Monday, March 17, 2014

Happy Birthday World Wide Web

Happy Birthday to the WWW (World Wide Web). It is now a quarter of a century old. And would you believe that your hardware is faster, better, more reliable, and CHEAPER than ever before! And this is to say nothing about the software you use.

One example of this change is that back in 1989 the best 'desktop' computer for your home (a Tandy 5000 MC Professional System with VGA color graphics, 20 MHz processor, 32-bit, and the MS-DOS OS. BTW it does not include a monitor, mouse or hard drive) cost $4999.00. Now if you consider the average hourly wage back then was $9.75 then it would cost over 500 hours of your time (pre-tax hours) to buy this top end product. BTW if you wanted a 40MB hard drive that would be an additional $1,500 or about 150 more hours of your time. Also there were less than a half dozen 'home' computers on the market in 1989.
Today there are hundreds of home computers on the market and, at the average income of $20.50 an hour, you can buy a Dell laptop (The Dell Inspiron 15z Ultrabook Touch. 1.9 GHz processor, 6 GB memory, 500 GB hard drive and it comes with a monitor, mouse, and lots of software that was not dreamed of 25 years ago.) for about $600. That is 29 hours of your work time (pre-tax that is) and you get bit more computer for you money [that's sarcasm folks].Now this leads me to the Economic point for today. From “GDP and Measuring the Intangible” by Arnold Kling: “Because it fails to account for consumer surplus, GDP statistics lead us to take an overly pessimistic view of the economy. There is no Great Stagnation. There is only a widening gap between the rate of economic improvement and our ability to measure that improvement.”

Economic improvement goes hand-in-hand with technology and it is a wonderful thing. You can never know who will 'invent' something new, develop a new use for an old product, or, for that matter, no one can know what product will catch the public's imagination [I refer you to the pet rock fad the '70s]. A product that will 'take off', creating jobs that never existed before, adding to the GDP, increasing the standard of living for everyone, providing new uses for 'resources' [remember when I said that it is not a resource until there is a demand for it to be used to create something?], and lead others to think of new products which continues the cycle ad infinitum.

I am always amazed at what 'new stuff' I see created on a daily basis.

BTW here are a couple of predictions about computers from people who knew, or I should say, “should have known better”:

"I think there is a world market for maybe five computers." Thomas Watson, president of IBM, 1943 

"There is no reason anyone would want a computer in their home." Ken Olsen, founder of Digital Equipment Corporation, 1977

"Almost all of the many predictions now being made about 1996 hinge on the Internet's continuing exponential growth. But I predict the Internet will soon go spectacularly supernova and in 1996 catastrophically collapse." Robert Metcalfe, founder of 3Com, 1995 


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