Craig Depken over at Heavy Lifting calls our attention to this ad for a computer from 1989:
It's a Tandy! It costs only $8,499! It's got 2 MB of RAM! It's got a 20 MHZ Intel 386 processor.
Today, I type this blog post on a Dell Dimension 8400 computer with a 3.4 GHZ Pentium 4 Processor and 512 MB of RAM with CD and DVD RW drives and a lot of other goodies! I think we paid around $1,500 or so for our Dell. My, how far computers have come in 16 years!
Think about it this way: in December of 1989, average hourly earnings were $9.97. In December of 2004, average hourly earnings were $15.85 (see here from the St. Louis Federal Reserve Bank Data Base). So, in 1989, the average worker would have to work approximately 850 hours (more than 20 weeks assuming a 40 hour work week) to earn enough (pre tax) cash to buy a 386. In 2004, the average worker would have to work less than 100 hours to earn enough pre tax cash to buy a Dell Dimension like I describe above.
Update: Don Boudreaux at Cafe Hayek has bought a Sears catalog from 1975:
The lowest-priced electronic calculator available in this catalog set the citizen of 1975 back $13.88 – it had a whooping six digits and could add, subtract, multiply, and divide.
Also available were microwave ovens, ranging in price from $189.95 to $439.95.
Of course, there’s been a good deal of dollar inflation since 1975. Judged by changes in the consumer-price index, what $100 bought in 1975 takes about $354 to buy today. So that six-digit calculator would today cost about $49. Sears lowest-priced microwave oven in 1975 would today set you back $672.
Here are some other 1975 products and their 1975 prices (along with their inflation-adjusted 2006 prices):
Sears Best kitchen range, $589.95 ($2,088).
Sears Best television, $749.95 ($2,655)
Sears Best black and white television, $137.95 ($488)
And don't forget that back in 1975, Al Gore hadn't even thought of the internet, much less PC's like we have available to us today - and we wouldn't be exchanging this type of information so quickly.