may remember the turbo button remained a feature of many cases long after the underlying motherboard/CPU had any corresponding feature. Thus the button was connected to nothing but air, though users would swear blind that their PC would be "faster" when the button was pressed.

      Bring it back, I say.

      1. Eddy Ito

        Re: For those damned yoof amongst us:

        Annihilator is right! Turbo Boost Technology has a long and rich heritage and it's still part of the latest i7 processors. How in the world are today's yoof going to use it without a button?

  2. bdj

    $aving$ for u$?

    Doesnt this just allow aws to drive greater consildation ratios by forcing right sized vms to hosts driving their costs down to boot? What promises are there that boost speeds are always available when the vm may require it?

  3. James 100

    Not new

    Amazon has had a burstable CPU offering for years now, with their smallest VM size offering. I had one for a while - it was great for some sporadically-used web applications, but as soon as I ran anything intensive for more than a few seconds the performance tanked. (IIRC you could burst up to two cores, but only average about 15% of a core - so after a minute, you were throttled quite brutally.)

    Since most systems don't have a consistent load profile, it makes a lot of sense for a lot of users in theory. The new T2 options sound good: from the blog post description, it's much less abrupt throttling than t1.micro, which should make it much more flexible. (On t1.micro, batch jobs running slowly was fine, but a big surge in web usage could also hit the limit; on a t2.micro, it would just eat up some CPU credits instead.)

    Looks good, I might give this a try myself soon.

  4. JimmyPage Silver badge

    Back in the 1980s ...

    at out Polytechnic computer centre, we were "charged" to use the computer. Two key measures were "connect time" (how long you could be logged in) and "CPU time" (how much CPU you were allowed). These were weekly measures, so got reset every Monday. The idea was to ration a precious resource. As an incentive, if you put your job (in my case network simulations, and matrix-busting maths libraries) into a batch process, and ran it overnight, you weren't charged for CPU usage. (They tried to claim this was to encourage off-peak usage. The real reason was the batch process ran as a special user, and couldn't tell whose jobs it was running).

    Plus ca change, plus ca meme chose.

    (A rider to this memory is as an old-school hacker, I discovered the process which managed the charging, and was able to write some code (in FORTRAN !) which sent it the appropriate message token to "reset" my - or anyone elses - usage figures. Happy days ....

    1. Peter Gathercole Silver badge

      Re: Back in the 1980s ...

      Hacking user quotas was old hat even in the '80s.

      A bug in MTS (the Michigan Terminal System) running on IBM 370 mainframes had a bug where if you allocated temporary disk space for a session, and instead of allowing it to be freed when you logged out, explicitly freed it yourself, it would add the space to your permanent disk quota.

      I also found you could hijack unused accounts (computing subsidiary students often left the course before logging on, and the admin's did not delete the accounts until the end of the year) relatively easily. It was by doing this that I was able to spend enough time to map all the mazes and complete the original Colossal Cavern Adventure. I think at one time I had my account, and control of three others.

      I still wonder whether it was a coincidence that the day after I got 550/550 (we had the extended cavern), the game was blocked to students.

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