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Aaliyah's One in a Million - $6.99 on cassette
September 19, 2011 4:50 PM   Subscribe

Why am I showing you a Best Buy flyer? Because it's from around this time, 15 years ago. [via]
posted by cashman (237 comments total) 45 users marked this as a favorite

 
I found that way more fascinating than I expected.
posted by brundlefly at 4:52 PM on September 19, 2011 [15 favorites]


Well, I guess now I know that the TV we got as a wedding present cost $399.
posted by blaneyphoto at 4:53 PM on September 19, 2011 [6 favorites]


ALL CHORDLESS PHONES WITH ANSWERING MACHINES ON SALE
posted by The Devil Tesla at 4:53 PM on September 19, 2011 [3 favorites]


I still have that Motorola "flip phone." Every so often I use it in front of someone to see their reaction. It looks . . . odd next to my current gadgets.
posted by theredpen at 4:54 PM on September 19, 2011 [1 favorite]


I had that same Mac, and it came with a copy of MechWarrior 2. Good times.
posted by hellojed at 4:54 PM on September 19, 2011 [1 favorite]


oh my god, those cellphones. how embarrassing.
posted by elizardbits at 4:54 PM on September 19, 2011


I thought nostalgia had to wait at least 20 years.
posted by desjardins at 4:54 PM on September 19, 2011 [3 favorites]


$2399.99 Macintosh!!!
posted by theredpen at 4:54 PM on September 19, 2011 [3 favorites]


It's like the Sears catalogs, but shorter.
posted by filthy light thief at 4:54 PM on September 19, 2011


Refrigerator technology has simply failed to keep up with the television and computer.
posted by 2bucksplus at 4:55 PM on September 19, 2011 [23 favorites]


I had the flip phone, the green Acer, the Toshiba laptop. The Toshiba still works.
posted by sageleaf at 4:56 PM on September 19, 2011


the specs on those laptops are adorable. 810MB hard drive! for only $2,500!
posted by elizardbits at 4:56 PM on September 19, 2011 [3 favorites]


$1899 acer desktop. That's pretty nuts.
posted by juv3nal at 4:56 PM on September 19, 2011


Return of the Bumpasaurus

hehehehehehe
posted by Mister Fabulous at 4:57 PM on September 19, 2011 [3 favorites]


this is the kind of ephemera i wish i held on to for inspection 10-20 years later. my inner nerd and geek are happy happy looking at this.

thanks!
posted by liza at 4:58 PM on September 19, 2011 [3 favorites]


I also love how the hard drives from 15 years ago are smaller and more expensive than the RAM of today. squeeeeeeeeee!
posted by Mister Fabulous at 4:58 PM on September 19, 2011 [1 favorite]


Beck is a total one hit wonder, now he's got this new album, odelay out? pass.
posted by Ad hominem at 5:01 PM on September 19, 2011 [4 favorites]


Time travel's a bitch. Once the batteries on your iPad run out you go from Rad Wizard Of The Year 2525 to dropping $60 on eight megs of RAM and waiting for Starcraft to come out.
posted by theodolite at 5:01 PM on September 19, 2011 [28 favorites]


And to think that the $2500 for a Toshiba laptop could have been more wisely invested in 500 ounces of Silver.... with today's market value of $20,000... you could get a whole Beowolf cluster.... ooops... this isn't slashdot... ;-)
posted by MikeWarot at 5:02 PM on September 19, 2011 [9 favorites]


Oh man, I put so much of that stuff on my Visa card and then proceeded to take years and years to pay it off at exorbitant interest! Good memories!
posted by padraigin at 5:03 PM on September 19, 2011 [5 favorites]


Turns out there have been very few obvious advances in washer/dryer technology in the last 15 years.
posted by nathancaswell at 5:04 PM on September 19, 2011 [5 favorites]


N.W.A.! Tribe! M.C. Lyte! I miss those days....
posted by Go Banana at 5:04 PM on September 19, 2011 [4 favorites]


Also it's kind of amazing that the pagers were more expensive than the cell phones, no?
posted by nathancaswell at 5:05 PM on September 19, 2011


Strife was a great game.
posted by Vhanudux at 5:06 PM on September 19, 2011


hey macarena
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 5:08 PM on September 19, 2011 [18 favorites]


I have the disgusting urge to buy that Macarena Party Mix (and by BUY I mean TORRENT) and bring it to an nyc meetup for the sole purpose of torturing people.
posted by elizardbits at 5:09 PM on September 19, 2011 [10 favorites]


Very few cameras in that flyer. A Canon P&S, a Minolta P&S, and a Nikon SLR.

Look at Best Buy flyers now. Cameras are enormously popular - vigorous competition in a number of various designs.

Also, that $2399.99 Macintosh would be, in today's money, about $3300. That's absolutely insane.
posted by Sticherbeast at 5:11 PM on September 19, 2011


Huh, a Uniden pager. I know what day9 should get for his birthday!
posted by Orange Pamplemousse at 5:13 PM on September 19, 2011 [1 favorite]


Refrigerator technology has simply failed to keep up with the television and computer.

If it had, milk would never go bad, ever. That would be awesome, because I'm always throwing out three-quarter-empty containers of milk. (That's three-quarter-empty, not one-quarter-full, because I am an optimist and I am considering how much of the milk I actually got to use.)
posted by madcaptenor at 5:13 PM on September 19, 2011 [8 favorites]


Also, that $2399.99 Macintosh would be, in today's money, about $3300. That's absolutely insane.

What's insane to me is that despite the low inflation we've had over the last fifteen years, prices from fifteen years ago are still noticeably different from today's prices. Since I learned what lots of things cost in the late nineties I think everything's a ripoff now. (I know, it only gets worse with age.)
posted by madcaptenor at 5:14 PM on September 19, 2011 [1 favorite]


Turns out there have been very few obvious advances in washer/dryer technology in the last 15 years.

Sure there has! All the washers for sale are then were toploaders, but now...oh wait, nevermind. Carry on.
posted by Jehan at 5:15 PM on September 19, 2011


Beck's Odelay CD was $11.99 in 1996. In 2011 you can get the CD on Amazon for $11.19 or the MP3 download for $9.49.
posted by birdherder at 5:15 PM on September 19, 2011 [28 favorites]


Not a stainless steel appliance to be seen!
posted by blue_beetle at 5:16 PM on September 19, 2011 [4 favorites]


Oh, from that reddit thread, every radio shack catalog ever.
posted by Ad hominem at 5:16 PM on September 19, 2011 [6 favorites]


Actually, washing machine technology has progressed significantly (at least on the US consumer side). I don't see any front loading machines there. Now, they are very popular (former BB appliance salesperson).
posted by postel's law at 5:17 PM on September 19, 2011 [2 favorites]


Wow, I bought and played You Don't Know Jack last week on my xbox360 and loved every minute of it (and as usual, my wife killed me in the lightning rounds).
posted by mathowie at 5:17 PM on September 19, 2011 [9 favorites]


My best friend in college had that TV/VCR combo and we would rent movies from Blockbuster and stay in on Fridays and watch them because we were nerds and had no lives. Well, I had no life, she hadn't figured out she was a lesbian yet.

Good times.
posted by emjaybee at 5:20 PM on September 19, 2011 [2 favorites]


So, basically, we were all from around this time, 15 years ago. Eerie.
posted by GenjiandProust at 5:20 PM on September 19, 2011


What the hell is a "pager"?
posted by Ron Thanagar at 5:20 PM on September 19, 2011 [2 favorites]


Haha, my roommate had that gray/blue Acer machine. That exact one.

The size of the chips on that stick of RAM is hilarious. And someone should have sued the shit out of the guy who made Ram Doubler, what a ripoff.

That being said, $170 for that tape backup is pretty reasonable in hindsight.
posted by Sphinx at 5:21 PM on September 19, 2011 [2 favorites]


Also, that $2399.99 Macintosh would be, in today's money, about $3300. That's absolutely insane.

And $2400 invested in AAPL on 9/15/96 would be worth $188,173.71 today.
posted by hwyengr at 5:21 PM on September 19, 2011 [76 favorites]


The oddest thing for me is the last page, they have Buffy the Vampire Slayer on VHS, The movie.
posted by Ad hominem at 5:21 PM on September 19, 2011 [5 favorites]


Looking at that makes me want to never buy another computer again -- the cost : lifespan ratio is appalling. Not new news, I know, but that ad brings it home really graphically.
posted by Forktine at 5:22 PM on September 19, 2011


Heh, it was the circular for OK and AR.

When that Best Buy opened in Tulsa, it was a HUGE deal for all us kids, simply because holy crap, they had a huge CD selection and cheaper than anywhere in town. (Well, other than Starship Records, which only took cash or check to keep their accounting, um, simple. Let's call it that.)

When you grow up in Oklahoma, where everything you know about music that's not crap comes from 120 Minutes, a lightbulb powered "alternative" station that had exactly one Sisters Of Mercy album but at least they had one, and the tapes and CDs your friends' older siblings left behind from college... seeing all that college rock and Brit-pop on shelf after shelf and all at $10.99 or less was eye opening.

Now I go into Best Buy, look around, find what I need, and order it from my phone via Amazon Prime. There's like 12 CDs in the whole store, so I don't even look for the music section anymore.
posted by dw at 5:22 PM on September 19, 2011 [11 favorites]


You Don't Know Jack

"I want a hot sauce so bold..."
posted by robocop is bleeding at 5:22 PM on September 19, 2011 [2 favorites]


This looked like it would be really thin, but was actually very interesting and cool. Thanks for posting!

I'm glad someone pointed out that even the washing machines have changed. Have there been significant changes in refrigeration technology in 15 years?

If it had, milk would never go bad, ever. That would be awesome, because I'm always throwing out three-quarter-empty containers of milk.

In Seattle, you can get ultra-pasteurized milk which I find lasts until the sell-by date, even after opening. You could also buy smaller containers of milk.
posted by grouse at 5:23 PM on September 19, 2011


1) TV/VCR combos. Was occasionally tempted to get one, but the (1976!) yard-sale TV I had then was just rock-solid, even if I did have to hook up my VCR through the UHF (?) antenna connector.

2) "Create A Web Page Of Your Own" ...by spending $130 on FrontPage 1.1?!

3) Macarena Non Stop!
posted by epersonae at 5:23 PM on September 19, 2011


And yet somehow I still managed to spend more on a MacBook Pro last month.
posted by bicyclefish at 5:23 PM on September 19, 2011


> that $2399.99 Macintosh would be, in today's money, about $3300. That's absolutely insane. And $2400 invested in AAPL on 9/15/96 would be worth $188,173.71 today.

