Cray 1978 versus iPhone 2022 – Econlib


If you want to see a truly amazing trip down 44 years of memory lane, check out this comparison of the 1978 Cray computer, at the time the most powerful computer in the world, and the 2022 iPhone. I won’t bother giving you the specifics because the narrator, Dave Darling, does a very good job.

In talks I gave in the early 2000s in which I highlighted the huge advances in computing, I said that if we had seen the same advances in, say, kidney surgery, you could have decided whether to get kidney surgery–or buy yourself a cup of coffee. Now the comparison would be way more extreme.

The video reminds me of the less spectacular, but still spectacular, effects of the lightbulb that William D. Nordhaus pointed out years ago. Interestingly, in granting him his half of the Nobel Prize in economics, the Nobel committee didn’t even bother to mention what I thought was one of his biggest contributions. Here’s what I wrote on the issue in my biography of Nordhaus in David R. Henderson, ed., The Concise Encyclopedia of Economics:

He showed that the price of light in 1992, adjusted for inflation, was less than one tenth of one percent of its price in 1800. Failure to take this reduction fully into account, noted Nordhaus, meant that economists have substantially underestimated the real growth rate of the economy and the growth rate of real wages.

HT2 Jeff Hummel.



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