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Were we INSANE in 1984?

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The Atari 400/800 were pretty hefty in and of themselves. Though I never hauled them around in my RadioFlyer like I did the Apple II.

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The Atari 400/800 were pretty hefty in and of themselves. Though I never hauled them around in my RadioFlyer like I did the Apple II.

Yes, the 800 was definitely more solid than any Atari computer that came after. I understand FCC regulations contributed here. An FCC change allowed the cheaper computers to be built. I don't know the exact details.

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 I wouldn't have been able to afford one, but think about what our lives are like right now. Computers run everything and make our lives so much easier. 

  I think we forget how even simple book keeping, spreadsheets, writing a 5 page letter, and other simple day to day tasks would have been without one of these.  

 

   To do the same work on paper or with a early calculator or worse yet, no calculator at all would have taken days vs. hours. 

  It wouldn't take long even in 1981 to pay for one of these if you were using it for a small company. The savings in time and the reduction in mathematical errors alone would pay for it.

 

   As for a personal person getting one? If you were an early "Computer Nerd" I'd bet the purchase of one of these would have given you many many hours of use so broken down to hours per dollar it may have been a thing that could be rationalized. 

 

   One thing I can say for sure. It was a great time to be alive and way more fun than today's computer climate.

 

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Yes, computer nerd, guilty as charged.  I spent more on my original TI-99/4A and all the goodies for it (over time & adjusted for inflation) than I did for the super duper top-o-da-line computer I bought about 10 months ago.  When it comes to the hobby, rationalizing does not apply.

 

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I was 14 back then, there was no way I could do anything other than dream about those "high end" items. I would get a $40 Timex Sinclair a few years later. 

 

Yes some consumer goods are cheaper -- and you can get a lot of electronics for a little money, and our general standard of living is higher. Yes some kinds of food and things are  still relatively cheap. 

 

I don't know where you live but a $50,000 house doesn't seem like much of an option in my area. Housing costs are out of control, as are health care costs, as are the prices for higher education. 

 

Dunno about energy or utilities but I doubt they're as flat as wages. And I'm not going to get into an argument about consumer debt, which has got to be astronomical compared to the 1980s. 

 

If if I had spent $5000 on rat shack computers back then I wouldn't have felt very good about it just a short time later, not when everything was improving so fast. I could get some kind of exploding Pinto for that kind of cash. 

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Sorry dude

 

Too bad there's no emulation in that area of life. For me, retro computing is virtually free, because it's all virtualized. 

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On 8/8/2019 at 5:51 PM, Compumater said:

    To do the same work on paper or with a early calculator or worse yet, no calculator at all would have taken days vs. hours. 

  It wouldn't take long even in 1981 to pay for one of these if you were using it for a small company. The savings in time and the reduction in mathematical errors alone would pay for it.

 

Slightly O/T, but I had a Prof once who began his career in business in the UK in about the late-1950s or early-1960s.

 

He once related the story that he spent several days working on a complex mathematical problem using a mechanical calculator. When he was finished, the result was clearly wrong.

 

He re-checked the numbers, and discovered that very early on in the process he accidentally added instead of subtracted (or vice versa)!

 

Shortly thereafter, the company was one of the first in the UK to purchase a computer. 😄 

 

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On 5/22/2019 at 3:43 AM, polyex said:

Have our salaries been in lock step with inflation?

 

Your question piqued my curiosity.

 

The correct answer is that if you look at Average/Mean income then yes it has kept up with inflation.

 

If you look at Median income (where most people fall within the distribution) it is woefully behind. 

 

In 1961 the Median income was $5700 per year. If it tracked with inflation the Median income should be $49000 today.

 

The actual median income today in the US is 32K. Median income would have to be boosted 50% to match 1961.

 

The average income is at 48K so almost right on track - when the average stays the same but the median falls it indicates that the distribution has changed.

 

In this case it tells us that a smaller group of people are getting paid more and larger group of people are getting paid less, which makes sense as we have traded many blue collar jobs for far fewer higher paying white collar jobs.

Edited by rpiguy9907

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On 8/14/2019 at 6:47 AM, rpiguy9907 said:

 

In 1961 the Median income was $5700 per year. If it tracked with inflation the Median income should be $49000 today.