I feel real bad now.
posted by ardgedee at 5:25 PM on September 19, 2011 [1 favorite]


Oh, man...I loved playing Links LS. I owned Latrobe.
posted by Thorzdad at 5:26 PM on September 19, 2011 [1 favorite]


Heh, that model of Mac was the one I got as a new desktop support employee 15 years ago. The fact that it came with integrated sound and could play Marathon. Good times indeed. In contrast my work PC was a Pentium 166 running NT. Needless to say there was quite a bit of Marathon going on.
posted by vuron at 5:26 PM on September 19, 2011 [2 favorites]


"Easier viewing with Large 11.3" Display" for a laptop, which today would be a netbook... wuow!
posted by JoeXIII007 at 5:27 PM on September 19, 2011 [4 favorites]


Yeah, I went through a few pages, then thought to myself, "hmm...where are all the cameras? It'd be funny if there weren't any cameras at all." Well, there were cameras, but so few it's laughable compared to today. Have we become more vain as a society? Wait, don't answer that...
posted by litnerd at 5:27 PM on September 19, 2011 [1 favorite]


I still have and use that Pioneer 100 cd changer. Pretty sure Odelay and Beats, Rhymes, and Life are still in there.
posted by banwa at 5:29 PM on September 19, 2011 [4 favorites]


you can get ultra-pasteurized milk which I find lasts until the sell-by date tastes funny if you are used to the regular stuff.
posted by Forktine at 5:29 PM on September 19, 2011 [4 favorites]


I can't believe how old and silly those BINOCULARS loot on page 15!!!!
posted by Midnight Rambler at 5:30 PM on September 19, 2011


FREE 20 MINUTE PHONE CARD WITH PURCHASE OF SONY BOOMBOX, DISCOMAN, or WALKMAN

What an amazing deal! I can make phone calls from anywhere in the continental USA!
posted by HermanoBluth at 5:31 PM on September 19, 2011 [1 favorite]


So the merchandise has changed radically...but BB's graphic design scheme, from the fonts to the annoying yellow tags, nada
posted by ga4ry at 5:32 PM on September 19, 2011 [16 favorites]


I guess my dad paid $99 for a phone when he moved out in 1997. I have no idea what to think about that.
posted by hoyland at 5:32 PM on September 19, 2011


In Seattle, you can get ultra-pasteurized milk which I find lasts until the sell-by date, even after opening. You could also buy smaller containers of milk.

This is not an improvement in refrigerator technology. Also, I'm buying half-gallons now. If I switched to quarts I'd probably end up paying just as much for milk (I'd finish the quarts, but they cost more per unit volume) and I'd have to remember to buy them more often.
posted by madcaptenor at 5:33 PM on September 19, 2011 [1 favorite]


Yeah, Best Buy is really getting their moneys worth out of that ad layout.
posted by The Hamms Bear at 5:34 PM on September 19, 2011 [8 favorites]


What an awesome find, thank you.

I remember spending about $2500 on a Mac LC II -- I splurged on the top of the line 80MB harddrive, which I still have and which is the size of a paperback novel. I was remembering this harddrive earlier this year when I ordered a 1TB drive on Amazon earlier this year for <$100 and had it delivered to me 12 hours later.

Man, some things change, fast.
posted by donovan at 5:35 PM on September 19, 2011 [1 favorite]


This is not an improvement in refrigerator technology.

It's an advance in pasteurization technology.

you can get ultra-pasteurized milk which I find lasts until the sell-by date tastes funny if you are used to the regular stuff.

Man, I wish people would quit doing the FTFY thing. Anyway, ultra-pasteurized ≠ UHT, but yes, it is slightly sweeter.
posted by grouse at 5:38 PM on September 19, 2011


You see this sort of thing a lot with relatively new technologies. Consider the car: The cars of 1910 vs. the cars of 1960. I'd argue that cars have continue to progress, but the cars of today look much more like the cars of 1960, and have roughly the same features, than the cars of 1960 do to the cars of 1910.

Fridges aren't going to change a lot at this point. Cellular phones, though, are still relatively immature, as are personal computers.

This can go the other way, too: Social Distortion technology peaked at their eponymous album; the one listed in the flyer was clearly inferior to the 1990 effort.
posted by maxwelton at 5:38 PM on September 19, 2011 [4 favorites]


Claris Home Page! Totally forgot about that.
posted by davebush at 5:39 PM on September 19, 2011


Fun to compare against: If you bought apple stock instead of apple product.

A kanga G3's worth of Apple Stock would have gotten you $330k (in April of 2010, with it at $410 today, it might be a bit more).
posted by mrzarquon at 5:39 PM on September 19, 2011


Also, that $2399.99 Macintosh would be, in today's money, about $3300. That's absolutely insane.

That $2399.99 Acer isn't looking too cheap, either. But it does come with a 2-pen color printer, so that's nice.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 5:39 PM on September 19, 2011


And $2400 invested in AAPL on 9/15/96 would be worth $188,173.71 today.

I paid about $2000 for a high-end PC in '98, just before I went to grad school.

I'm a fucking idiot.

Although the TV/VCR combo I bought in 2000 lasted me until the middle of last year.
posted by TheWhiteSkull at 5:40 PM on September 19, 2011


Best Buy is still a hellhole, so that hasn't changed.
posted by Trurl at 5:40 PM on September 19, 2011 [3 favorites]


The next big thing in refrigerators was supposed to be sonic refrigerators, guess it didn't play out that way since they seem to have faded out, probably wasn't a sound idea.
posted by Ad hominem at 5:41 PM on September 19, 2011 [7 favorites]


In spite of myself I got excited reading those PC specs...Internal 33.6 kbps modem!?!? 8-speed CD-ROM??! 166MHz P166??? 16-Freaking-MB RAM?? AND it has SVGA graphics. Probably comes with Doom95 preinstalled.
posted by nzero at 5:42 PM on September 19, 2011 [6 favorites]


I had a friend with one of the 101-disc CD carousel players. Neither of us were particularly rich back then, and CDs were around $20 a pop, so I thought he was hot shit to be able to fill up one of those with Rush, Pink Floyd and Led Zep discs. Until I found out he was in that BMG club, of course.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 5:43 PM on September 19, 2011 [6 favorites]


Also I was drowning in nostalgia...until I got to the Macarena disc. Then I threw up in my mouth a little.
posted by nzero at 5:43 PM on September 19, 2011


Looks like the back shelves at my local Goodwill.
posted by bonobothegreat at 5:43 PM on September 19, 2011 [7 favorites]


I miss 1996 like the deserts miss the rain
posted by penduluum at 5:44 PM on September 19, 2011 [53 favorites]


Friends don't let friends buy Highlander on Betamax.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 5:44 PM on September 19, 2011 [1 favorite]


I worked at Best Buy for one Summer, the same year as this flyer. I worked in the computer department...and so many memories are coming back right now. I still have that Sony 15" monitor. Currently it's still sitting beside me unused. Still works, but the next time we move, I'll recycle it rather than carry it up another flight of stairs.
Those HP computers with the speakers on the side of the monitor, the speakers came with the PC and had to be screwed on with these fiddly little screws that were just the biggest pain. If you didn't buy the matching HP monitor, the speakers were worthless, because all the cables connected at the bottom, so they wouldn't stand upright on their own.
The joystick pictured is the Microsoft Sidewinder, and the cheap one without the 4-way toggle hat. Serious flight sim fans (or lovers of Descent) shelled out for the Thrustmaster joystick.
See that gray bottom on the Packard Bell? They sold different colored plastic snap-ons that you could replace the gray with. They charged something insane like $40 for them and we never sold any.
That Mac pictured was one of 3 or 4 models sold at Best Buy at the time. Apple had their own section on the shelf, and usually the machines were left off. Next to the Macs we would have a Laserwriter and a Imagewriter printer and a sad little cluster of Mac software. We were told to try to steer people away from the Macs. (I ignored this whenever a family would express any interest)
The Packard Bell's were the biggest seller (cheapest). The biggest draw was the Encarta CD-ROM that would play on an endless loop that alternated between Kennedy's "We choose to go to the moon" speech and a Dinosaur stop-motion scene. We hated selling the PBs because they were such junk that there was a good chance people would bring them back.
The games bring back some great memories. For some reason my manager put me in charge of the game section and let me completely rearrange things. If I remember right the shelves were originally sorted by publisher. I redid everything by genre and made sure the best games were on the top shelves. That was actually a great deal of fun. Eventually I was almost fired when they found a bunch of us playing a networked game of Hexen across 4 of the display machines.
Much less fun was doing the cell phone activations. I activated close to a hundred of those Motorola flip phones. You had to call the cell company who would take forever to answer. Once you got them on the phone they would run a credit check and about 50% of the time reject the customer. So many angry people.
We had maps that showed what was considered the "Local Area" for our carrier, and it was a pathetically small section of the state with huge gaps everywhere. If I remember correctly the cheapest plans only gave you 60 minutes of local talk time, not including roaming charges whenever you were out of that local area. Pagers were much easier to activate, but were already on the way out.
posted by Eddie Mars at 5:46 PM on September 19, 2011 [35 favorites]


The cars of 1910 vs. the cars of 1960. I'd argue that cars have continue to progress, but the cars of today look much more like the cars of 1960, and have roughly the same features, than the cars of 1960 do to the cars of 1910.

Automotive technology has advanced far more since 1960 than it did from 1910 to 1960. Cars today do not have roughly the same features as the cars of 1960.
posted by The World Famous at 5:48 PM on September 19, 2011 [4 favorites]


What the hell is a "pager"?

It's a little like a GPS device, but the satellites were primitive enough that the service was only open to drug dealers, ER doctors, and popular rappers.
posted by Inspector.Gadget at 5:51 PM on September 19, 2011 [17 favorites]


I played Hexen, Descent (1 and 2), Super Street Fighter 2, Strife, You Don't Know Jack, Flight Sim, Triple Play 97, and the everlovin' shit outta Warcraft 2 (bnet edition!). Good times.
posted by lazaruslong at 5:51 PM on September 19, 2011


Note that the (few) cameras on sale were not what we know as cameras, but antique devices using a substance called 'film' (though it was actually pretty substantial). The 'film' hid your pictures until you ransomed them at businesses that specialized in that form of blackmail.
posted by hexatron at 5:53 PM on September 19, 2011 [53 favorites]


Your technology frightens and confuses me!
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 5:55 PM on September 19, 2011 [4 favorites]


I got my first cordless phone that year (from Goodwill, not BestBuy) and it was just the coolest high-techiest thing ever. I could walk around the whole house talking on the phone and didn't get tangled in the cord. Amazing. Seems kind of pathetic in retrospect.
posted by octothorpe at 5:56 PM on September 19, 2011 [1 favorite]


This is just completely lost on me. I sincerely don't understand why you all are feeling nostalgic about this.
posted by crunchland at 5:56 PM on September 19, 2011 [2 favorites]


The Packard Bell's were the biggest seller (cheapest). The biggest draw was the Encarta CD-ROM that would play on an endless loop that alternated between Kennedy's "We choose to go to the moon" speech and a Dinosaur stop-motion scene. We hated selling the PBs because they were such junk that there was a good chance people would bring them back.

