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Christmas shopping: 1958 vs. 2012
http://www.aei-ideas.org ^ | December 19, 2012, 1:33 pm | Mark J. Perry

Posted on 12/21/2012 2:40:14 PM PST by virgil283

"One way to illustrate your good fortune of being a holiday shopper today is to measure the cost of consumer goods by the number of hours it takes working at the average hourly wage to earn enough income to purchase typical consumer products at their retail prices, and then compare the “time cost” of goods from the past to today’s “time cost” for similar items.... consider the equipment with the “best stereo sound” that Sears had to offer in 1958, which was advertised for sale in its Christmas catalog for $84.95 (see picture above), boasting that “You’ll be amazed at the ‘living sound’ you’ll hear on this newest development in portable phonographs. Four tubes per rectifier. Hear every note, every shading of tone.”

I don’t think anybody today would be too amazed at the sound quality of that 1958 “state-of-the-art” stereo equipment playing 45 and LP records of the day. And certainly nobody would trade his or her iPod for that system, especially considering that the time cost of today’s iPod is only 12.25 hours of work at today’s average hourly wage (to earn $234.99 for a classic iPod), which is more than 71 percent cheaper in time cost than Sears’s best stereo equipment in 1958 (42.9 hours of work at $1.98 per hour).............

(Excerpt) Read more at aei-ideas.org ...


TOPICS: Society
KEYWORDS: christmasshopping; sourcetitlenoturl
Next, consider television sets, a fairly common holiday gift. In 1958, American holiday shoppers paid $269.95 for Sears’s “best 24-inch console TV” (see photo above), or 136.34 hours of work at the average hourly wage then. Today you can purchase a Sansui 26-inch LCD high-definition TV (see picture above) on the Sears website for $249.98 (or choose from the several hundred other TVs available), which would be a “time cost” today of only 13.03 hours of work at today’s hourly wage of $19.19, for a 90 percent reduction in the cost of today’s HDTV compared to the 1958 model.

...Phono vs Ipod

1 posted on 12/21/2012 2:40:21 PM PST by virgil283
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To: virgil283

So, how does the price of Diesel work out?


2 posted on 12/21/2012 2:45:49 PM PST by Paladin2
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To: virgil283
HERE
3 posted on 12/21/2012 2:46:07 PM PST by knarf (I say things that are true ... I have no proof ... but they're true)
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To: virgil283
 

Christmas shopping: 1958 vs. 2012

| December 19, 2012, 1:33 pm

One way to illustrate your good fortune of being a holiday shopper today is to measure the cost of consumer goods by the number of hours it takes working at the average hourly wage to earn enough income to purchase typical consumer products at their retail prices, and then compare the “time cost” of goods from the past to today’s “time cost” for similar items (this is an update of a CD post in 2009).  (Don Boudreaux has been featuring some similar comparisons in a series on Café Hayek titled “Cataloging Our Progress,” which inspired this post.)

For example, the retail price of an automatic Kenmore two-slice toaster advertised in the 1958 Sears Christmas Catalog (available here online, and pictured below on the left) was $12.95, or 6.54 hours of work at the average hourly manufacturing wage of $1.98 in 1958 (wage data here). Today you can buy a comparable Kenmore two-slice toaster for $25.99, and the “time cost” would be only 1.35 hours of work at the current average hourly wage of $19.19, for a reduction of almost 80 percent since 1958 in the amount of work hours required to earn the income necessary to purchase a standard toaster. Additionally, the Sears website today features more than 100 different toasters, compared to the Sears catalog in 1958, which only featured a few different models.

Next, consider television sets, a fairly common holiday gift. In 1958, American holiday shoppers paid $269.95 for Sears’s “best 24-inch console TV” (see photo above), or 136.34 hours of work at the average hourly wage then. Today you can purchase a Sansui 26-inch LCD high-definition TV (see picture above) on the Sears website for $249.98 (or choose from the several hundred other TVs available), which would be a “time cost” today of only 13.03 hours of work at today’s hourly wage of $19.19, for a 90 percent reduction in the cost of today’s HDTV compared to the 1958 model.

