Sorting Through the Ages
When new versions of Postgres are released most of the attention is focused on new features. Inevitably a release note claiming speed improvements seems relatively mundane and doesn't provide the compelling argument for upgrading. However the reality is that these speed improvements represent pain points that have been identified and solved.
Reviewing the changes to the sort code in Postgres over the last 10 years clearly shows the kinds of problems users have run into. As usage patterns changed over years, databases scaled up, and hardware changed new problems arose and drove further development to solve them.
Upcoming changes in 9.5 and 9.6 will dramatically change the experience further. Making sorting UTF8 and other encodings less of a problem and handling scaling to larger machines with many processors and memory cache more effectively.