I'm pretty sure that was our first computer. My sister encouraged my mom to get Packard Bells because they were supposedly made from recycled parts, and my sister was a little bit of a hippie.
posted by PhoBWanKenobi at 5:59 PM on September 19, 2011


The video cameras used 8mm tape cassettes, which I believe barely lost the race to 8-track tape as 'shortest lived mass media format that actually got a substantial number of, uh, users'.

The lesson: Never use media with '8' in the name.
posted by hexatron at 6:00 PM on September 19, 2011 [2 favorites]


crunchland: "This is just completely lost on me. I sincerely don't understand why you all are feeling nostalgic about this."

Are you now, or have you ever been, a nerd?

(And how old are you?)
posted by theredpen at 6:01 PM on September 19, 2011 [5 favorites]


I sincerely don't understand why you all are feeling nostalgic about this.

Well, I got nostalgic for the VHS-C camcorder--it was cheap and could have been purchased for my high school's video production class, and with that memory comes all the hopefulness and wild-eyed fun of being young, dumb and having a video camera.
posted by infinitewindow at 6:01 PM on September 19, 2011 [1 favorite]


Friends don't let friends buy Highlander on Betamax.

That Highlander is on VHS. And it was awesome, thankyouverymuch. (Though I think I paid closer to $20 for it rather than $12.) It even had deleted scenes with commentary at the end!
posted by kmz at 6:01 PM on September 19, 2011


4MB in 1996 = $29.99 [I don't know what hardware took this]; 4GB in 2011 = $28.12 [thechipmerchant.com; for my i5 iMac]. Math geeks, help an English major out: does Moore's law hold up in this instance, or what? (I realize that Moore's law specifically applies to transistors (CPU power) but thought it tends to be applied to most things digital.)
posted by kimota at 6:02 PM on September 19, 2011


I thought nostalgia had to wait at least 20 years.

When I was a kid nostalgia was so much purer.
posted by mightygodking at 6:02 PM on September 19, 2011 [10 favorites]


And oh god, Packard Bell. *shudders* I think I still have PTSD from trying to get PB tech support to fix their fucking piece of shit computers.
posted by kmz at 6:02 PM on September 19, 2011


JoeXIII007: "'Easier viewing with Large 11.3" Display' for a laptop, which today would be a netbook... wuow!"

Yeah, that's the shocker for me. My 12.1" netbook cost me a whole $500 (and yes, that's on the high end of price for netbooks).

My first computer, a 486-25, had a whole 4 MB of RAM and an 80 MB HD. I like how even my phone now has vastly better specs than that.

I'm sure fifteen years from now we'll all be saying "Wow, remember when computers were physical? When you actually had to move your fingers to use one?" Or something like that.
posted by jiawen at 6:03 PM on September 19, 2011


3D Ultra Pinball! My family used to play that game for hours, we would all take turns playing and all sit around the computer watching each other.

And even in 1996 McAfee was trying to give away their anti-virus software for free.
posted by lilkeith07 at 6:03 PM on September 19, 2011 [2 favorites]


The lesson: Never use media with '8' in the name.

Super 8 film was pretty awesome.
posted by TheWhiteSkull at 6:03 PM on September 19, 2011 [5 favorites]


*blink*

Wow. After supper (we eat late, hush), I am going to show this to the Monsters. Elder Monster was a bit over 4 and Younger Monster was just 5 months old. They simply don't remember the clunky "old" technology. As far as they're concerned, we've always had reasonably price laptops, broadband internet, and cell phones smaller than a brick. Answering machine? What? No voicemail?

This will be fun for making their jaws drop. Thanks for posting it!
posted by MissySedai at 6:04 PM on September 19, 2011 [1 favorite]


When I was a kid nostalgia was so much purer."
Kid Nostalgia: if I wasn't already a member of the Legion of Substitute Heroes!
posted by kimota at 6:06 PM on September 19, 2011 [2 favorites]


Here's a nice graph of the historical cost of disk storage. It's practically a straight line (with a logarithmic price axis)
posted by hexatron at 6:06 PM on September 19, 2011 [2 favorites]


4MB in 1996 = $29.99 [I don't know what hardware took this]; 4GB in 2011 = $28.12 [thechipmerchant.com; for my i5 iMac]. Math geeks, help an English major out: does Moore's law hold up in this instance, or what?

If you use the double every 18 months formulation, it's almost completely accurate. 15 years = 10 * 18 months -> doubled ten times -> 2^10 = 1024 = 4GB/4MB. If you go by every two years, then this is ahead of schedule.
posted by kmz at 6:06 PM on September 19, 2011 [4 favorites]


Memory is 2000 times cheaper than 15 years ago.

Hell, that's amazing enough to where we can just close up this thread.
posted by crapmatic at 6:06 PM on September 19, 2011 [5 favorites]


Automotive technology has advanced far more since 1960 than it did from 1910 to 1960. Cars today do not have roughly the same features as the cars of 1960.

You could drive a car from 1960 without training. I would bet decent money you could not drive a car from 1910 without training.

Cars in 1960 were three-box machines that look a lot more like cars today than they look like cars from 1910. Your modern car is vastly safer, somewhat more efficient, friendlier to the environment, etc., but the core of it hasn't changed a lot.
posted by maxwelton at 6:06 PM on September 19, 2011 [3 favorites]


I sincerely don't understand why you all are feeling nostalgic about this.

It reminds me of Sunday papers, jumping to the back of CompUSA flyers and looking for cool loss leaders...
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 6:06 PM on September 19, 2011 [2 favorites]


I'm sure fifteen years from now we'll all be saying "Wow, remember when computers were physical? When you actually had to move your fingers to use one?" Or something like that.

You have to use your hands? That's like a baby's toy.
posted by Freon at 6:06 PM on September 19, 2011 [14 favorites]


This is just completely lost on me. I sincerely don't understand why you all are feeling nostalgic about this.

Those VCRs have four heads and you only have one nyaah nyaah.
posted by mintcake! at 6:08 PM on September 19, 2011 [3 favorites]


Friends don't let friends buy Highlander on Betamax.

That Highlander is on VHS. And it was awesome, thankyouverymuch. (Though I think I paid closer to $20 for it rather than $12.) It even had deleted scenes with commentary at the end!


I just bought this on Blu-Ray! It was $14 and it's STILL awesome. My VHS copy wore out in 2002. I feel old.
posted by pink candy floss at 6:09 PM on September 19, 2011


I had that PC version of Mega Man X. It came with a gamepad, and was very good. Now I'm tempted to try and find some Mega Man I can play on my XBox...
posted by Lovecraft In Brooklyn at 6:09 PM on September 19, 2011


You have to use your hands? That's like a baby's toy.

You have a baby?
posted by Sticherbeast at 6:10 PM on September 19, 2011 [5 favorites]


Now I'm tempted to try and find some Mega Man I can play on my XBox...

I'm pretty sure Mega Man 9 and 10 are on XBL.
posted by kmz at 6:12 PM on September 19, 2011 [1 favorite]


Heh, it was the circular for OK and AR.

When that Best Buy opened in Tulsa, it was a HUGE deal for all us kids, simply because holy crap, they had a huge CD selection and cheaper than anywhere in town.
As someone who was in 7th Grade in Tulsa when this insert was printed, I can absolutely confirm that indeed area youths would hangout for fun at best buy when our parents would drive us there.

Me and my cousin would loiter by the video games and just play N64 and Playstation games that we didn't want to buy yet. I remember flipping through copies of Sublime's CDs until I found one where the price sticker covered up the Parental Advisory warning so that my mom wouldn't see it when she checked the CDs I wanted to buy. It was probably around this time that the Calvin and Hobbes comic strip was retired, but prior to that it was a near-ritual peeling the comics and the Best-Buy circular out of the Sunday issue of the Tulsa World.

A lot of my friends worked at Best Buy later in high school, I applied but was never hired. Apparently their employee credit was the downfall for many of the floor staff, as I remember one guy in particular working all the time despite being perpetually broke as his paycheck went mostly to interest on a ridiculous home a car audio fetish he had.
posted by midmarch snowman at 6:12 PM on September 19, 2011 [4 favorites]


That Social Distortion album is pretty good, and you can't beat the title.
posted by Lovecraft In Brooklyn at 6:12 PM on September 19, 2011 [1 favorite]


Huh, who knew Gabriel Knight 2 was available for Mac?
posted by yellowbinder at 6:12 PM on September 19, 2011


Your modern car is vastly safer, somewhat more efficient, friendlier to the environment, etc., but the core of it hasn't changed a lot

The operation of cars changed less from 1960 to today vs 1910 to 1960, in the sense that the controls had gotten more standardized, they were easier to start, etc. But internally that flips - computerization alone has made huge changes in automobile innards, nevermind things like the end of the carburator and the advent of power steering and brakes.
posted by Tomorrowful at 6:13 PM on September 19, 2011 [3 favorites]


(And how old are you?) --- Old enough, I guess, where 15 years doesn't seem all that long ago to me.

the historical cost of disk storage. --- In the early 90's, I designed a new computer network for the company I was working for, replacing the terminal connected to an IBM AS/400 with PCs and a LAN. Roughly 50 people in the office, everyone would store their work product up on the network. We needed reliability, so I spec'ed out a reliable RAID, so data would be written on 5 disk drives, and if any one failed, we could recreate the data. It wasn't cheap though. It cost my company $40,000 for that one network drive. But it was ok. It stored the unimaginable amount of 5 gigabytes.

The other day, I picked up a 2 terabyte disk drive for my home PC for $89.
posted by crunchland at 6:14 PM on September 19, 2011 [5 favorites]


Eddie Mars wrote: I still have that Sony 15" monitor.

Yep, a great workhorse it was. It wasn't until several years after I bought it that I had a video card that could do 1280x1024.
posted by wierdo at 6:16 PM on September 19, 2011


As for the cars of 1960 or so, my greatest-generation-aged father-in-law once told me people would trade in their cars after 2 or 3 years if they could afford it, because at about 25000 miles the cars would start leaking oil and would need a 'ring job' (no link--the top google was for urban dictionary) after which the car ran like crap and ate oil and smelled bad too.

That all changed in the 1970s when the Japanese traitorously machined automobile engines to closer tolerances and drove General Motors out of business, or something like that.
posted by hexatron at 6:17 PM on September 19, 2011 [6 favorites]


nevermind things like the end of the carburator and the advent of power steering and brakes.