Finally, consider the equipment with the “best stereo sound” that Sears had to offer in 1958, which was advertised for sale in its Christmas catalog for $84.95 (see picture above), boasting that “You’ll be amazed at the ‘living sound’ you’ll hear on this newest development in portable phonographs. Four tubes per rectifier. Hear every note, every shading of tone.”

I don’t think anybody today would be too amazed at the sound quality of that 1958 “state-of-the-art” stereo equipment playing 45 and LP records of the day.  And certainly nobody would trade his or her iPod for that system, especially considering that the time cost of today’s iPod is only 12.25 hours of work at today’s average hourly wage (to earn $234.99 for a classic iPod), which is more than 71 percent cheaper in time cost than Sears’s best stereo equipment in 1958 (42.9 hours of work at $1.98 per hour).

Putting it all together, a typical American consumer in 1958 would have had to work for 185 hours (more than a month) at the average hourly wage of $1.98 to earn enough pre-tax income ($368) to purchase a toaster, a TV and a stereo system.  Today’s consumer working at the average wage of $19.19 would only have to work 26.6 hours (a little more than three days) to earn enough income ($511) to purchase a toaster, TV and iPod.  In other words: 4.64 weeks of work in 1958 vs. less than 3.5 days in 2012 for those three consumer products, and one could argue that today’s products (especially the iPod) are far superior to their 1958 counterparts.

If you’re not convinced that today’s consumers are better off than at any time in history, spend some time browsing the old Sears, Wards, and J.C. Penney’s Christmas catalogs available here back to the 1930s, convert those old retail prices into their “time cost” equivalent using that year’s prevailing hourly wage, and you’ll quickly see that there has never been a better time to be a holiday shopper and consumers than right now. For that, you can thank the “miracle of the marketplace,” which brings us better and cheaper consumer goods all the time.

 

4 posted on 12/21/2012 2:47:01 PM PST by Responsibility2nd (NO LIBS. This Means Liberals and (L)libertarians! Same Thing. NO LIBS!!)
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To: virgil283

http://www.aei-ideas.org/2012/12/christmas-shopping-1958-vs-2012/

Article Link


5 posted on 12/21/2012 2:47:59 PM PST by libertarian27 (Check my profile page for the FReeper Online Cookbook 2011)
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To: virgil283

Unfortunately, a high-quality tube amplifier will run you at least several thousand dollars nowadays. Same thing for a good turntable, there’s not much I would recommend for under a thousand.


6 posted on 12/21/2012 2:53:57 PM PST by proxy_user
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To: Responsibility2nd
For example, the retail price of an automatic Kenmore two-slice toaster advertised in the 1958 Sears Christmas Catalog (available here online, and pictured below on the left) was $12.95, or 6.54 hours of work at the average hourly manufacturing wage of $1.98 in 1958 (wage data here). Today you can buy a comparable Kenmore two-slice toaster for $25.99

I'll take the 1958 toaster. It was made in America and it probably lasted a lot longer than the ones today, which are all made in China.

7 posted on 12/21/2012 2:55:45 PM PST by Fiji Hill (i)
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To: virgil283

One has to pay for quality...of life that is.


8 posted on 12/21/2012 2:57:45 PM PST by x1stcav (Breathe deep the gathering gloom.)
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To: virgil283
consider television sets, a fairly common holiday gift. In 1958, American holiday shoppers paid $269.95 for Sears’s “best 24-inch console TV”

Yeah, but think of the radiation from that TV compared to today's flat screens. Much more radiation per $.

Besides, they had cool transformers (weighing the same as a small car) that could later be used by ham radio operators.

/johnny

9 posted on 12/21/2012 3:02:41 PM PST by JRandomFreeper (Gone Galt)
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To: Paladin2
So, how does the price of Diesel work out?

That would depend on how many hours you worked for a gallon of diesel in year x, versus how many hours you worked for a gallon of diesel in year x+.

