Editore"s Note
Tilting at Windmills

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January 20, 2005
By: Kevin Drum

WONDERS OF TECHNOLOGY....Jonah Goldberg thinks I should blog something about George Bush's inaugural speech, but I don't feel like it. I will say this, though: I'll bet him a C-note that six months from now no one will remember a word he said.

Instead, let me regale you with the surprising news that technology sure is getting better at an amazing rate, isn't it? Let's compare.

The first laser printer I ever bought was a used LaserJet II in 1992. As I recall, I paid $800 for it. It printed at 300 dpi and cranked out 8 pages per minute.

A few days ago, thanks partly to recommendations from readers, I purchased a Brother MFC-8440. It prints at 600x2400 dpi and spits out an astounding 21 pages per minute.

But wait! There's more. It's also a fax machine, and employs something called "Super G3," which is remarkably fast. It can fax a page in about 5 seconds, compared to about 20 or 30 seconds a decade ago, and comes with a pretty complete range of features, including autodial, broadcast fax, and PC fax.

There's also a flatbed color scanner built in. Native resolution is 600x2400, which is better than my previous standalone scanner, and quality is excellent. It's a little slow at high resolutions, but amazingly speedy at lower resolutions. The OCR software is feature limited, but works fine.

What else? It's also a copier, and not only does it crank out remarkably high quality copies, it also sorts and stacks, enlarges and reduces, and does just about everything else a normal office copier does.

And installation? Pretty much a breeze. I just stuck in the disk, clicked a few buttons during a 10-minute process, and it was all done. Everything worked flawlessly.

And I bought it at CostCo for $359.

You're amazed, aren't you? Admit it. Even though everything I just said is so common as to be banal, it's still pretty amazing. I really have no idea how the hedonic pricing gurus at BLS take all this into account. This is what? A 90% price decrease compared to ten years ago? 95%? 99%?

Then again, the LaserJet II was built like a tank. What if the MFC-8440 goes belly up a year from now? Would that suddenly mean prices haven't really gone down as much as it seemed initially? Hmmm....

Kevin Drum 7:35 PM Permalink | Trackbacks

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