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Drills on Sale: Buy One, Get 17 Free

Blog Post | Science & Technology

Drills on Sale: Buy One, Get 17 Free

Since 1946, the time price of a basic drill has fallen 94.6 percent.

Black & Decker was founded in 1910. They have been selling the one-person drill since 1914. Their inspiration was a Colt pistol with a handgrip and trigger. In 1946, they introduced the first 1/4 -inch home utility drill. It sold for $16.95.

In 1961, they launched their first cordless drill. “It was a great advance,” Mr. Decker said, “but people weren’t prepared to pay $100 for it.” Spending a lot of money was not a problem for the U.S. government, however. In 1971, NASA’s Apollo 15 mission drilled core samples on the moon with a Black and Decker cordless drill.

Today you can pick up a Black and Decker cordless drill at Home Depot or Amazon for $26.51.

We buy things with money, but we pay for them with our time. That means it’s better to analyze the cost of drills using time prices. To calculate the time price, we divide the nominal price by the nominal hourly wage. That will give us the hours of work required to earn enough money to buy a drill. We can then compare the time prices over time to see if abundance has increased or decreased. If hourly compensation increases faster than the money price, the time price decreases.

According to Measuringworth.com, blue-collar hourly compensation (wages and benefits) increased from $1.13 in 1946 to $32.54 in 2021. While the money price of the drill increased by 56.4 percent, hourly compensation increased by 2,779.6 percent. Buying a drill went from requiring 15 hours of work to just 49 minutes. In other words, the time price has dropped by 94.6 percent.

The time required to earn enough to purchase one drill in 1946 would get you 18.41 drills in 2021. Drills, the holes they can create, and the screws they can install, have become 1,741.2 percent more abundant.

Maybe a member of your family would like to receive a drill this Christmas. You can thank Black and Decker and the other drill innovators and entrepreneurs who have made these handy tools so affordable.

Blog Post | Cost of Technology

MacBooks Galore! Laptop Abundance since 1991

Since 1991, laptop abundance has increased by a factor of six up to a factor of infinity.

In 1991, Apple introduced the PowerBook 100 priced at $2,500. Blue-collar hourly compensation at the time was $14.93, so the time price was around 168 hours. Today you can pick up a 13.3-inch MacBook Air for $999. With blue-collar hourly compensation around $36.50 today, the time price is just over 27 hours. You can get six MacBook Airs today for the time price of one PowerBook 100 in 1991.

The PowerBook 100 weighed 5.1 pounds and featured a 640×480 monochrome LED screen, 2 megabytes of memory, and 20 megabytes of storage. The battery was good for three hours. The MacBook Air has 13.3 times more pixels (in millions of colors), 4,000 times more memory, and 12,800 times more storage than the PowerBook 100. It weighs 45 percent less, and the battery lasts six times longer. The MacBook Air has Wi-Fi, a 720-pixel camera, and stereo speakers and comes with 32 apps ranging from music programs to spreadsheets.

While it’s hard to make a direct comparison, a simple way to do an analysis is to ask MacBook Air users how many PowerBook 100s they would need to give up their one Air. Most users now think the PowerBook 100 has negative value due to the disposal costs. That would make the MacBook Air infinitely more valuable.

This article was published at Gale Winds on 11/7/2023.

Blog Post | Cost of Technology

Atari to Xbox

Get two Xbox Series X consoles for the time price of one Atari 2600.

The Atari 2600 was introduced in 1977 and was priced at $199. Unskilled wages at the time were $3.15 an hour, so the time price was around 63 hours. Today you can pick up an Xbox Series X for $499. With unskilled wages today being around $16.50 an hour, the time price is just over 30 hours. You can buy two Xbox Series X consoles today for the time price of one Atari 2600 in 1977.

Atari 2600 home video console system next to an Xbox series X

The Atari had a chip running at 1.19 megahertz (or 1,190,000 cycles per second) and had 128 bytes of random access memory. The maximum resolution was 160×192 with 128 colors.

Combat (video game) for the Atari system, and Gears 5 (video game) for the Xbox series x

The Xbox Series X graphics chip runs at 12 teraflops, or 12 trillion floating-point operations per second. It has 16 gigabits of memory and 1 terabyte of storage and can display billions of colors on an 8K display.

The Series X can display 1,080 times more pixels in millions of more colors 10 million times faster with 125 million times more memory. In the past 46 years, computer creativity has grown exponentially abundant—just as Gordon Moore and George Gilder predicted.

A version of this article was published at Gale Winds on 10/24/2023.

The Human Progress Podcast | Ep. 37

Stephen Barrows: The Economic Madness of Malthusianism

The economist Stephen Barrows joins Chelsea Follett to discuss the intellectual history of population economics, the benefits of population growth, and what we can expect from a future of falling fertility.

Blog Post | Cost of Technology

Portraits Were Just Expensive Selfies

This was originally published on Pessimists Archive.

In the process of exploring reactions to the advent and development of photography, we came across a fascinating article about ‘sun pictures, ’an early name for photography. One notable observation—something we don’t think about today—was that photography extended portraits to everyone. What was once only for kings, queens and titans of industry became available to everyone. This got us thinking, weren’t portraits just expensive selfies? And aren’t selfies just the portraits of modern times?

The full article can be read here and is well worth your time.