Power steering, brakes, and fuel injection were all around in 1960, if not standardized. In 1910, cars might be steam powered, electric (purely electric) or petrol powered. You guys are equating the refinement of the technology with the actual technology itself.
posted by maxwelton at 6:19 PM on September 19, 2011 [3 favorites]


To this day I see Lexmark stuff and kind of think "ehh, they won't be around much longer" and I'm obviously way off base with that.
posted by mintcake! at 6:19 PM on September 19, 2011 [2 favorites]


If you use the double every 18 months formulation, it's almost completely accurate. 15 years = 10 * 18 months -> doubled ten times -> 2^10 = 1024 = 4GB/4MB. If you go by every two years, then this is ahead of schedule.

A New and Improved Moore's Law
Researchers have, for the first time, shown that the energy efficiency of computers doubles roughly every 18 months.

The conclusion, backed up by six decades of data, mirrors Moore's law, the observation from Intel founder Gordon Moore that computer processing power doubles about every 18 months. But the power-consumption trend might have even greater relevance than Moore's law as battery-powered devices—phones, tablets, and sensors—proliferate...

"Everyone's familiar with Moore's law and the remarkable improvements in the power of computers, and that's obviously important," says Erik Brynjolfsson, professor of the Sloan School of Management at MIT. But people are paying more attention to the battery life of their electronics as well as how fast they can run. "I think that's more and more the dimension that matters to consumers," Brynjolfsson says. "And in a sense, 'Koomey's law,' this trend of power consumption, is beginning to eclipse Moore's law for what matters to consumers in a lot of applications."
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 6:20 PM on September 19, 2011 [1 favorite]


It isn't that 15 years seems like a long time, but rather that the technology is so radically different especially given the short amount of time involved

And also this is about the time I got my first PC (I got it in 1995), just after the time when computer makers realized they didn't need to make all beige boxes and Packard Bell came up with these absolutely hideous new-wave designs. Plus those goofy ass CRTs.

At the Iowa State surplus sale they can't even *give* away cathode ray tube monitors, they have a big cart full of huge 21" and larger CRTs with "FREE" stickers on, no one even wants them. It's kind of crazy to think how things that cost hundreds of dollars years ago are basically garbage now. A lot of it has to do with the weight -- no one wants to carry those things around.
posted by delmoi at 6:21 PM on September 19, 2011 [5 favorites]


Power steering, brakes, and fuel injection were all around in 1960, if not standardized. In 1910, cars might be steam powered, electric (purely electric) or petrol powered. You guys are equating the refinement of the technology with the actual technology itself.
Well, other then switching from a CRT to an LCD the PC of today has all the same parts as a PC from 1996. A laptop is even more similar. Only other difference might be using an SSD rather then a hard drive.
posted by delmoi at 6:23 PM on September 19, 2011


hexatron, I have a 1963 car which has never been rebuilt and now has 90,000 miles on it and runs fine without using much oil. I also have a 1968 car which has 110,000 on it, also without a rebuild. Your point is a good one--100,000 miles used to be considered insanely high, but the idea cars lasted 25,000 miles is ludicrous.

I think I'll stop the derail now, though, apologies to everyone. My point wasn't to talk about cars, but how you can see tech development go from rapid innovation with multiple ideas and paths pursued to an emergent technology which is then endlessly improved and refined, as the flyer illustrates for several types of consumer electronics.
posted by maxwelton at 6:23 PM on September 19, 2011


Huh, who knew Gabriel Knight 2 was available for Mac?

I am almost 100% that Gabriel Knight 2 was made with macromedia director, so it might have been developed on a mac and ported to PC the was Myst was.
posted by Ad hominem at 6:23 PM on September 19, 2011


Memory is 2000 times cheaper than 15 years ago.

Apps are 2000 times as bloated, so it's a wash ... ;)

My first Mac powerbook had a 750 MB harddrive - and probably cost north of $2000. I also had a copy of Microsoft Word 5.1a that was 888k in size, and I could carry around on a floppy and run from whatever machine I was on. Not sure how big MSWord is now but it's a lot bigger.
posted by carter at 6:24 PM on September 19, 2011 [3 favorites]


delmoi, I wasn't looking at the computers so much as phones. Anyway.
posted by maxwelton at 6:24 PM on September 19, 2011


The Toshiba laptop on page 9 is - I believe - a Satellite 110 CS/CDS, or perhaps even an earlier model from the same design series. They used that gray brick chassis for a good 6-7 years. They were really solid laptops. A bit difficult to take them apart but that almost never happened since they didn't really break very often - but when you did take them apart there were a lot of nice touches, like metal inserts set in the plastic to receive real machine screws for the chassis instead of the cheap self-tapping metal screw in plastic threads that nearly everyone uses for consumer electronics.

So, around 1999 a mere 4-5 years after this ad came out, I was working in IT at a new helpdesk/support gig at a university.

The first week or month I was there - and after I had been issued my newer Satellite 330 CDS (with MMX!!!) - we casually and not very carefully loaded about 40-50 of those exact (or nearly the same) laptops on a large horizontal hand truck, pushed them ungently across a very large campus to the salvage yard to dispose of them.

I wanted to take them all home like I was some kind of crazy cat lady. I wanted set them up all around me like Mission Control. I didn't care that they were Pentium 60s or 90s or whatever. I could have done a lot of cool things with a giant pile of laptops. Art installations. 50 copies of fractint or winamp's AVS all running at once. I also wanted to randomly give them to kids on the bus since I lived in a poor area, load them up with free software and whatnot.

As soon as we got to the salvage yard the guy that ran the place and his scavenger buddies were salivating and making bids before I could get them off the truck, and the nepotism was plainly apparent as he sold them off for something like 10-20 bucks a piece to the old duffers hanging out at the salvage yard.

I was internally really infuriated by the whole thing. I knew it was irrational, but I couldn't help it. I knew it was a lot of value being thrown away by a state university. (Not like I wouldn't have taken then home for free.)

So, at the time I knew we were hauling a very expensive pile of junk, but at the time I never really did the math.

Assuming 50 laptops at $2,500, that's $125,000 USD loaded on handcart being pushed a mile and a half across a campus and up a dirt road to a junkyard by a couple of half-employed nerd burnouts. (!!!!)

And 50 laptops wasn't a large number for my department. We had something on the order of thousands of deployed laptops just for our school/department, like 2-4 thousand if I recall.

Sure, the school bought them in bulk for much less than that in reality, and technology doesn't really work like that. The school and students got a lot of use and value that probably (hopefully) exceeded the sticker price.

But, still... it's weird to think about that. We probably had a million or more in IT infrastructure deployed in 1999, and today you'd have to pay someone to haul it away.

Bonus anecdote: We once had a real lemon of a laptop (not a Toshiba) that made it into our lineup. The students and staff hated it so much we had a laptop pinata day to celebrate retiring it.
posted by loquacious at 6:28 PM on September 19, 2011 [6 favorites]


What the hell is a "pager"?

A device which is still used by at least one person I know.

Guess the service is still available for those who really dislike cell phones. I am curious, however, if he ever has to explain what he means when he tells people to page him.
posted by krinklyfig at 6:28 PM on September 19, 2011


> today has all the same parts as a PC from 1996

Except for the whole unified controller chipsets that do everything, that used to be multiple cards on your system bus. Remember when you had to buy a separate audio card and network card for just a home desktop machine? It's not even "on the board" now, they are in the same silicon as the bus controller and nearly everything else minus the processor.
posted by mrzarquon at 6:30 PM on September 19, 2011 [1 favorite]


Now I go into Best Buy, look around, find what I need, and order it from my phone via Amazon Prime. There's like 12 CDs in the whole store, so I don't even look for the music section anymore.

Ah... going into a store to shop, then buying it cheaper at Amazon....

I seem to remember people did that a lot at Borders.... the same people who are sad it's gone now.
posted by MikeWarot at 6:31 PM on September 19, 2011 [3 favorites]


I sometimes forget how fast computers used to go obsolete. I mean, we still talk about it like they do, but today's systems have nothing on the speed they used to become useless. I'm using a 3.5 year old laptop right now, and while it's a bit pokey when I load it down with a dozen programs at once, it still works great pretty much all the time, and I'm not even particularly planning on replacing it.
posted by Tomorrowful at 6:36 PM on September 19, 2011 [2 favorites]


I...I...I'm suddenly almost overwhelmed by the desire to kill myself.
posted by aramaic at 6:36 PM on September 19, 2011


> A device which is still used by at least one person I know.

Until 2009 I had to carry a pager for my job. The company I was working for had a rholm phone system (literally acquired from another companies junk room, on the grounds they took everything. so why both buying a new phone system when you can get three of everything for one cutting edge in 1992 for free.) and the best the help desk line could do is page us when someone left us a voicemail.

That was, until I convinced the phone guy to have the voicemail system call our cellphones when a voicemail was left. Then through a serious of phone prompts, we could swap who was on "pager duty" without having to remember to handover the pager.

Of course, we did need to find another use for all those partially drained AA batteries that couldn't keep a point and shot powered, but could last about two weeks in the pager until entirely dead.
posted by mrzarquon at 6:36 PM on September 19, 2011 [1 favorite]


Those are from the days that videogames got front billing and you could always find them at the front of the adds, taking up a few pages. Now it's all TV's, with a third of a page per videogame platform, about page five.
posted by SpacemanStix at 6:38 PM on September 19, 2011


Also, it's funny how my current cellphone is lightyears ahead of these, but my landland looks EXACTLY THE SAME.
posted by SpacemanStix at 6:40 PM on September 19, 2011


One of the guys I was in bands with around this time wrote a song called "32 Megs of RAM". We were all blown away he had that much memory in his desktop.

My wife still carries a pager.
posted by These Premises Are Alarmed at 6:42 PM on September 19, 2011 [1 favorite]


Those are from the days that videogames got front billing and you could always find them at the front of the adds, taking up a few pages. Now it's all TV's, with a third of a page per videogame platform, about page five.

Well, sure. Video games are mostly played by generations young enough to have discarded Best Buy for Amazon.com; the only people looking at game systems in Best Buy flyers are non-gamer parents and grandparents.
posted by Tomorrowful at 6:43 PM on September 19, 2011


> One of the guys I was in bands with around this time wrote a song called "32 Megs of RAM". We were all blown away he had that much memory in his desktop.

My laptop has 256 megs of ram for the graphics card alone. And that was the lowest end of the options.
posted by mrzarquon at 6:44 PM on September 19, 2011 [1 favorite]


There are plenty of advances on washer dryers. Look at those things where is the steam cycle? Have you seen the new LG units?
posted by humanfont at 6:50 PM on September 19, 2011


You could drive a car from 1960 without training. I would bet decent money you could not drive a car from 1910 without training.

