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Virtualizing Christmas Abundance

Blog Post | Science & Technology

Virtualizing Christmas Abundance

The Oculus-Meta Quest time price has dropped 86.3 percent in five years.

It’s hard to believe that the Oculus virtual reality headset is only five years old. Released to the public in 2016 at a price of $599, the original Oculus Rift sported a 1,080 by 1,200 OLED per eye display for a total of 2,592,000 pixels. The Touch — a technically optional but very important component of Oculus— costs $199. The setup also required a gaming PC that cost $1,000 or more. That would put your total cost around $1,798.

This Christmas, the rechristened Meta Quest 2 can be acquired for $299. While the new headset looks somewhat similar to the original Oculus Rift, the new unit includes its own CPU, GPU, RAM, and storage memory. The 128GB unit can hold now hold around 80 games. The unit offers a 1,832 by 3,800 LCD display for a total of 7,034,880 pixels, which is 171.4 percent more than the original Rift.

Today users can choose from over 250 games, of which 85 are multiplayer games. Sixty of these games have generated over $1 million in revenue, with six titles generating over $10 million.

Since we buy things with money but pay for them with time, we prefer to analyze the cost of an Oculus-Meta using time prices. To calculate the time price, we divide the nominal price of the system by the nominal wage rate. That will give us the number of hours of work required to earn enough money to buy the system.

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the blue-collar hourly wage rate increased by 21.5 percent from $21.72 per hour in 2016 to $26.40 in 2021. Thus, the time price of the Oculus-Meta for a blue-collar worker declined 86.3 percent from 82.78 hours in 2016 to 11.33 hours in 2021. As such, blue-collar workers could buy 7.31 systems in 2021 for the same number of hours of work it took to buy just one in 2016.

Enjoying virtual reality has become 630.9 percent more abundant, growing at a compound annual rate of around 50 percent a year. If this trend continues, the Meta Quest in 2026 will cost less than 1.5 hours of work and be much more powerful as well.

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.