## Thursday, January 15, 2009

### Scientific Calculator: 1.5 days ('75) vs. 33 Min. ('09)

Cost of a rechargeable scientific calculator from Wards in 1975: \$58.95, or 12.5 hours of work (1.5 days) at the average hourly wage of \$4.72 (total private industries).

Cost of an HP 10s Scientific Calculator in 2009: \$9.99 or .54 hours of work (33 minutes) at today's average hourly wage of \$18.36.

Bottom Line: If we paid the same price today as in 1975 (12.5 hours, at the average hourly wage today of \$18.36), the 2009 HP calculator above would cost us \$230 today. Or equivalently, consumers in 1975 actually did pay the equivalent of \$230 in today's dollars for a scientific calculator.

Or we could say that the typical consumer today would earn enough money in about one-half hour (33 minutes) to purchase a brand new HP scientific calculator, whereas the typical consumer in 1975 had to work full-time for 1.5 days to earn enough money to purchase a scientific calculator then.

At 1/15/2009 10:42 AM,  iamnorth@gmail.com said...

shall we compare the current cost of labor of calculators to that of abaci? abacuses? abacata?

dr perry, why are you doing these product comparisons? they really are not informative. they also are not scientific.

At 1/15/2009 10:49 AM,  fboness said...

In 1975 I was an engineering student. I bought a used HP-45 for \$250 and got a real bargain. I still have it.

At 1/15/2009 1:00 PM,  Anonymous said...

Thank goodness, I can finally purchase a calculator. Thank you so much!

At 1/15/2009 1:05 PM,  Anonymous said...

How about a calculation as to how many hours of labor Americans spent designing and manufacturing the calculators?
Cheap consumer goods are great if the enabling situation is sustainable.

At 1/15/2009 1:52 PM,  Zephyr said...

Anon, the cost of design is included in the price of the product.

I think these comparisons are excellent anecdotal information showing the fallacy of claims that we were better off many years ago.

I was there and it was not better back then. The average person has much more purchasing power today than we had 30, 40 and 50 years ago.

When I was a kid growing up in an average household, I knew of nobody who lives as well as the average american does today. Even my parents "rich" friends did not live as well as the average American lives today.

At 1/15/2009 1:57 PM,  KauaiMark said...

I was working at Fairchild Semiconductor in 1971 when I saw a prototype 4-function calculator the company thought they could sell.

The marketing dept shot down the idea because they believed the profit margin was too low.

Bomar made millions selling them at \$400 a pop the next year.

Thanks for the blast from the past!!

http://www.vintagecalculators.com/html/bowmar.html

At 1/15/2009 2:05 PM,  @sethstorm said...

The problem with that 2009 HP is that it's some sort of re-brand. When Fiorina decided to wreck HP, they went to lower quality re-brands across their entire line.

As for what I use, it's a Made in the USA HP 28S. It's done what those re-brands & knockoffs can't. It does its job, and looks very close to its original condition in 1986.

That is a testament to why there are problems when you make quality impossible to buy.

At 1/15/2009 2:09 PM,  Trevre said...

Who uses a calculator anymore? The real beauty of this is not that calculators have gotten cheaper, it's that with all the extra time we have saved using them we have build all sorts of other sweet things like computers, cell phones, and micro breweries. Point well taken Dr. Perry.

At 1/15/2009 2:21 PM,  Trevre said...

There are things that have gotten more expensive. Try comparing land 50 years ago to land now. What about housing? How about grilled Dodo bird? I know you haven't been able to eat that since the mid 17th century. So with all the improvements and reductions in cost of many things, not everything is a total win.

Dodo RIP

(Maybe someday someone can use all the reductions in calculator prices to resurrect the Dodo bird, so maybe in the end it will be a total win situation)

At 1/15/2009 5:09 PM,  misterjosh said...

If you're taking requests, I'd be interested in seeing a "then & now" for Cars, Movies, Music, Homes (on a square footage basis), Telephone service, and Travel

At 1/15/2009 8:03 PM,  OBloodyHell said...

> shall we compare the current cost of labor of calculators to that of abaci?

iamclueless, your comparison is just ludicrous.

Can you calculate a 10-digit natural logarithm of a 5-digit number on an abacus? If so, how long will it take you? The calculator takes 1/10th of a second.

Can you put a series of numbers into your abacus, then get back mean, variance, and standard deviation for the series? The calculator will do it in... 1/10th of a second. How long will it take you with your abacus?

If you want to compare the cost of operation, by all means. Go to it. But do it properly, not with a half-assed "duuuuuhhhhhh, well, this sorta works like a calculat'r, so it must be the same thing..."

Without that, your "comparison" is just stupid.

At 1/15/2009 8:47 PM,  OBloodyHell said...

> As for what I use, it's a Made in the USA HP 28S. It's done what those re-brands & knockoffs can't. It does its job, and looks very close to its original condition in 1986.
That is a testament to why there are problems when you make quality impossible to buy.

LOL -- And THAT, seth, is a testament why HP is out of the calculator making business.

When you only get one sale in a quarter-century, you don't get to stay in business for long, unless the market is really, really, really big. Somewhat bigger than the population of the planet Earth.

There is a balance between quality and planned obsolescence which is critical to staying in business.

=================

And, BTW, there have been a number of sub-\$100 Casio calculators in the last deecade or so, which beat the crap out of that one, to the point where they will show a string of numbers (for entry checking) and actually graph a function.

> So with all the improvements and reductions in cost of many things, not everything is a total win.

No one is saying it is. There's always a tradeoff. You give up the innocence of youth for the maturity and experience of adulthood. You give up a carefree life of childhood for the responsibility and authority of being an adult.

There are always tradeoffs. In economics, this is called "opportunity costs". When you spend your money on "A", you can't use it to buy "B". As the old adage goes -- "You can't have your cake and eat it, too".

Unless you're planning on arguing that a comfortable life, lasting about 2x as long, is less valuable to you than Dodo hot wings, what would be your point? ;-)

At 1/16/2009 10:02 AM,  bix1951 said...

I'm with Trevre.
How about medical care and and a college education
and has the quality of medical care really improved?
Life expectancy has not gone up that much.
Are people healthier?
Obesity epidemic, diabetes
etc.
Are we really better off?
I hear a college degree is now worth what a high school diploma was worth
now you need a graduate degree

At 1/17/2009 8:16 PM,  @sethstorm said...

And, BTW, there have been a number of sub-\$100 Casio calculators in the last deecade or so, which beat the crap out of that one, to the point where they will show a string of numbers (for entry checking) and actually graph a function.

I've tried them, but it's mostly a TI/HP market here(excluding myself). Casio's the one who made the fall-apart models or copyoffs. TI has done various things to their older models to keep them selling, and HP has hardly changed the internal architecture from the 28S to the 48G/49G.

Below \$50, you're spending more to get it than it is worth, and hope that it doesn't break.

At 1/18/2009 1:31 AM,  B. S. E. said...

Of course consumer products have gotten cheaper as productivity as increased and technology has advanced. What's squeezing people is the cost of personal services affected by Baumol's disease. These services are vital to the promotion and maintance of liberty, and it's their cost (relative to incomes) that's putting pressure on people. Nobody's arguing that overall material standard of living hasn't increased as productivity has gone up.

At 1/18/2009 1:31 AM,  B. S. E. said...

Of course consumer products have gotten cheaper as productivity as increased and technology has advanced. What's squeezing people is the cost of personal services affected by Baumol's disease. These services are vital to the promotion and maintance of liberty, and it's their cost (relative to incomes) that's putting pressure on people. Nobody's arguing that overall material standard of living hasn't increased as productivity has gone up.