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Your smartphone would have been worth more than $32 million in 1985

It’s easy to take the power of the smartphone in your pocket—and the networks that support it—for granted. Heck, carriers are pretty much giving them away these days.

But online marketing outfit WebpageFX has put together a clever infographic that details just how amazing—and valuable—a smartphone really is. The company tallied up the various capabilities of a typical smartphone and researched how much each one would have cost you back in 1985, when cellphones were first hitting the market.

The numbers—adjusted for inflation—range from moderate ($45 for a Casio digital watch) to outrageous ($6,630 for a Magellan GPS receiver) to mind-blowing ($110,520 for a Future Systems videoconferencing system). Of course, the bulk of the cost comes from the $32 million for a Cray-2 supercomputer to match the processing power now found in a device in your 10-year-old nephew’s pocket.

But more than the sheer numbers, the list of capabilities and their often-much-more-awkward and lower-performance 1985 equivalents is a great reminder of the incredible progress that’s been made. I mean, did people really used to spend more than $3,000 on an encyclopedia? (Yep, we did, unless we built a set one volume at a time at supermarket premiums.)

So, how did we get here? Moore’s Law, miniaturization, and software, along with economies of scale driving down component costs for things like screens, lenses, and microphones. As for what’s next, it’s interesting that WebpageFX found 30-year-old analogs for almost every smartphone function. That suggests we may already have access to the capabilities of the ubiquitous devices of 2046, just not in the convenient, inexpensive, and upgraded form that would let us see their potential today.

PS: Back in 1985, I owned or had access to a fax machine, voice recorder, digital watch, portable music player, encyclopedia, boom box, video game system, and camera. I did not yet have a cellphone, GPS unit, portable TV, video camera, VCR, video conference system, or supercomputer. How about you?

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Originally posted 2016-02-19 01:42:15.

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