Cars in 1960 were three-box machines that look a lot more like cars today than they look like cars from 1910. Your modern car is vastly safer, somewhat more efficient, friendlier to the environment, etc., but the core of it hasn't changed a lot.


An auto mechanic from 1910 could figure out how to fix a car from 1960 without training. The core has changed more since 1960 than it did before then. Hell, the automobile has changed more since 1990 than it did from 1910 to 1990.
posted by The World Famous at 6:51 PM on September 19, 2011 [2 favorites]


SpacemanStix: Huh. I don't even have a landland.
posted by webmutant at 6:56 PM on September 19, 2011 [2 favorites]


Yup, still waiting for a flat refrigerator that I can mount on my wall, and a washer/dryer that supports Angry Birds.
posted by Brocktoon at 6:56 PM on September 19, 2011 [8 favorites]


Claris... works...?
posted by not_on_display at 7:00 PM on September 19, 2011 [6 favorites]


A lot of tech support people still carry pagers that are tied to the servers, so that when they go down, you get a page.

Also, doctors, because I think cell phones supposedly interfere with certain hospital electronics, and pager signals travel through more interference.

And I've seen EMS/Fire/Police still carry them, for special duty alerts etc.
posted by wuwei at 7:05 PM on September 19, 2011


What is the deal with The Butthole Surfers' Electric Larryland? They had to change the cover for Best Buy? Afraid someone might stick a pencil in their ear and sue them? How utterly lame.
posted by stinkycheese at 7:06 PM on September 19, 2011 [1 favorite]


Darn, and 1996 was the year I had no money.
posted by swift at 7:06 PM on September 19, 2011


Memory is 2000 times cheaper than 15 years ago.

In 1984, my parents bought a 16KB expansion pack for our Commodore VIC-20. It cost $99.

At that price, 4GB would cost $25.6 million.

At the $28.12 for 4GB price quoted above, 16KB would cost 1/100th of a cent.
posted by dw at 7:08 PM on September 19, 2011 [9 favorites]


Do they still make Namco Museum games?
posted by box at 7:09 PM on September 19, 2011


My laptop has 256 megs of ram for the graphics card alone. And that was the lowest end of the options.

Pfff. My cat has this much memory in her pager. Which is an app on her iPhone. Which really is just a cat toy because she only uses it to play Angry Birds.
posted by krinklyfig at 7:09 PM on September 19, 2011 [9 favorites]


Those cellphones were actually a huge advance in miniaturization from just a couple of years earlier, when they weren't really even portable unless you were carrying a bag.
posted by George_Spiggott at 7:09 PM on September 19, 2011 [1 favorite]


In the web class I was teaching earlier this year I went over the origin of the mobile web, starting with, no kidding, the pager. No students in the class knew what a pager was. All of them were under the age of 23.

However, one of the students was a person with physical disabilities, and his father would accompany him to class. After the lecture the father introduced himself to me and showed me... his work pager. He said he preferred it to the phone because then his bosses couldn't actually call him, only page him and wait for him to return the call.
posted by dw at 7:19 PM on September 19, 2011 [2 favorites]


Boomboxes! Oh, how I miss them in all their historical glory. I remember "You Don't Know Jack" being pretty cool too. (Back when snarky was just... snarky.)
posted by flyingsquirrel at 7:30 PM on September 19, 2011


Guess the service is still available for those who really dislike cell phones.

It's not specifically disliking cells phones. It's preferring pull over push. If you're the on-call locum for a medical practice, or the on-call tech support person or whatever, you need your patients or your boss or the server to be able to let you know you are needed, but you really, really do not want these people to be able to reach out and touch you. You need to be able to ring back and control the call. You get the number (and potentially, message) on your pager and call back on your cell phone.

Anyway, while the cost of consumer electronics has indeed plummeted, the price of white goods has so totally not. I cannot buy a Hotpoint large capacity washer and dryer set for $599, and I think my bottom-of-the-line dishwasher was around 279 three years ago.
posted by DarlingBri at 7:31 PM on September 19, 2011 [1 favorite]


Things from this flyer which have aged well:
- You Don't Know Jack!
- Warcraft II
- Mega Man X
- Odelay
- A Tribe Called Quest
- Macintosh desktops
- Toshiba laptops
- DirecTV
- the Madden franchise
- Buffy

Things which have not aged well:
- Microsoft Frontpage
- Claris [anything]
- RAM Doubler
- Norton Antivirus (try to uninstall it, I dare you)
- the Macarena
- Westinghouse/Amana/Maytag appliances
- tape backup drives
- 33.6k fax modems
- rear-projection TVs
- The Good Son

Personal nostalgia honorable mention:
- Pitfall! The Mayan Adventure
posted by overeducated_alligator at 7:36 PM on September 19, 2011 [14 favorites]


Those cellphones were actually a huge advance in miniaturization from just a couple of years earlier, when they weren't really even portable unless you were carrying a bag.

Part of that miniaturization was the build-out and upgrading of cell networks. Back in the old, unscrambled 900 mhz cell (carphone/suitcase phone) days there used to be a lot less towers and they were dumber, and you needed that 5 watts to push through the clutter in that frequency range in what was essentially an analog duplex (two-way) radio connection. You could listen in with scanners or HAM radio receivers/tuners.

So, the "cells" of a cell network got smaller and smarter as phones also got smaller and smarter, and then shifted up to GSM, PCS or other higher frequencies while also switching to digital radio connections and technology like spread-spectrum that allowed for solid connections in radio-noisy environments at lower powers.

Antennae design has also advanced a great deal since carphone and analog cell days.

But, yeah, there's been amazing miniaturization on phones. A lot of it is "system on a chip" stuff as well as huge advancements in digital radio using custom multi-use chips.

There really is a whole lot of amazing magic and technology going on behind the scenes in your cellphone, even if it's not one of those new-fangled smartphones. The radio wizardry required to make a digitally encoded phone call with a dinky little 200 milliwatt radio and an antenna the size of your thumbnail is incredible stuff.

There's all kinds of complicated linear algebra and heavy math going on to not only encode your voice into digital packets but to generate the radio signal on multiple frequencies shifting multiple values and parameters to make that reliable data connection happen at such a low energy level with so many other phones sharing the same ranges of frequencies, and in nearly every environment known to man - and hopefully while encrypted and secure from easy eavesdropping.
posted by loquacious at 7:44 PM on September 19, 2011 [8 favorites]


Wow, what a ripoff on that Toshiba laptop. I got a P150 that year, in Canada from a mom&pop computer store, from a small Asian company with a bigger screen and a smaller form factor for less than that in Canadian dollars when it was ~$0.74 USD.

Hexen was a great game.

That's a great point, DarlingBri - mass produced consumer electronics that could be classified as "status symbols" (bling) has become considerably more affordable whereas household goods (washer, dryer, refrigerator) have at least kept up with inflation, if not technological advances.
posted by porpoise at 7:49 PM on September 19, 2011


Fucking with me coz I'm a teenager with a little bit of gold and a pager? Searching my car, looking for the product?

Thinking every nigga is selling narcotics?

You'd rather see me in the pen, than me and Lorenzo rolling in the Benz-O.
posted by uncanny hengeman at 7:53 PM on September 19, 2011 [2 favorites]


Norton Antivirus (try to uninstall it, I dare you)

My fucking brother-in-law the IT pro installed Norton AV on my mom's 10-year-old laptop. Now it runs like, I guess, a 15-year-old laptop.

(My mom needs a new laptop, is what I'm saying)
posted by dirigibleman at 7:56 PM on September 19, 2011


It's occurred to me that my milk problems could be solved by advances in container technology, namely if someone started selling milk in 1.5-quart containers.
posted by madcaptenor at 7:57 PM on September 19, 2011 [3 favorites]


I think Warcraft II is still $20.
posted by cjorgensen at 8:07 PM on September 19, 2011 [2 favorites]


I paid about $2000 for a high-end PC in '98, just before I went to grad school.

I'm a fucking idiot.


Well, clearly. I mean, grad school?

Seriously kids, don't go to grad school.
posted by Rangeboy at 8:23 PM on September 19, 2011 [11 favorites]


Oh I was going to mention this about the RAM prices. This was just after ram prices started crashing after windows 95 came out. My machine started out with 4mb of ram and I eventually upgraded it to 20 I think (windows 95 was ridiculously slow before the upgrade). I know when I got my computer a 4MB stick cost something like $200. Here it's $29at best buy These days ram costs like 4x as much if you buy it at best buy vs. online.
I sometimes forget how fast computers used to go obsolete. I mean, we still talk about it like they do, but today's systems have nothing on the speed they used to become useless. I'm using a 3.5 year old laptop right now, and while it's a bit pokey when I load it down with a dozen programs at once, it still works great pretty much all the time, and I'm not even particularly planning on replacing it.
Yeah, that's another good point. I got my mid-range machine in 1995 -- a Pentium 75. A year later the clock rates were twice as fast. I've been running my current machine since 2008, and it's still faster then most systems out there. It's an 8-core system (dual socket) at 2.0 Ghz, and I could probably get the same thing with 3.2Ghz instead of 2.0, but the same range of clock speeds was available at the time.
My fucking brother-in-law the IT pro installed Norton AV on my mom's 10-year-old laptop. Now it runs like, I guess, a 15-year-old laptop.
Ugh, Norton/McAfee are such crap. They're practically adware/spamware themselves. Microsoft makes a perfectly functional antivirus program that's free and totally unobtrusive. I guess they probably don't want to bundle it out of anti-trust concerns or some bullshit, but this one example where it's actually doing more to hurt the customer then help them.
posted by delmoi at 8:23 PM on September 19, 2011 [1 favorite]


How long did the Genesis survive into the following generation of consoles? That system seemed to never die, at least in my house.
posted by JoeXIII007 at 8:24 PM on September 19, 2011


It's occurred to me that my milk problems could be solved by advances in container technology, namely if someone started selling milk in 1.5-quart containers.

Why not just get 3 half quarts?
posted by delmoi at 8:24 PM on September 19, 2011


Why not just get 3 half quarts?

Hmm, that might work.

I think next time I go to the supermarket I will be paralyzed by all your wonderful suggestions and I'll end up buying orange juice to pour on my cereal.
posted by madcaptenor at 8:28 PM on September 19, 2011 [5 favorites]


U.S. Dept. Of Retro Warns: 'We May Be Running Out Of Past' [via The Onion] Yes, I linked to this in a comment a few weeks ago in a different context. But it's still funny, and it's still true.
posted by mosk at 8:50 PM on September 19, 2011 [2 favorites]


It seems like, now, smaller TVs cost the same or more than big TVs do, unlike in this ad, where the pricing is fairly stairstep. Can anybody shed some light on how that works?
posted by Apropos of Something at 8:56 PM on September 19, 2011


Anyway, while the cost of consumer electronics has indeed plummeted, the price of white goods has so totally not.

