April 17 2013

The Weird Economics of Electronics


I’m no economist. I don’t even know how to do math. Nor do I understand most aspects of most things that involve practical intelligence. But something is weird when it comes to the history of the pricing of electronics and maybe somebody can explain it to me.

Okay here’s the thing. In 1982, a can of soda was what… 50 cents?  In 1962 it was what? Ten cents? Now it’s a dollar or whatever. Back in the 80’s you could get a Toyota for like like $8000. Now it’s double. Back in the 50’s a Six pack of beer in 1950 was what? $1.50? Now it’s $10 (depending on whatever). Everything has gone up, right?

Plane tickets. Haircuts. Houses. Milk. Furniture. Cup of coffee. Sunglasses. Car rentals. Movie tickets. Everything like doubles every 20 years or so, right?

But look at these random ads for electronics from back in the day..



I don’t get it. The pricing seems all seem frozen in time. Cost of a real estate way up. Cost of food way up. Cost of milk whatever. Vacations. But why do electronics all hover in the same price range for decades like nothings going on…







I get that maybe they can make stuff cheaper now and that must factor — but the pricing value itself also seems frozen. Like, when someone spent $1000 on a Radio Shack computer back then did it feel like that much more than $1000 does now? I feel like $100 on a Walkman didn’t feel like $200 or $300. It think it felt close to what $100 feels like now? Or am I wrong? Did $300 for a game system then feels that much different than $300 does for a game system now?

It seems like the economics is based in some other weirdly world where not only does the pricing stay the same but weirdly the actual dollar amount impact feels then same.

I really don’t understand the point of what this post is about. Nor what I’m talking about really. I’m not old enough to know  anyway what felt like what. Just seems like these things should have been crazy expensive back then but weirdly weren’t. Did a VCR costing $500 feel like $1000 then? Or $1500? It felt like the same $500, right?

Am I missing my point? I just think it seems like a something something. Please clarify…

ok bye!




Jason says:

That’s all very interesting – – I’m thinking the prices of components were much more expensive back then and they weren’t really making that much per unit. Now that several manufacturers of components exist, items have wiggle room for pricing, but there is still an expected profit. I think that $500 did feel like $1000. But it also comes down to budgets that families give themselves for items. For example, some people don’t blink twice about buying the biggest most expensive item. I was at the Costco in Brooklyn the other day and there was a $1000 difference between a 60-inch LCD and a 50-inch LCD TV. But what do we compare that monstrosity to these days?

Brandon says:

You are wrong as usual Jason. There is no thing that can be singled out as the reason. Electronics started out being manufactured in the US. Then they switched to Japan because it was cheaper. Then they switched to Taiwan, China, Korea, and India. At the same time, advances in the manufacturing process meant higher quality products with less failure rate. Innovation gave them the ability to do more with less chips. All of this more than offset the inflationary increases.

There are not more component manufacturers. There are probably less. Leading companies like MOS Technologies have fallen by the wayside. Several companies sell LCD TVs but the actual LCD display is only made by a couple companies. Same with appliances.

Absolutely the price differences are noticeable. Back then I saved up for a long time to buy a $70 radio I wanted. Now $70 is a tank of gas or less than a week of groceries. A Commodore 64 came out at $599 and that was a lot. Now it isn’t hardly anything at all.

Nick says:

They WERE crazy expensive then.

The $300 spent on an Atari in 1982 is the equivalent of spending $716 today. The $8,000 on a Toyota is the equivalent of $19,091 today. Cars were actually LESS expensive then than they are now, comparatively. You can’t buy a tire for a Toyota for less than $300 these days. If anything, electronics prices have dropped immensely since the 80’s. Back then it was new tech and priced to match… now we have processes that allow us to turn out the chips for PC’s in seconds flat. Costs have dropped, prices have dropped… it’s the opposite of the automobile industry.

dijidog says:

you dont get it…. the atari 2600 cost 300 new ….
now the PS3 costs 300 new … No change in price

Eeyore says:

Hah! $300 for a Toyota tire? Where are you shopping dude?

Kimberley says:

In 1985, I bought my first VCR and it cost about $650. Considering my take home pay was about $700 a month, yeah, it was a big chunk of change. I was able to pay it off in installments and had it paid off in six months. Big, big splurge!

Brandon says:

Many other things are cheaper too. Look at chairs. When I was growing up, the only chairs available were either made of wood or metal. Now you can buy a plastic chair for $1 at walmart.

Computers, radios, VCRs, etc. all used to have custom individual parts made by the manufacturer. Now, these individual parts are usually generic that all devices use, and they’re made cheaper in China.

Cars, which have gone up, do NOT have generic parts, but rather they’re all custom. Can you switch out a jeep seat into a Hyundai? Will a honda wiper-blade work in a Chevy?

Brandon says:

You are an idiot Brandon. Car parts are not custom. Manufacturers reuse their parts for all their lines. Volkswagen has something like 11 brands and you can find the same parts scattered throughout all their brands. It is called economy of scale. And if the Honda wiper blade is the same length as the Chevy blade, yes they will work on both cars. Go sit in your $1 chair and think about how you have embarrassed yourself here today.