 

The actual median income today in the US is 32K. Median income would have to be boosted 50% to match 1961.

 

 

Thanks for that information. Do you know what did the average house and car cost in 1961, compared to now? 

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Don't use mean/averages for things like income. One outlier like Warren Buffett or Jeff Bezos can skew the whole thing upwards, presenting numbers that suggest that working people have higher incomes than they actually do. Median makes a lot more sense. @rpiguy9907 seems to have the gist of it. 

 

There are plenty of studies of this stuff, I'm not going to get into the economics, as political things have a tendency to either get ugly or attract some "well I own three rental homes and all people need to do is work harder" speeches. Don't want that. 

 

Wages have been flat or declining for a while now. But computers are way cheaper! 

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12 hours ago, Flojomojo said:

Don't use mean/averages for things like income. One outlier like Warren Buffett or Jeff Bezos can skew the whole thing upwards, presenting numbers that suggest that working people have higher incomes than they actually do. Median makes a lot more sense. @rpiguy9907 seems to have the gist of it. 

 

There are plenty of studies of this stuff, I'm not going to get into the economics, as political things have a tendency to either get ugly or attract some "well I own three rental homes and all people need to do is work harder" speeches. Don't want that. 

 

Wages have been flat or declining for a while now. But computers are way cheaper! 

I made 75K a year in 1997 as a software engineer in the south. Now I make 75K a year as a software engineer  , but houses and cars are far more expensive. People are not as smart now for putting up with stagnant wages.

Edited by polyex
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On 8/21/2019 at 10:13 PM, polyex said:

I made 75K a year in 1997 as a software engineer in the south. Now I make 75K a year as a software engineer  , but houses and cars are far more expensive. People are not as smart now for putting up with stagnant wages.

Housing prices have far outpaced income but that is largely due to a credit bubble and modern building regulations. Mortgages used to be 10-20 years and you had to have even more than 20% to put down (30%-50% down).

 

Easy credit has caused home costs to sky rocket and made suburban and urban real estate ripe for speculation.

 

The average home was about $12K in 1961. In my area new homes sell for 30-40x that. 

 

The average home sold in 1961 was 600-1000sq feet smaller than homes today, did not have central air conditioning, and typically only had 1 bathroom. So making an Apples to Apples comparison is tough.

 

What did a 2400 square foot house with 2.5 bathrooms and a central conditioning system cost in 1961? I have no idea.

 

 

 

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I have basically abandoned the tech industry.  I'm a skilled SAN person (have experience, and credentials. Know what I am doing), but the US is just not a healthy country to do tech work in.  I have strong memories of providing support to overseas operations, and their administration staff was so much more chill, with so much less pressure and stress involved.  Here in the states? the kinds of issues those cats were dealing with would have had senior management breathing fire and threatening outsourcing every second the problem continued.  Those cats in the UK and AU? "Cheers mate, take your time."

 

Rather than suffer early heart attacks or strokes, I left the industry. I make like a third of what I did, but I already paid off my house and car loans, and have no student debts. I can afford to live on less, and the reduced stress is totally worth it.

 

Doesn't change my being a computer nerd deep inside all the same though.    

 

One thing to consider, where the costs of computer tech then vs now is concerned, is that the devices made then did not have economies of scale behind them driving prices down.  I remember an often quoted statement from an IBM engineer that he felt there was a market for perhaps a dozen home computers in the whole of the United States. These days the idea of not having a computing device in easy reach is unthinkable; Back then?  The idea of having computers that are ubiquitous was what was unthinkable.  See for instance, this early CBS Presents segment from the early 60s.  The commentator doing the interview honestly has difficulty with even the very basic concepts of computing, and how computers work. He legitimately could not imagine how the future would turn out.

 

 

As a consequence, while computers were very much coming into their own in the 80s and 90s, early demand was low, and so there were not huge orders of products being made. As such, the industrial underpinnings of production did not have the capacities, and the costs of procuring, processing, and shipping both raw materials and finished products were just that much more expensive.  Prices naturally reflected all of those aspects.  The amazing thing is that despite those obscene costs, people who understood what a computer was and could do, still wanted one, and wanted one badly enough to sink that kind of cash.