That's mainly because miniaturization doesn't benefit major appliances. That said, our new dishwasher is $550, but probably has twice the whiz-bang of the $400 dishwashers in the circular. Our $1400 fridge is not quite as good as the $1100 one, but ours is French door with a drawer freezer.
posted by dw at 9:08 PM on September 19, 2011


It seems like, now, smaller TVs cost the same or more than big TVs do, unlike in this ad, where the pricing is fairly stairstep. Can anybody shed some light on how that works?

There are more options within a given size than there were back then. You have 1080p vs 720p (image sharpness), LED vs cold cathode back-lighting for LCD displays (image quality, power consumption, and physical thickness), LCD vs plasma, refresh rate, and probably some things I'm not thinking of. I wouldn't be surprised if a 1080p LED-LCD cost more than a larger 720p CCFL-LCD.

So, yeah, things have gotten more confusing and acronym-y since then.
posted by dirigibleman at 9:09 PM on September 19, 2011 [1 favorite]


I’m in the category that thinks this wasn’t long enough ago to be nostalgic about, old people.

>It isn't that 15 years seems like a long time, but rather that the technology is so radically different especially given the short amount of time involved <

The difference ’96 and 15, or even 10 years earlier is much more in my eyes. Not slower, older computers, phones, etc. but not having those things at all. Things don’t seem to have changed much at all in the last 15 years technologically, culturally, artistically, etc. for me. Just incrementally. The world seems in a big rut actually.

When the first NIN album was out most people would have to drive around and find a pay phone if you wanted to call someone while you were out. It didn’t come up that much.

Most of the people I know laughed at the first of our friends to get cell phones. It was expensive, at what the hell do you need to have a phone with you all the time for? If someone called you on a cell phone they would be mocked relentlessly. One person I know (who’s a total phone addict now) would ask "are you calling me on a cell phone?" and then hang up on them if the answer was yes.
posted by bongo_x at 9:11 PM on September 19, 2011 [2 favorites]


If you want to talk about browsing every page of the phone book sized Computer Shopper every month and looking for the best price on a 486/33 upgrade for my 486/25, then I will geek out for you.
posted by bongo_x at 9:19 PM on September 19, 2011 [3 favorites]


U.S. Dept. Of Retro Warns: 'We May Be Running Out Of Past'

I read an article this morning about the 29th aniversary of the text smiley. It was a very interesting bit of history when I first read about it a few years ago [probably via Metafilter]. But the 29th? Couldn't wait for the 30th?

First gen digital answering machines were absolute shite in my experience. Went back to good old analog tape for a while until they got their act together.

No William Shatner yet? A computer like this would have been science fiction a few years ago.
posted by uncanny hengeman at 9:25 PM on September 19, 2011


The difference ’96 and 15, or even 10 years earlier is much more in my eyes. Not slower, older computers, phones, etc. but not having those things at all. Things don’t seem to have changed much at all in the last 15 years technologically, culturally, artistically, etc. for me. Just incrementally. The world seems in a big rut actually.

I think 15 years ago is enough to be nostalgic, though I agree the magnitude of the changes was larger leading up to the mid-90's. In 1996, the culture around the technology was in its infancy, and most of the tech was not commonplace. There were revolutions in accessibility, cost, size/portability, and usage.
posted by ZeusHumms at 9:26 PM on September 19, 2011


read an article this morning about the 29th aniversary of the text smiley. It was a very interesting bit of history when I first read about it a few years ago [probably via Metafilter]. But the 29th? Couldn't wait for the 30th?

The smiley doesn't want to admit it's 30. 30 is old.
posted by madcaptenor at 9:26 PM on September 19, 2011 [2 favorites]


someone should have sued the shit out of the guy who made Ram Doubler, what a ripoff.

Despite not exactly living up to its promise, RAM Doubler was absolutely *essential* for Macs around that time. (before Windows 95 came out and pretty much forced memory manufacturers to lower their prices, RAM was about $40 per megabyte.) I had a Performa 6115 with 8mb of RAM, and once System 7 was through gobbling up most of it, there was precious little left for running any applications.
posted by ShutterBun at 9:30 PM on September 19, 2011 [1 favorite]


Chalk me up as another proud owner of RAM Doubler. And WarCraft II Battle.net edition.

The Warcraft II disc came with PC and Mac versions on it. I pooh-poohed the PC version, confident that my version for OS 7.6 (which would rudely switch color depth to 8-bit when I ran it) would withstand the test of time. Now I can run Warcraft II PC version on my Intel Mac. In fact I have to, because my Mac has been unable to run Mac OS 7.6 apps for a very long time.
posted by infinitewindow at 9:36 PM on September 19, 2011 [1 favorite]


In '96, I had the $199 Aiwa shelf system, the Sony Discman and a 25" Magnavox TV, but since I was in NYC, I got them at Nobody Beats The Wiz, probably the one that was on 96th and Broadway, which is now a Rite Aid. Best Buy hadn't made it out here yet.

I was too poor to buy any computer then, but the next year my boss gave me his old ThinkPad 701C after upgrading. And then I got NetZero. Good times. :/

Best Buy was where I got a Denon DCM-320 5-disc CD changer some years before in the Midwest. If one could be said to love a non-sentient entity, I loved that CD player. I brought it to NYC with me when I took an internship on a TV show in '92, but someone stole it and every other thing that had a plug from my friend's car outside my new apartment on 104th and Amsterdam (yes, even the cheapo, then-standard college-issue plug-in pot I used for cooking ramen noodles).

Livid didn't begin to describe my feelings about it at the time, but I haven't listened to/bought/purposely seen a music CD now in 10 years.
posted by droplet at 9:38 PM on September 19, 2011


yes, even the cheapo, then-standard college-issue plug-in pot I used for cooking ramen noodles

Yay! Not for the theft, for the hotpot nostalgia. Mine was beige and had a dent in it. I think I mostly used mine for hot chocolate. Sometime during grad school I finally sent it to Goodwill, where hopefully some other dorm rat bought it and is nostalgic for it.
posted by dirigibleman at 9:44 PM on September 19, 2011 [1 favorite]


That's mainly because miniaturization doesn't benefit major appliances.

It's also because commodity prices have increased substantially in the last couple years while the value of the USD has decreased. Major appliances typically use lots of metal alloys.
posted by krinklyfig at 9:47 PM on September 19, 2011


I'm not nostalgic about this, mostly because I used up all my nostalgia when I was a kid. When I was 13 I was nostalgic about being 10...
posted by Lovecraft In Brooklyn at 9:52 PM on September 19, 2011 [2 favorites]


Thanks to a article about a new Intel chipmaking process, I started researching more about the limits of Moore's law. The ITRS is a regularly published study from the semiconductor industry that lays out the expectation for future enhancements. I'd recommend the wikipedia article on Semiconductor manufacturing as a starting point.

The next generation of processors from Intel will be on a 22nm process. The ITRS expects the industry in general to hit 11nm by 2025, although there are claims from Intel that they'll hit 8nm by 2015. That seems extreme to me, but who knows. For reference, semiconductor technology was at 350nm.

Despite this great improvement, it seems clear we're coming up against some kind of wall when it comes to producing semiconductors. Around the 16nm level or so, there are a great many challenges to both the manufacturing and to designing components that can be a single molecule thick and still work.

The advancements that make this Best Buy ad look so quaint compared to today have largely been due to improvements in manufacturing process, at least as I understand it. Unless there's some kind of fundamentally different way of building computer processors developed in the next decade or so, the computers in today Best Buy ad will be like the washing machines in that one - more or less the same.
posted by heathkit at 9:53 PM on September 19, 2011 [2 favorites]


Also, this is a good starting point for semiconductor scaling.
posted by heathkit at 10:00 PM on September 19, 2011


Despite this great improvement, it seems clear we're coming up against some kind of wall when it comes to producing semiconductors. Around the 16nm level or so, there are a great many challenges to both the manufacturing and to designing components that can be a single molecule thick and still work.

I was under the impression that the next gen in computing beyond the silicon chip with traces is quantum computing, so the physical limitations of the current manufacturing process may not be where we hit the wall. Although the last I read about it some early "chips" have been made with quantum particles, but the differences in how quantum mechanics operates versus digital transistors are substantial and may not easily translate to anything which could replace binary storage and transfer (which has been around long before computers, e.g., player piano rolls).
posted by krinklyfig at 10:04 PM on September 19, 2011


Reading this thread on my iPad while, in the background, I watch a documentary about the end of "Don't Ask Don't Tell" that I DVRed earlier in the evening makes me very excited for the next 15 years.

Also, the Red Sox, Patriots, Celtics and Bruins have won 10 championships since this flyer.
posted by Rock Steady at 10:05 PM on September 19, 2011


>And someone should have sued the shit out of the guy who made Ram Doubler, what a ripoff.

Heh. FWIW, I know the guy who created RAM Doubler -- he's a friend of a friend, and we occasionally play in the same poker game. Brilliant guy -- definitely an alpha geek and a renaissance man. Nice guy, too. I'll pass along your comment next time I see him ;-)
posted by mosk at 10:08 PM on September 19, 2011 [4 favorites]


Claris... works...?

Worked for my dissertation.
posted by readyfreddy at 10:14 PM on September 19, 2011 [1 favorite]


Thinking back to my technology purchases: In 1989 or 1990 I bought a "portable" Denon single CD player for around $500. I was living with my parents and working a couple jobs to save up to go back to college after flunking out and I had to smuggle it into the house. It was gray with a granite-type finish, and the top popped open with a satisfying click while the disc spun down. It even had a thin "shoulder strap" if you wanted to take it to a place where you could be completely still, since it didn't take kindly to jostling. In the car ('84 Chevette) I used a cassette adapter to play my CDs in my tape deck and it worked great sitting in the passenger seat as long as the road wasn't too bumpy.

In 1996 I bought a Power Computing PowerTowerPro with a PowerPC chip @ 225mHz and probably at least an 800 MB HD. I'm sure I splurged on the RAM and maybe went to 1GB. That machine cost me $2500 which I put on two credit cards.

Last week my employer bought me a MacBook Pro with a 2.27 mHz processor and 8GB of RAM at about $1800. Doing the math, I now have about 10x the computer (in a package that weighs about 1/10th of the old one) for 70% of the price.
posted by bendy at 10:20 PM on September 19, 2011


Well, clearly. I mean, grad school?