10 posted on 12/21/2012 3:02:43 PM PST by 1rudeboy
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To: virgil283

In the late ‘50’s, true Hi-Fi (DIN 45500) was replaced by stereophonics, and high end systems produced superior analog sound, far better than today’s standard of 128bps digital.

While this was a difference that only really mattered to audiophiles, and only on high end systems, not the typical run of the mill record player, if you had the hearing for it, the difference was enormous.

Even today, audiophiles will still pay premium prices for limited edition vinyl recordings.


11 posted on 12/21/2012 3:02:44 PM PST by yefragetuwrabrumuy (Pennies and Nickels will NO LONGER be Minted as of 1/1/13 - Tim Geithner, US Treasury Sect)
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To: virgil283
Article 1 Section 8.

The Congress shall have power . . . To promote the progress of science and useful arts, by securing for limited times to authors and inventors the exclusive right to their respective writings and discoveries . . .

Compare with the person whom wire service journalism will style “progressive” today - s/he will oppose any new way of getting energy more economically. “Progressives” are regressive.
Queen Victoria was born in 1820 and died in 1901. An American secretary today would be ill-served to trade circumstances with Queen Victoria!! She had essentially nothing made of plastic, she had no ability to travel by air and no automobile worthy of the name, if any. And the health care she, and her husband, had would be considered third-world today.
And socialism is strictly an anti-progress doctrine, in that any progress must, initially, be unequally distributed. Until - as the examples I have cited illustrate - the progress ultimately gets incorporated into everyone’s standard of living.

12 posted on 12/21/2012 3:04:40 PM PST by conservatism_IS_compassion (The idea around which “liberalism" coheres is that NOTHING actually matters except PR.)
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To: Fiji Hill

But will it last as long as six Chinese toasters? That’s the academic question. (Make no mistake, I like old toasters too).


13 posted on 12/21/2012 3:06:48 PM PST by 1rudeboy
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To: yefragetuwrabrumuy

I have hearing damage from enjoying high quality stereophonic systems in my yuteth. The high frequencies are now all heavily muted. 256k is plenty fine.


14 posted on 12/21/2012 3:07:00 PM PST by Paladin2
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To: virgil283

Somebody at AEI knows nearly nothing about music audio. An iPod doesn’t even have speakers or an amplifier. An appropriate comparison would be the cost of a 1958 component phonograph record player versus an iPod.

Second, everything about that 1958 set up is orders of magnitude better in quality of sound than an iPod. A tube amp today costs thousands, and just the needle on a good phonograph record play could cost more than you’d spend on an iPod. The digital files on iPod’s are samples of the original master tapes that lose way more fidelity than vinyl records usually do.


15 posted on 12/21/2012 3:09:59 PM PST by Behind the Blue Wall
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To: virgil283
I don’t think anybody today would be too amazed at the sound quality of that 1958 “state-of-the-art” stereo equipment playing 45 and LP records of the day. And certainly nobody would trade his or her iPod for that system

How about what's played over the Ipod as opposed to what's played on the phonograph? In a heartbeat, I would trade Bruno Mars, Justin Bieber or Snoop Doggy Dogg--or any of the pop stars of 2012--for The Interludes, Valerie Carr or the Bay Bops, from 1958. I contend that even Barbara & the Boys is far superior to any 21st century pop act.

16 posted on 12/21/2012 3:13:14 PM PST by Fiji Hill (i)
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To: Paladin2
So, how does the price of Diesel work out?
In those days gasoline ran around $.25/gallon, and diesel (not low-sulphur but the smelly stuff) was a little cheaper. Nowadays seems like diesel is priced higher than regular gas. I hardly ever notice since I have only ever had gasoline-fueled cars.
Seems to me I paid around $.35 for premium in the early 1960s . . .

17 posted on 12/21/2012 3:15:51 PM PST by conservatism_IS_compassion (The idea around which “liberalism" coheres is that NOTHING actually matters except PR.)
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To: Fiji Hill

Our Sunbeam toaster that I grew up with lasted 20 years, from the 50s to the 70s, and lowered the toast into the toaster automatically.

