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We reflect on the tremendous growth in capability in two key categories of technology. We try to put this growth into perspective by looking at how we have reduced costs while improving the capabilities.

  • Transportation
    • Walking 2-3 MPH: 2-4 Months
    • Biking 10-15MPH: 2-5 Weeks
    • Car 60MPH: 4-6 days
    • Car Cannon-ball run: 25h, 55m
    • Airplane (Spirit of St. Louis): 120 MPH: 25h
    • Airplane (Boeing 314A Clipper): 188 MPH: 16h
    • Airplane (Douglas DC3): 207MPH: 14.5h
    • Jetliner: 550-600MPH: 5-6 hours
    • Jet: SR-71 Blackbird: 1.5 hours
  • Communication
    • Sending a letter from England to the United States took 1-3 Months in the age of sail and required someone’s passage.
    • Telegraph (Domestic)
      • During the civil war, about $1. Equivalent to roughly $115/message today.
      • 1860 10 words from NY to New Orleans cost $2.70 (roughly $65 in 2002). Transcontinental cost $7.40 ($210). 10 Words to England? $7.40 ($210)
      • Trans-Atlantic cable was 2,300 nautical miles long and had seven strands of coper in a special insulator. It was surrounded by high tensile strength steel to provide strength.
        • Was laid by a the largest ship of its day. Meant to carry 4000 passengers but had many problems.
        • The ship was able to lay 30,000 miles of cable at 5MPH during its life
        • Able to send 8WPM when finished. After some help from a physicist named Oliver Heaviside, that was able to get to 120WPM.
    • Phone Calls
      • 1960 - 3 minute call roughly the same cost as a 15-word telegram.
      • 1962 - $3/min to UK, $3.60 to France. $3 is roughly the same as $21.60 in 2010 dollars
      • New York to LA for five minutes (dollars of the year and 2020 dollars)
      • 1950: 1.85/1.25 (19.68/13.30)
      • 1960: 1.85/1.45 (16.02/$12.56)
      • 1970: 1.55/0.80 (10.24/5.29)
      • 1980: 1.97/0.79 (6.13/2.64)
      • 1990: 1.20/0.65 (2.35/1.28)
      • 1995: 1.35/0.70 (2.27/1.18)
    • Internet
      • The promise of nuclear power was that it would be so cheap, we wouldn’t meter it. That didn’t happen for a lot of reasons but with Internet connectivity, it did for many types of connections.
      • The modem era - unmetered - e-mails were free for as many as you wanted to send. Chat was also available. Some early VOIP existed
      • Broadband era, more chat, VOIP and images became common
      • Mobile era
        • Started unlimited, then went metered, then went unmetered with some restrictions and prioritization
        • At this point, video calls have become common though often done through a terrestrial connection
      • You can talk coast-to-coast or across the ocean for free with a lag of no more than a second with a very high quality video call


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