Seriously kids, don't go to grad school.


Dammit, now you tell me.
posted by readyfreddy at 10:21 PM on September 19, 2011 [1 favorite]


Norton antivirus was largely rewritten for the 2009 version. Since then it's been possible to uninstall it completely.
posted by Pruitt-Igoe at 10:42 PM on September 19, 2011


Unless there's some kind of fundamentally different way of building computer processors developed in the next decade or so

There's been a significant breakthrough just in the last several months, actually. I'm sure I've seen it here on the Blue recently. Basically it involves turning semiconductor paths (which are very flat, but (relatively) wide) 90 degrees, so as to fit WAY more transistors within the same area. (someone with better Google-fu than I can probably find the relevant news article)
posted by ShutterBun at 10:44 PM on September 19, 2011


what's a "cassette?"
posted by univac at 10:47 PM on September 19, 2011 [1 favorite]


it's pronounced "kassit," right?
posted by univac at 10:48 PM on September 19, 2011


I'm favoriting the comments in this thread as hard as I can.
posted by nzero at 10:50 PM on September 19, 2011


Basically it involves turning semiconductor paths (which are very flat, but (relatively) wide) 90 degrees, so as to fit WAY more transistors within the same area.

Wow, deja vu. Sounds oddly like the perpendicular breakthrough in hard disk recording that first shipped commercially in, what was it, 2005? Up until then I think 3.5" disks maxed out at around 400GB with three platters. Anyway, the difference between longitudinal and perpendicular is 90°.
posted by George_Spiggott at 11:47 PM on September 19, 2011


The "180MHz PowerPC Multimedia Computer" is a PowerMac 6400 (probably the Performa version, being at Best Buy).

.
posted by finite at 11:50 PM on September 19, 2011


This post reminds of the South Park episode "Prehistoric Ice Man". Oh my god, how can our brains comprehend this thing from not very long ago that we all lived through and remember well (except for you kids who need to get off my lawn).
posted by markr at 12:09 AM on September 20, 2011


Oh man, the combination of being something of a gadget geek and getting my first decent paying job about then puts this right in my nostalgia wheelhouse. I had more of those gadgets than I like to admit, and games for $30?

Said job was tech support for a bunch of Microsoft software. I always felt bad for folks calling in with Packard Hell computers. Driver updates fixed about 70% of our calls, and PH was notorious for substandard components and not updating any of their drivers. I got to tell some poor Mom who had scrimped to get a $1000 computer for her kids that she couldn't run The Magic School Bus Explores the Ocean because her sound card driver was out of date.

Oh, and as most folks didn't have internet, they had just spent however much time on hold and going through operators (few/no automated phone trees then) so that I could tell them they had to do it all again with their computer or hardware manufacturer, and then wait for the driver disk to show up in the mail. The poor PH customers faced a gauntlet of long wait times and poorly trained techs. For one sound chipset they used they would refer their customers to the chipset manufacturer who offered zero support. The only option the customer had was to get a new sound card.

We weren't supposed to, but I frequently told customers who had this chipset that they needed a new sound card to save them the pain and suffering. I'm not sure how many Sound Blaster cards I sold in that two years, but I'm sure they owe me some kind of commission or something.

posted by calamari kid at 12:15 AM on September 20, 2011


I was under the impression that the next gen in computing beyond the silicon chip with traces is quantum computing, so the physical limitations of the current manufacturing process may not be where we hit the wall.

Quantum computing is about modeling computational processes using quantum mechanical effects. Your phone won't be using a quantum computer in 15 years - we're barely figuring out how to build the fundamental building blocks, and I don't think anyone has a working architecture yet. It's not clear that we'll ever see a practical general-purpose quantum computer, although I'm sure there'll be great applications for special purpose designs.

There's been a significant breakthrough just in the last several months, actually. I'm sure I've seen it here on the Blue recently. Basically it involves turning semiconductor paths (which are very flat, but (relatively) wide) 90 degrees, so as to fit WAY more transistors within the same area.

Ars had an excellent article explaining the breakthrough. Intel is calling it a 'Trigate' transistor, it's also referred to as a FinFET in other research. The idea has been researched since the late 90s, but Intel was the first to figure out how to manufacture it reliably at scale. That's what let them hit the 22nm process with Ivy Bridge, and tricks like that will probably get them to the 8nm range around 2015 as they claim.

Still, it's built using lithography on silicon wafers, the same fundamental process as 20 years ago. Getting another order of magnitude increase in computing performance is going to require moving to a completely different way to build integrated circuits. I keep seeing references to things like graphene, nanowires, spintronics, and crossbar switches, but I don't know which is likely to be the dominant technology, or if any of them will be ready in time to continue Moore's law when we hit the wall in 5-10 years.
posted by heathkit at 12:27 AM on September 20, 2011


Anyone wanna go on record now as saying "8 nanometers ought to be (small) enough for anyone"?
posted by ShutterBun at 1:24 AM on September 20, 2011


And $2400 invested in AAPL on 9/15/96 would be worth $188,173.71 today.

It's definitely true that you'd have gotten a good outcome from that investment - but it was for the very good reason that it was a ludicrously high-risk investment at the time. I was working in the Mac-wrangling business around then. System 8 was a complete disaster. Microsoft were holding Office over the head of Apple as a company. If Microsoft hadn't been worried about DOJ action in the mid-late 90s, there most likely wouldn't have been an Apple for Jobs to do a reverse-takeover of.
posted by rodgerd at 2:15 AM on September 20, 2011 [2 favorites]


It's definitely true that you'd have gotten a good outcome from that investment - but it was for the very good reason that it was a ludicrously high-risk investment at the time.

True, but in a larger balanced portfolio, $2400 on a single high-risk investment is not much. Most people with an IRA at a broker could swing that amount without causing much damage if it didn't work out. Well, I am kicking myself for not having the foresight anyway ...
posted by krinklyfig at 3:08 AM on September 20, 2011


No students in the class knew what a pager was. --- So they never watched The Wire, then? It's an integral player in at least the first season, isn't it?
posted by crunchland at 4:16 AM on September 20, 2011


Norton/McAfee are such crap.

They weren't always, though. McAfee used to be the go-to antivirus, and did exactly what it was supposed to. Norton made small, fast, incredibly useful utilities that were practically indispensible.

Then both companies got sold or merged, and everything went to shit.
posted by Mr. Bad Example at 4:28 AM on September 20, 2011 [2 favorites]


Norton made small, fast, incredibly useful utilities that were practically indispensible.

They were also very cool as a company. Norton has been owned by Symantec since 1990. In the mid to late 90s, you could still call an actual human for actual support at a help desk, I think out in the Pacific North West somewhere. When you rang, the hold operation was amazing. The hold message told you that you were now listing to Radio Symantec. I believe you could press 1, 2 or 3 to choose different stations with different genres of music. After making your selection, you got... live DJ'd radio for hold music. There were tunes (obviously), but there were also two guys and they'd chat a bit. They'd talk about the weather wherever they were, and they'd report on the hold time like it was the traffic report.

The product may be shit, but I have been telling people about that customer experience for decades now. I have never seen or heard its like.
posted by DarlingBri at 5:33 AM on September 20, 2011 [7 favorites]


And $2400 invested in AAPL on 9/15/96 would be worth $188,173.71 today.

Every time I buy a computer from now on I am investing the equivalent amount. Damn.

Of course, if you had been (as I was) an Apple shareholder in the late 90s or early 2000s, you would have lost years off your life from anxiety. So there's that.
posted by spitbull at 6:02 AM on September 20, 2011


Quantum computing is about modeling computational processes using quantum mechanical effects. Your phone won't be using a quantum computer in 15 years - we're barely figuring out how to build the fundamental building blocks, and I don't think anyone has a working architecture yet.

Paging sgranade.... (He did the quantum computer panel at DragonCon a couple of weeks ago, which was extremely interesting.)
posted by JHarris at 6:03 AM on September 20, 2011


Throwing Muses' Limbo, $9.99. (I'm surprised it was widely enough promoted to be in a big box store flyer.)
posted by aught at 6:07 AM on September 20, 2011


What the hell is a "pager"?

A device that I dreaded during the era this flyer came out and I was still doing tech support (and had to take my turn for off-hours support every month or so).

Also, the vets at the Cornell Vet School service where I take my cat all still have pagers. I get the impression they're still pretty common in the health professions in general.
posted by aught at 6:36 AM on September 20, 2011


Seriously kids, don't go to grad school.

No, just don't PAY or go into debt to go to grad school. I was so sad when those fellowship-funded years of drinking writing and studying literature ended and I had to go out and get a regular job.
posted by aught at 6:40 AM on September 20, 2011


Another memory of Radio Symantec, just for posterity: I believe you could email in requests whilst on hold. They would sometimes read them out and play them. Hold times were very long (+/- 20 mins) but seriously, this was The Greatest Hold Experience Ever.
posted by DarlingBri at 6:54 AM on September 20, 2011


Oh man, does this ever take me back. I bought my first computer (like, the first one that I bought with my own money, that was MINE) right around this time, as it was just when I was going away to university. I built a custom spec'd computer from MDG Computers, a relatively new company that was flooding papers with their flyers, and I couldn't resist their cheap cheap cheap prices. Of course, with that cheapness came RIDICULOUSLY poor quality. I can't believe that company is still around, actually. That was the last time

Oh, and my first computer? My mom bought it 5 years earlier... a 386-SX 25, with a HUMONGOUS 80mb hard drive. A Packard Bell, which we purchased at a furniture store (because in 1991, wtf did I know??)
posted by antifuse at 6:56 AM on September 20, 2011


And I still have the 27" RCA TV that I bought a year after this flyer came out. Still works, too :)
posted by antifuse at 6:59 AM on September 20, 2011 [2 favorites]


Those KLH shelf speakers for $39.99 were a deal then, and they're in my living room to this day.

And while it's fun to take a walk through memory lane, I am not terribly nostalgic for the days when Best Buy was my primary resource for computer parts and devices. Not because of anything negative about Best Buy as a store, but because I do not miss the days when things like fucking sound in a new computer was a premium. Nor do I miss having a computer with a DIAMOND soundcard with a generic CD-ROM drive, and after I'd finally saved up the $179 or so (not a small sum at 15 or so) for a Sound Blaster 16 card with which I could play DOOM correctly, learning a lesson in device conflicts; subsequently discovering that I needed to either purchase a matching Creative brand CD drive, or stick the DIAMOND card back in.