I’ve been married 16 years and have been through at least three toasters, and I couldn’t find one that did not require me to push the toast down with some spring mechanism that is liable to break or not work.


18 posted on 12/21/2012 3:25:06 PM PST by married21
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To: Fiji Hill
I'll take the 1958 toaster. It was made in America and it probably lasted a lot longer than the ones today, which are all made in China.

My wife and I still use the toaster that belonged to my parents in the '50s (looks like the one pictured in a post above). Cloth electrical cord and all, it still works great!

19 posted on 12/21/2012 3:27:51 PM PST by Inyo-Mono (My greatest fear is that when I'm gone my wife will sell my guns for what I told her I paid for them)
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To: Behind the Blue Wall

Look at the Sears item in the catalog. It was a portable phonograph not a high end item. Except for the RCA and Mercury high end recordings of the time, recorded music then and now was considered disposable entertainment.


20 posted on 12/21/2012 3:32:22 PM PST by AceMineral (Will work for money.)
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To: virgil283

I don’t watch my TV, but if I wanted decent programming, I’d have to pay “rent”.


21 posted on 12/21/2012 3:37:04 PM PST by Does so (Dims don't think ... they PLOT!)
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To: proxy_user
Unfortunately, a high-quality tube amplifier will run you at least several thousand dollars nowadays.

But it warms up a room nicely.

In the late '80s, I bought a 52 Plymouth that used a 6 volt tractor battery. It had a radio. Tube of course, with vibrators for the power supply and everything. First time the kids rode in it, I reached over and flicked on the radio and then backed out of the driveway. My daughters told me that the radio didn't work.....

By the time we got to the corner, of course, it was on and working. ;)

Kids should experience some things first hand.

/johnny

22 posted on 12/21/2012 3:49:05 PM PST by JRandomFreeper (Gone Galt)
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To: conservatism_IS_compassion; Paladin2

Yes, comparatively the price of both gas and diesel is higher - where the article essentially suggests a 10 fold wage increase the price of gas/diesel is a bit more, say 12-15. This extra inflation (2-5x) can likely be attributed to regulatory costs and inefficiencies.
What they didn’t show is the effect of our legal system on things like medical costs. In the mid 50’s one example is childbirth, costs for obstetric care was around $30 (see http://www.oftwominds.com/blogjuly09/healthcare07-09.html). Such medical costs are up two ranges of magnitude, not one (100x +, not 10x). Largely driven by not only direct liability insurance but also the extra and improved services provided, much of which is simply CYA tests and items to ensure the Dr. or hospital doesn’t get sued or can at least defend against the suit. Zero’s solution is to regulate the medical industry even more, increase costs without any reform of the out of control tort system.
When living in Switzerland our daughter had a minor surgery - even there where costs for most things are extreme this procedure costs a fraction of what it would have cost here. Dr’s don’t face the same malpractice claims they do here, “punitive damages” just aren’t part of the equation.


23 posted on 12/21/2012 3:52:21 PM PST by LibertyOh
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To: Inyo-Mono; married21

My family had a 1953 toaster that we inherited from my grandmother. I believe it was a Sunbeam, and it lasted for decades.

A few years ago, I was in the market for a toaster and was determined not to get one made in Red China. However, the only one I could find that wasn’t was one from England, and it cost $200. So I forked over $20 for the damn Chicom toaster.


24 posted on 12/21/2012 4:06:00 PM PST by Fiji Hill (i)
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To: conservatism_IS_compassion; 1rudeboy; Paladin2

I could not find Diesel fuel prices for 1958. However, gas averaged 30.4 cents/gallon in 1958 dollars.
http://www.eia.gov/totalenergy/data/annual/showtext.cfm?t=ptb0524

Plug that 30.4 cents into an inflation calculator http://www.usinflationcalculator.com/ and that was the equivalent of paying $2.39 today.