Brandon says:

Brandon, you ignorant slut. My $1 thinking chair tells me that if the Honda wiper blade uses velcro and the Chevy blade uses snaps, even if they are the same length – it won’t frickin’ matter. You need different parts. So, you sir, have embarrassed yourself.

Brandon says:

Did your parents have any kids that lived, Brandon? What the hell kind of shit car are you driving where you are velcroing wiper blades on? Have you ever changed a wiper blade in your life? It is a universal fitting that either snaps on or slides over a loop. All wiper blades come with fittings for both. Your $1 thinking chair is much smarter than you are. Give it the computer and you go play in traffic.

Goats says:

Atari was mad expensive when it came out, for the time. It took years to convince my parents to get one, and when they did, we got maybe 1 game, and it was a split holiday present among the kids….that’s all we got. Games used to be like 30 bucks i think, which is like 60 or 70 now too….so prices definitely have come down for that stuff relatively speaking…..

dijidog says:

games can easily run 60 to 70 dollars when they are new big hits

Upton says:

Actually, between components and labor costs, all three major players in the console wars LOSE money on the game systems. X-Box and Playstation lose the most at about $300 a unit. This is because of competitive pricing keeping the cost at a certain range. If they don’t, they lose market share. They only really make money on accessories, licensed games and promotional products like the Mario doll I keep tripping on in my son’s room.

Phrendon says:

You want to think about something else weird and coolio. Imagine your $100 Walkman example. Now imagine today with $100 spent on, lets say, an 8GB iPod Touch (can you even buy those? new anymore?) Imagine going back in time with that iPod touch to Walkman times. What would someone give you for that? 10K 25K 50K?

Goats says:

There’d be no digital music yet, so you’d be stuck with whatever is on it. Of course access to that type of intellectual property would be a gold mine if you have hit songs that haven’t been written yet. That would be fucking coolio, but you could just go back in time and put your money in microsoft, dell, phillip morris etc and be rich as shit too….

Brandon says:

I bet your uncle gave you $100 so you wouldn’t tell people where he touched you.

dijidog says:

they wouldnt buy it because it would be useless back then …. so …100 buys you the same type of item as it did then … no change in price for a portable music unit …

Krankor says:

Consider the price of porn. Used to cost $75 for a VHS tape and now it’s FREE!

Sh!tForBra!ns says:

I’m betting you typed that post with one hand, Krankor.

TmAn says:

Where has that cock sucker Mr. Deng been ?

Portable Dish says:

Money seemd to have mor value. $100 could buy alot of stuff back in the 70’s and 80’s. Most people didn’t earn as much then as they do today so it was all relative to what you made and how much you had left over as a percentage. $100 30 years ago is like $300 today. Soethings were cheaper percentage wise and other things were more expensive than today.

Anonymous says:

Two words:

Cheap Chinese Labor. Yes, I realize that’s three, but like in electronics, you get more for your money these days. This message was produced overseas using child labor.

Whatever!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! says:


Refrigerator says:

1983 $100 would buy food for mom, pop, granny and 5 kids for a week, breakfast lunch dinner snacks everything. Two big cart fulls. Now that would be about $300.

Randall says:

Cars and houses are built cheaper too now why does the price to way up for those thjngs

Brandon's $1 Chair says:

Cars and houses are not built cheaper. Where did you come up with this genius idea? Your real name doesn’t happen to be Brandon, does it? Ever built a house? All of the contracted and subcontracted labor is more expensive. All of the permits are more expensive. Material costs have skyrocketed.

Congratulations. You are dumber than a plastic chair.

dijidog says:

yes they are built very cheaply …. they are put up in less than a month with inexpensive unskilled labor using the cheapest woods and metals

Plastic Chair says:

There has been alot of throwing my name around here lately and I for one am not amuzed. It’s hard to be a plastic chair, you know. I suggest you all better watch out for I will get you, I will have satisfaction.

Concerned Parent says:

If AMERICAN children weren’t SPOILED they would not ALWAYS expect ELECTRIC CHINESE GARBAGE as gifts! I give my children BOOKS and CRAFTS! GOOD PARENTING should try this as well and IMPROVE things!

Angry Man says:


Brandon says:

I just bought a Wii U!!!!

I have the latest technology now! All you bitches with PS3s and XBOX 360s are in my dust!

Woo hoo!

Brandon says:

Shut up for a while

Brandon says:


Anonymous says:

I wish I had one of those old-fashioned gramophones with the big horn on it.

So I could shove it up Brandon’s ass. Wonder if he’d fart any louder? Let’s find out.

Brandon says:

I read your comments and I feel sad that someone so mentally ill is not able to get the care or supervision they require. I just hope this place occupies your diseased mind enough to keep you from planning a shooting rampage.

Wei Wang says:

Brandon = Uber Troll

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