 

While I got to miss out on much of the early experiences of these old 8 bit micros, (I was a rugrat at the time. Did not get to enjoy being a computer nerd until the very late 80s, to early 90s. The computer we had at home was an IBM PCjr, which had... numerous failings. ahem.), I did get to experience the last great push before the commercialization of the internet, and computing as a commodity.  I still remember how "Shocking" the revelation was that "We can now build and sell 500$ computers, retail."  We are now down to sub 200$, or even sub 20$ computers. (The raspberry Pi is more machine than I really care to think about, in an absurdly inexpensive package. The computers we put inside appliances just floor me some times.)

 

Were we crazy?  No, I don't think so.  We saw something others did not.  

 

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On 8/23/2019 at 9:27 AM, rpiguy9907 said:

Housing prices have far outpaced income but that is largely due to a credit bubble and modern building regulations. Mortgages used to be 10-20 years and you had to have even more than 20% to put down (30%-50% down).

 

Easy credit has caused home costs to sky rocket and made suburban and urban real estate ripe for speculation.

 

The average home was about $12K in 1961. In my area new homes sell for 30-40x that. 

 

The average home sold in 1961 was 600-1000sq feet smaller than homes today, did not have central air conditioning, and typically only had 1 bathroom. So making an Apples to Apples comparison is tough.

 

What did a 2400 square foot house with 2.5 bathrooms and a central conditioning system cost in 1961? I have no idea.

 

After my grandparents died, we were cleaning up the house and found the original mortgage for the house (a 3 bedroom 1 bathroom ranch house on maybe a quarter acre in central suburban NJ).   it was from 1955 and around $5500 total!   The house sold for something like $180,000.  Don't remember what year, but I think a few years before the housing bubble.

 

I think central air would be extremely uncommon in the 60s.   2.5 baths?   Lol!    It's funny, the fewer kids we have, the more bathrooms we add to our houses.  Why is that?  

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I remember going into the local ComputerLand. It was based on credit and the fact the computer would be an investment / last 10 years. About the pricing it was already going down each year. What people didn't know if after a certain point. Computers would become outdated quick. When I started working in computers we still had people showing up with computers they purchased 10 years ago and expected to run windows and this was in 1992. They didn't realize the processor among other things started to outpace any upgrade they could put in the the original IBM AT. (Had a guy who came in and just purchased a large 2mb I think expanded memory card). He couldn't understand why windows would run in enhanced mode. Anyway to follow things up. Companies went from upgrading say each 5 years to 3 years to 2 years and even some down to 1 years do to cost dropping and change of hardware. Now it kind of has reserved. Well the hardware is still cheap. But A computer that is 5 years old. Can still run stuff pretty well with a few upgrades. TTFN, Josh

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The low hanging fruit with silicon have all been plucked.

 

There are potentially more interesting substrates out there, that could enable another "MHZ upgrade cycle", but there is a strong incumbency on existing fabrication equipment and processes.

That seems to be getting some traction though, as recent work with CNT based transistors is leveraging those toolchains, and is allowing less pure source materials.

https://www.sciencealert.com/carbon-nanotubes-chip-is-a-nanotechn-landmark-that-could-take-us-beyond-silicon

 

If CNT based chips take off, they have the potential to move us out of the current speed rut, and kick off another high-speed computer evolution decade.  The reason why things have stayed static like this, is because ~3ghz is the best you can eek out of silicon for raw cycle rate; Instead, chip makers have been working on "Getting more done per cycle", and "Lower energy consumption."  CNT based chips have a much higher ceiling on how fast they could be driven, so you could see 10ghz or higher chips if they take hold in the market.

 

Getting that traction depends entirely on how well researchers can bring source material purity requirements down, and how well existing fab tech can be leveraged.

 

 

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Currently the industry's goal is to get to 5nm and 3nm in the next 5 years. And while it does that IPC and new instructions themselves are practically free for the taking. IMHO CNT is a minimum of 7-8 years away and Quantum even longer.

 

I prefer to see more complex instructions developed. Efficiency and elegance. Make the IA reference manual 20,000 pages baby!

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