Here are the prices on a few other things from 1958.

http://www.fiftiesweb.com/pop/prices-1958.htm


25 posted on 12/21/2012 4:27:06 PM PST by BwanaNdege ("To learn who rules over you simply find out who you are not allowed to criticize"- Voltaire)
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To: AceMineral

Well, I have a 1950’s era tube amp powering my stereo system in my living room right now that was bought by my grandparents for a very modest amount and I can tell you that it sounds 100 times better than an iPod played through a cheap pair of headphones.


26 posted on 12/21/2012 4:39:25 PM PST by Behind the Blue Wall
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To: BwanaNdege
I wuz buying gas in CA for under $0.30 in 1973.

In HS we used to be able to round up pocket change for 3 or 4 guys and buy an evening's crusin' gas load.

27 posted on 12/21/2012 4:41:28 PM PST by Paladin2
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To: Behind the Blue Wall

I have my Dad’s and my own youthful Dynakit Stereo70 amps. They work well (after some capacitor upgrade/replacements) but at 190W each are room heaters.


28 posted on 12/21/2012 4:44:25 PM PST by Paladin2
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To: Paladin2
I have hearing damage from enjoying high quality stereophonic systems in my yuteth.

Well, at least consider yourself fortunate that you had a yuteth because I never had one.

29 posted on 12/21/2012 4:51:54 PM PST by Isabel C.
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To: Paladin2

Yes I remember buying gas for around a quarter a gallon in the later 60s. I was making 3 bucks an hour and bought a new Chevy Nova for $2300.

When I retired in 2008 gas was 4 bucks, I was making $53/hour, and a similar small Chevy was about $20,000.


30 posted on 12/21/2012 4:52:24 PM PST by nascarnation (Baraq's economic policy: trickle up poverty)
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To: Isabel C.
I'm not at all unhappy....Just making note of the situation.

I had my fun and am more than willing to have payed the (minor) price.

There is apparently a reduced frequency response of OWG's hearing even if they didn't participate in an Artillery Battalion or heavily consume loud R&R (or both).

31 posted on 12/21/2012 5:03:05 PM PST by Paladin2
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To: Responsibility2nd

How many unemployment checks needed to buy the same amount? One check I would presume.


32 posted on 12/21/2012 5:06:34 PM PST by listenhillary (Courts, law enforcement, roads and national defense should be the extent of government)
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To: Isabel C.
"The human hearing range, for healthy young persons, is 20 Hz to 20,000 Hz. [10] Most adults can't hear higher than 15 kHz.[8]"

Or less. Growing old is a drag until you seriously consider the alternative.

33 posted on 12/21/2012 5:32:22 PM PST by Paladin2
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To: virgil283

BFL


34 posted on 12/21/2012 5:56:53 PM PST by Skooz (Gabba Gabba we accept you we accept you one of us Gabba Gabba we accept you we accept you one of us)
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To: conservatism_IS_compassion
"She had essentially nothing made of plastic"

That's a BAD thing?

There's only two kinds of plastic............

35 posted on 12/21/2012 6:02:12 PM PST by Paladin2
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To: conservatism_IS_compassion
In those days gasoline ran around $.25/gallon...

The only vivid recollection I have of gasoline prices in that era was what I paid in 1962-63; the price then was $.24 a gallon. But, during gas wars (remember them?) I could buy it for $ .19 a gallon.

36 posted on 12/21/2012 6:15:31 PM PST by OldPossum
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To: Paladin2

Our first new car after we were married was a 1971 Datsun 510. We had to be running on fumes in order to put $3.00 worth of gas in it.

IIRC, I saw $0.17 gas in Arizona in 1966.

The USMC used to buy Jet-A “contract fuel” from the civilian airports we refueled at for $0.17 gallon in the mid 70’s. Of course, we were burning 1000 lbs per hour per engine, so it wasn’t exactly an economy helicopter!


37 posted on 12/21/2012 9:04:43 PM PST by BwanaNdege ("To learn who rules over you simply find out who you are not allowed to criticize"- Voltaire)
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To: BwanaNdege
"Of course, we were burning 1000 lbs per hour"

I always knew that helicopters were not really meant to fly...

38 posted on 12/21/2012 9:09:07 PM PST by Paladin2
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To: Paladin2
Though 1000/8 x .2 is only = $25/hr.

