Previously expensive high tech that's cheap now

Way back in ye olde 70’s, a calculator could set you back several hundred dollars. A few years ago, I found a credit-card-sized calculator at a dollar store. Not only was it solar powered, it also had a pi function (mmmmmm…pi…) AND a square root function along with the usual 4-key memory. I think this is a pretty dramatic drop in tech-for-the-money.

What are some other examples?

I have to go with cellular telephones.

In the early to mid '80s, you had analog bag 'phones and car 'phones that would set you back a lot. The service was lousy when and where it actually worked, and also cost a ton.

Now, the network is all digital, and the hardware and service are both relatively cheap, and you can get a signal just about anywhere.

The quality of the signal still isn’t as good as landline, but it’s getting better.

Computers as a whole are much more affordable than 20 years ago.

Digital cameras are coming down in price all the time. So do MP3 players and their ilk.

Those DVD recorders ought to come down, though. I wouldn’t mind one of those.

I have a Palm m130. Colour screen, calculator (with multiple graph functions), address book, virtual fishbowl, handwriting recognition, infrared communication with my mobile phone.

I’m writing a book on it. It fits in the palm of my hand.

It cost me two hundred good ol’ English pounds.

Ten years ago, I bought a computer as powerful as my little Palm for slightly over one and a half grand. It came in a great big box, and I couldn’t fit it in my pocket.

I’m not entirely sure how I coped.

Welcome aboard, McDuff! A virtual fishbowl! Damn, I need to get one of those for my Visor. :smiley:

Many examples come to mind:

Early open reel wire recorders gave way to the ferric oxide magnetic tape recorder after WWII, and then to the 8-track, compact cassette, and now DAT. When I sold Hi-Fi, an Akai RtR deck with Dolby and auto reverse was easily a $700 purchase.
The specs on modern units are far superior at a fraction of the cost.

My first fax machine was second hand, the size of a small foreign car, cost as much, and used thermal paper. At present, a plain paper fax, copier, scanner, bread maker, cat pan cleaner is only about $250 and the instant rebate means they give you money.

Think about watches. A really good swiss-made jeweled wristwatch was a hundred bucks or more in the 1970’s. At present, I have a Seiko that I paid about 40 bucks for in the early eighties. Other than batteries, it’s still performing fine.

The oil burner that ran at perhaps 65% efficiency has been replaced by a 90% gas furnace, for nearly the same adjusted cost.

If memory serves correctly, the cost of an IBM Executive typewriter in the 1970’s would cover a basic PC today.

No more-now I feel really old.

6 minutes ago, I had to pay $19.99 to enlarge my penis! Now, I can do it for nothing, plus get 45 hours of AOL Online free to boot! :smiley:

Fagjunk Theology: Not just for sodomite propagandists anymore.

How about radio control? It’s now cheap enough so that you can buy those cute little RC cars for $15.00 or so. (Not to mention RC-blimps.)

Wasn’t DAT a complete sales failure, though? It was over here, anyway.

How about back when RAM was something like $20 a K? Now you can get yourself 128 Megs for about the same.

Hmmm. A quick catalog check shows Sony as the manufacturer, as such DAT can still be bought. Perhaps you’re correct that it’s popularity tanked. I should have checked that-sorry-I’m still an analog tape person, with a belt drive turntable, too.

Alright- I confess-I still have vacuum tubes and devices that use them. :o

Cheers for the welcome. The fish bowl thing has, I must admit, only recently moved out of its position as “number one thing I use my Palm for”. I’d be so ashamed, if it weren’t for the hypnotic pink swirls calling me back…


And, to give a bit of insight into something else that’s been said:

DAT was a consumer failure in the Hi-Fi market, but in the field of Professional Audio it has become the De Facto standard for Two-Track. You’ll rarely find a recording studio without at least one DAT recorder, and it also has a niche in professional portable recorders of the sort used by journalists on location.

And it beats the crap out of wax cylinders :wink:

Walkman-type radios are dirt cheap now (usually $5-$10) but when they first came out they were hundreds, and fairly big and clunky to boot, with headphones that were absolute garbage. Even if you want to go top of the line now and get a thumb-sized unit with channel presets, etc and decent headphones it’ll probably only cost you $40 tops.

I’ve noticed VCRs are chump change now, compared to when they first came out. Ditto microwaves. Both easily fall into the “costs more to repair than buy a new one” category. (I know this because a couple years ago I actually brought a microwave in to be repaired – the estimate was $95!!!)

I’d add CD players to the mix – 10 years ago, my generic CD player boombox cost $120. I bought a similar one 2 years ago for $40.

Some other examples I have paid:

CD player: Radio Shack’s first model $269.95 - no remote!

Memory - I built a 386 about 11 years ago - 4Mb cost me $200!

First VCR - Panasonic TOP-LOAD (!) - $400+ with a WIRED remote

The pain, oh, the pain!

I feel your pain on the VCRs. I bought a top-load, wired remote BETA for ~$500 in 1984. It had a 3 day, 1 event timer on it though. I saved my paper route cash for a long time for that sucker.

Weren’t CD recorders several thousand dollars just about 8-10 years ago?

Computers - a $1500 computer built today has roughy the same amount of RAM and raw CPU speed as a multi-million dollar super computer built 14 years ago - gotta love Moore’s law.

Copiers - remember the “wet” kind? Yuck. Thousands of bucks to boot.

Now you can get a printer/scanner/copier combo for $200.

(You can still spend thousands of bucks on a copier, of course, but it’ll do a zillion pages an hour, collate, staple, reduce, etc. in one pass.)

Telephones. Yes, telephones. $20 will get you a cordless phone with lots of bells and whistles, including Caller ID. In the 1970s, upgraded Western Electric phones (Princess, Slimline, etc.) sold for close to a hundred bucks.

Television sets. My parents bought a 25" Zenith Chromacolor console in 1973 for $650. A 25" color TV with far more features and far better reliability now sells for about $200, or about $80 in 1973 dollars.

Color laser printers broke the sub-$1000 barrier last year. A few years ago, they sold for about $10,000.

Over the past two years, computer monitors really dropped in price. A high end 19" CRT will sey you back $250; a few years ago, a 17" Viewsonic Professional series monitor sold for $750.

Television sets cost a lot more than they do now. I have seen TV sets shown on late-60’s era game shows (“Let’s Make a Deal”) on GSN for $700 to $800. No stereo, no remote control, no on-screen display, no cable-ready connections, just a basic console color TV. The last TV I bought about a year ago was a 23" Philips model for about $180.