I know it's fun to hate on XP these days (or any day probably) but being able to use a PC that had plug n play that ACTUALLY worked was a fucking godsend.
posted by Uther Bentrazor at 7:04 AM on September 20, 2011 [2 favorites]


Quantum computing is about modeling computational processes using quantum mechanical effects. Your phone won't be using a quantum computer in 15 years - we're barely figuring out how to build the fundamental building blocks, and I don't think anyone has a working architecture yet. It's not clear that we'll ever see a practical general-purpose quantum computer, although I'm sure there'll be great applications for special purpose designs.

To expand on this just a bit: a quantum computer uses quantum mechanical effects to do certain kinds of computing faster. The traditional approach is that you have a bunch of qubits -- quantum bits -- that can be in superpositions. Roughly speaking, superposition lets the qubits hold more than one value at the same time, which means you can do a lot of computation in parallel.

That works until you look at the qubits by, say, reading them out. Then you get one of the qubits' possible values at random, since quantum mechanics is all about randomness that collapses when you look at it. It'd be like saying I could add all of the possible four-bit numbers together, but when I look at the answer I'll get a random number from 0 to 31.

Because of this, the trick to quantum computing is to come up with an algorithm that lets you get the answer you want nearly every time. For instance, Shor's algorithm lets you use a quantum computer to find out the factors of an integer number by turning factor-finding into finding the period of a repeating function. By doing so, instead of pulling out a random answer that may or may not be correct, you're nearly guaranteed to get the right answer. You've turned a needle in a haystack into a needle in a pile of needles.

Here's the catch, though: for all of this to work, the qubits have to be coherent. And almost anything will make the qubits decohere. Sound, light, vibrations -- all will smear out your coherent states and remove the superposition that lets the quantum computer do its magic. That's kept researches from stringing more than a handful of qubits together. The largest number I know of being factored by Shor's algorithm is 15. And it means that quantum computers have to be well protected from the environment. D-Wave, who is selling a commercial quantum computer, also sells it with the huge liquid nitrogen dewars and cryogenic room.
posted by sgranade at 7:19 AM on September 20, 2011 [3 favorites]


So what I thought was the new St. Vincent album was out back then but cost $37.99 and ran on PowerPC Macs. Huh.
posted by glhaynes at 7:23 AM on September 20, 2011 [2 favorites]


ah, but what hasn't changed: 'free' color printers that won't let you print in black if the color cartridge is empty, and ugly, chunky boom boxes.
posted by fallacy of the beard at 7:25 AM on September 20, 2011


As for the cars of 1960 or so, my greatest-generation-aged father-in-law once told me people would trade in their cars after 2 or 3 years if they could afford it, because at about 25000 miles the cars would start leaking oil and would need a 'ring job' (no link--the top google was for urban dictionary) after which the car ran like crap and ate oil and smelled bad too.

I asked a relevant AskMe eighteen months ago about why my hometown had ten service stations in eight-tenths of a mile in in the early sixties. The consensus was that cars being what they were fifty years ago, you could just about make it from one to the next before needing a tune-up.
posted by ricochet biscuit at 7:48 AM on September 20, 2011


What the hell is a "pager"?

When this flyer would have been fresh, I was working at Intel, and was on pager-rotation for factory support. One night, I'm asleep, and I'm having this dream that I'm at work, in an impossibly long conference room, with row after row of ascending managers all the way up to Andy Grove at the far end, all yelling at me for something. And there's an earthquake going on, but no one notices, or pauses their ranting. When I finally awoke, it was to discover I had set my pager to vibrate before I went to bed, and it was going off on the table next to my bed.
posted by nomisxid at 7:49 AM on September 20, 2011 [1 favorite]


If you want to talk about browsing every page of the phone book sized Computer Shopper every month and looking for the best price on a 486/33 upgrade for my 486/25, then I will geek out for you.

Reminds me of when I first started dating mr. epersonae in 1997. 'Cause wow, talking about geeking out with Computer Shopper....
posted by epersonae at 8:06 AM on September 20, 2011


Ha, we just got Best Buy in the UK, so this doesn't make me feel as nostalgic as this.
posted by mippy at 8:34 AM on September 20, 2011


Let's hear it for Print Shop!
posted by Kabanos at 8:38 AM on September 20, 2011


I'm 31, and I've had a pager at two periods in my life. The first was in high school, when Web Sites were new and exciting, where basic HTML was all you needed to know, and pagers were cool with the kids. So my little brother got the bright idea to make a website for a local pager shop, and we'd get pagers for free! It worked, though I can't remember what the website was like, I remember having that pager. The only people who paged me and my brother were our parents, because we were either 1) at home, 2) at school, or 3) with our friends. If we were with friends, our other friends knew where we were. So around 10pm, my brother or I would get paged, and we'd call home telling our parents where to pick us up, or if we wanted to spend the night at a friend's house. A year or two after we stopped using our pagers, our parents got a bill for a few months of use. It seems, someone realized there were two pagers still out there, and no one was paying them for the (lack of) use, so we dug them out of our sock drawers and gave them back.

Then there was my time as one of two general managers of a college radio station. We had an underwriting contract with a local pager shop, and we had a few pagers for key station people. I'd get paged when the station was locked and the next DJ couldn't get in, or when there were technical issues, or there was something happening at the station. People had cell phones at this time, but I didn't, and I'd get paged with some frequency in the middle of the night. Every now and again, I'd wake up, feeling ghost vibrations from the idle pager. I still have that thing, as I was the last generation of GMs without a cell phone.
posted by filthy light thief at 8:50 AM on September 20, 2011


I giggled when I saw Muppet Treasure Island in there.
posted by pemberkins at 10:06 AM on September 20, 2011


Wow, I had forgotten how much even crap VCR's were. (cue "What's a VCR?")
posted by ZeusHumms at 10:32 AM on September 20, 2011


ZeusHumms wrote: Wow, I had forgotten how much even crap VCR's were. (cue "What's a VCR?"

For another year or two anyway. By 1999 or 2000, they were down to $30 apiece for a decent enough four head model. By that time, the money was being made in dual deck recorders that didn't quite implement Macrovision correctly. ;)
posted by wierdo at 11:37 AM on September 20, 2011


Wow, I had forgotten how much even crap VCR's were. (cue "What's a VCR?")

I still have a sort-of-functioning VCR (in addition to the DVR), and it even comes in useful now and then. About a year ago I wanted to pick up a couple blank VHS tapes; it had been years since I'd bought any. The clerk in Best Buy actually didn't know what I was talking about, and after my attempt to explain what I wanted, he finally conceded, "Sorry, sir, I don't think we have anything like that here." I almost laughed out loud, but he wouldn't have understood that, either.
posted by aught at 11:47 AM on September 20, 2011 [3 favorites]


In 15 years, the Best Buy catalog will feature:
* 256 core desktops with 1 TB RAM for $1000
* Netbooks with "only" 16 cores and 128 GB RAM for $250
* 100 TB hard disks for $100
* 10 TB flash drives for $20
* 3840x2160, 30" monitors for $100
* Cell phones that get 100 Mbps internet, have processors more powerful than PCs today, and still cost way too much and break half the time
* Printers that are free, but use up a $300 cartridge to print 12 pages
posted by miyabo at 11:52 AM on September 20, 2011 [6 favorites]


For another year or two anyway. By 1999 or 2000, they were down to $30 apiece for a decent enough four head model. By that time, the money was being made in dual deck recorders that didn't quite implement Macrovision correctly. ;)

In 1998 or so, my roommates and I pitched in to get a $45 VCR manufactured by something called Broksonic. We never called it a VCR, we called it "The Broksonic", as in, "Do you want to rent something to watch on The Broksonic?", "I think our overdue copy of Clerks is still in The Broksonic.", etc. When we all moved out I "bought them out" of The Broksonic, and it served me well until my family retired our remaining videotapes once my daughter grew out of her Wiggles and Blue's Clues phase. Godspeed, little Broksonic, godspeed.
posted by Rock Steady at 12:10 PM on September 20, 2011 [2 favorites]


What is the deal with The Butthole Surfers' Electric Larryland? They had to change the cover for Best Buy?

I'm pretty sure I got my copy with the original cover from Best Buy. IIRC, they created the alternate cover for Walmart.
posted by drezdn at 12:27 PM on September 20, 2011


Broksonic would make a great band name.
posted by drezdn at 12:28 PM on September 20, 2011 [1 favorite]


When I was in middle school/high school I used to study the Best Buy ad every week (from 92-95ish) looking for a great computer deal that I thought I could talk my parents into buying one. They didn't end up relenting until either '95 or '96. It was a black acer and it was a thing of beauty with a 1 gb hard drive.

A friend assured me that there would never be a need for a hard drive that big. I promptly ruined it's functionality by installing OS/2 Warp.
posted by drezdn at 12:34 PM on September 20, 2011


A friend assured me that there would never be a need for a hard drive that big.

"640K should be enough for anybody." - not Bill Gates.
posted by madcaptenor at 1:01 PM on September 20, 2011 [1 favorite]


I bought a couple of cheap VCRs maybe ten years ago so that I could copy from tape to tape. Got a tape stuck in one machine a few weeks ago (I haven't even tried to remove it) but the other one works great, and my kids still watch the dozens of children's movies we have in the format.
posted by stinkycheese at 1:08 PM on September 20, 2011


Only a few months ago did my mom finally decide to stop recording Days of Our Lives every weekday on VHS and bring the DVR up from the downstairs room and put it in the living room.
posted by MattMangels at 1:28 PM on September 20, 2011


Only a few months ago did my mom finally decide to stop recording Days of Our Lives every weekday on VHS and bring the DVR up from the downstairs room and put it in the living room.

I've been dealing with that issue in helping a relative, as well. My argument for why she should switch to DVR for her soaps was pretty effectively undermined by her pointing out that, with a VHS tape, she can take the tape into different rooms or to other people's homes.
posted by The World Famous at 1:43 PM on September 20, 2011 [1 favorite]


Instead of buying a DVR, my mom bought some kind of contraption that records shows to DVDs. My husband and I both did a facepalm, but I guess she was thinking along the same lines as The World Famous' mom. Some people are really comforted by tangible objects. I know someone who just has to get his paycheck on paper; he doesn't trust direct deposit.
posted by desjardins at 2:02 PM on September 20, 2011 [1 favorite]


Amazing how far computer games haven't come in 15 years.
posted by mrgrimm at 4:53 PM on September 20, 2011 [1 favorite]


Wow. This reminds me of being a Man and helping my girlfriend back then select a Packard Bell.

OK, Julie. I admit it. I deserve to be dumped.
posted by 4ster at 7:13 PM on September 20, 2011


Some people are really comforted by tangible objects. I know someone who just has to get his paycheck on paper; he doesn't trust direct deposit.

This is why I buy paper books instead of e-books. (Also, I buy lots of used books, and used books are in general cheaper than e-books.)
posted by madcaptenor at 7:22 PM on September 20, 2011 [1 favorite]


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