For $50/hr, I'd sign up for a some quality time/yr.

39 posted on 12/21/2012 9:12:44 PM PST by Paladin2
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To: Fiji Hill
I'll take the 1958 toaster. It was made in America and it probably lasted a lot longer than the ones today, which are all made in China.

My WWII-era toaster, American made, still works. Makes lovely toast.

40 posted on 12/21/2012 9:19:53 PM PST by thecodont
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To: BwanaNdege

Please reread my comment #10. I am not talking about inflation.


41 posted on 12/22/2012 4:57:14 AM PST by 1rudeboy
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To: Paladin2

I always knew that helicopters were not really meant to fly...

“Helicopter: a group of spare parts flying in loose formation.”

“Helicopter: a mass of machinery forced into the air against its own will.”

“Helicopters don’t really fly; they’re just so ugly that the Earth repels them.”

Yep, heard them all!


42 posted on 12/22/2012 5:52:23 AM PST by BwanaNdege ("To learn who rules over you simply find out who you are not allowed to criticize"- Voltaire)
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To: virgil283
Consumer goods aside, all those who pine for the "good old days" of the 1950s would be clamoring to come back to the 21st Century within a day or so if they were actually transported back to that era Marty McFly style. Yes, you'd be looking for some eccentric white-haired man to rig up some contraption for you to take you back.

Take the state of medicine back then just for example. Heart disease or cancer were death sentences in 1958. Your doctor just told you to go home and settle your affairs. Today, you get a triple-bypass and you're back to work on Monday with the arteries of a 20-year-old man. Most cancers are treatable and have a survival rate will over 50%.

I had to get to Chicago on short notice recently. On the way to the airport, I booked my flight, my hotel and had a rental car waiting for me when I got there - all with a few taps on my mobile device. Once on the plane, I ordered a vodka tonic and had a choice of over 1,000 books and movies on my tablet to keep me occupied during the flight. Try doing that in 1958.

I can go on and on.

Nostalgia is a powerful thing. People tend to remember only the good things about the past and quickly forget what a mundane existence it was (compared to today).

Of course, our standard of living and way of life today will seem primitive to those looking back on us 60 years from now.

43 posted on 12/22/2012 6:48:32 AM PST by SamAdams76
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To: SamAdams76

I grew up deprived - My parents wouldn’t buy me a computer for my bedroom nor let me use the Internet.


44 posted on 12/22/2012 9:49:01 AM PST by Paladin2
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To: Fiji Hill
How about what's played over the Ipod as opposed to what's played on the phonograph?

Exactly right. I've often wondered at the disparity between progress in communications technology and the content it delivers - which seems to regress.

45 posted on 12/22/2012 10:43:34 AM PST by TexasKamaAina
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To: SamAdams76
Nostalgia is a powerful thing. People tend to remember only the good things about the past and quickly forget what a mundane existence it was (compared to today).

I've heard that the reason why all the tools you inherited from your grandfather were so well made is because he broke and threw out all the crappy tools he bought.

46 posted on 12/23/2012 7:53:32 AM PST by KarlInOhio (Big Bird is a brood parasite: laid in our nest 43 years ago and we are still feeding him.)
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To: SamAdams76
Of course, our standard of living and way of life today will seem primitive to those looking back on us 60 years from now.

One may certainly hope so, and technologically speaking, it seems virtually a tautology - obviously, next year's TVs will be better than last year's. More importantly, however, our political and societal institutions are degrading, not advancing; prospects for families and communities continue to be squelched by an engorged state, which squeezes the life out of living humans to feed itself and its creatures.

Despite their can-do spirit, Americans cannot make socialism work any better than other nations have, despite the vanity of its devotees. There is no longer natural population growth - "failure to thrive", as a biologist might describe it. I cannot believe that the System can survive another 60 years, so I predict a socio-political discontinuity.

47 posted on 12/23/2012 8:37:18 AM PST by headsonpikes (Mass murder and cannibalism are the twin sacraments of socialism - "Who-whom?"-Lenin)
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