Hours of labor to buy basic home appliances – 1956 and 2012

Café Hayek takes a leisurely tour though his newly acquired copy of the 1956 Fall/Winter Sears catalog and shares the preliminary results in The Future: Back to the Past.

Maybe things weren’t so great in the good ol’ days.

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Old catalogs available online, or, how about a cell phone for $2,700 in 2012 dollars?

Carpe Diem points to three places to find old catalogs on-line: Vintage catalogs back to 1933 now available online

  • WishbookWeb.com has an assortment of Christmas catalogs from Sears, Spiegel, Penney and Wards from the ‘40s through 1988. The oldest are a 1933 Spiegel and 1937 Sears catalog.

Radio Shack Catalogs has two sets available:

So what can you do with these old catalogs? Consider this:

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14 bulky electronics gadgets from 1980 fit in your pocket today

Check out the photo –

Thanks to capitalism all of these things now fit in your pocket.

If you wanted to move those things from one room to another, it would take half a dozen trips back then.

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Demo of 3-D printer that can create anything. Anything!

Check out this 3-D printer. The video demo shows this odd contraption as it prints leather shoes, screen doors, plastic jugs, aluminum cans, a complete sofa, tennis balls and leather belts. Even edible fruit and vegetables.

The inputs are a little peculiar though.

In the back of my mind, I am wondering if someone is pulling my leg, but I don’t think so.  Some misinformed people may claim this is actually a shredder, but those people are wrong.

[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OHyygU1cU0k&feature=player_embedded]

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With experience, complex technology is second nature whether in 1805 or 2012

I was staring at a sailing ship wondering how a person could figure out how to control all the lines to set the sails at the correct angle to power the ship. From my non-sailor perspective, it looks incredibly complicated.  How could you keep track of which rope does what and change it correctly to get the sail to do what you want.

While vacationing in San Diego, I enjoy touring the Maritime Museum. In addition to seeing a Soviet era submarine, it’s fun seeing the Star of India sailing ship and the replica H.M.S. Surprise, which appeared in the movie Masters and Commanders – the far side of the world.

While in San Diego last week, I pondered how to sail a large ship.

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Want a personal copy of your favorite sculpture? With a camera and 3-D printer you can make one.

Take hundreds of pictures of your favorite sculpture, drop them into specialty software, touch up the results, and you can print a replica to enjoying your home or office.

That’s where 3-D printing is at right now.

Cosmo Wenman took 1000 pictures of a favorite sculpture and now has a replica he can hold in his hand.

Here is the video:

Through a Scanner, Getty

[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=blKcIsEEoag]

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Nothing like a computer failure to show how much change is going on

One of the main computers I use in my business failed Sunday night. For various reasons, I’ve held off on making several major upgrades, like jumping to Windows 7 and Office 2010.

So I shopped for new computer, have it in place, and as of yesterday have almost all the software running. Still have a couple of things to bring online, but they can wait for the moment.

Making the jump to a host of new technology tools all at once highlights the volume of change surrounding us.

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“An Energy Primer”

Fantastic primer on energy in the U.S. and world:

Hard Facts – An Energy Primer from the Institute for Energy Research.

I’ve just started reading it.  Superb stuff.  The first few tidbits that  jump out at me:

Estimates that there is more recoverable oil in the U.S. than in Saudi Arabia:

The United States is home to the richest oil shale deposits in the world—estimates are there are about 1 trillion barrels of recoverable oil in U.S. oil shale deposits, nearly four times that of Saudi Arabia’s proved oil reserves.5

Vastly improved energy efficiency in the U.S. even with expansion in the per capita GDP:

• Energy use per person in the United States fell 12 percent between 1979 and 2010 from 359 million BTUs to 317 million BTUs per person.19

• Energy intensity—energy consumption per dollar of GDP—fell by 52 percent between 1973 and 2011.20

Are we running out of oil and gas we know about and can get to at economical price?

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Some skepticism on mining asteroids

Count The Economist as skeptical on the plans Planetary Resources has to mine asteroids as one step in their privately funded space exploration efforts.

In their article, Going platinum, they survey some of the hurdles.

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A personal 3-D printer. Just $500.

Not that I’m ready to get one right now, but someday….

There’s a 3D printer called a Solidoodle that’s available for $500.  Can print up to 6” items.  It uses the melted extruded plastic approach to printing. Check it out here.

Cool video demonstration at the link.

That is an amazing example of the things that are available now.

In terms of comparable salary, how much tech you could get today for what it took to buy a Commodore 64 in 1982?

Short answer:

Then: Commodore C-64 plus 10K hard drive

Now: Mid-range desktop computer plus color laser printer with enough left over to buy a 16GB iPad and iPhone 4S.

Previously discussed the first two computers I owned here.  I realize that dates me, but it gives me perspective to deeply appreciate how far tech has developed.

Long answer:

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Look how far PCs have developed

David Albrecht provides some background on what the first generation of computers looked like in his expression of gratitude to the innovations of Commodore International’s founder.  See his post, Jack Tramiel 1928-2012.

The VIC-20 had 5K of RAM. Yes, 5K, not 6 megs, Not 1 meg. Not even 512K.  Try .005 meg of ram. (That Dell machine I linked to has 1,229 times more RAM than a VIC-20.)

You could buy a cartridge to add 3K or even 8K.  But there was only one slot.

The Commodore 64 was so named because the breakthrough was it had that much memory. Yes, a whopping 64K RAM. Yes, that’s .06 megs.

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Price of nails as indicator of improved quality of life – imagine spending as much on nails as we do home computers today.

Nails haven’t always been so cheap as to be priced as an inconsequential part of any project.

Post by Timothy Taylor at Conversable Economist discusses The Price of Nails.

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