Not long ago I was cleaning out my files and shredding bills from years ago. Each year I dutifully box up my bills and income tax statements and store them away in case I ever need to reference them. Periodically I dispose of them after sufficient time has passed and they no longer serve any purpose. On this particular occasion I was examining what I had been paying for over ten years ago.
One of the first things I noticed was the difference in my telephone costs. I used to pay for just a land line at about $50 a month which also accommodated my long distance charges. Today, I average about $170 a month in telephone costs which covers my cable telephone and the cell phones used by my family. And this doesn’t include the hardware costs which range from $50 to $400 for the phones themselves.
Does anyone remember when television was free? I do. We didn’t have a lot of channels back then and the programming was probably a lot better than it was today as only the cream of the crop made it to the airwaves. Today, my cable bill averages at about $36 a month for the basic package. I know a lot of other people who are paying a heckova lot more for premium channels. This means we have many more channels than in the old days, but I can’t say we have better programming as many stations put just about anything on to fill the time. Something else; does anyone remember the original premise of cable? That there would be far fewer commercials, if any? I guess the cable networks missed the memo. Let us hope XM radio, another technology we now pay for, doesn’t forget this.
For entertainment, we played cards and board games or just socialized. If we went to the movies, we would go to the local theater and pay a couple of bucks. Today we have cineplexes to watch many different movies, usually computer generated, in Dolby “surround-sound” for about $10 per person. Renting movies isn’t too bad as there is some fierce competition out there. I’ll be curious to see what impact the downloading of movies will have on the price of a movie.
We also pay a lot for video games. The Xbox and Playstations range in price from $350 to $600 depending on the options you order, and this doesn’t include the games themselves which range from $30 to $60 each. For example, the much touted “Halo 3” sells for about $60.
Computer hardware prices have gone down, but interestingly, software has gone up, particularly the price of operating systems (which range from about $100 to $300) and office suites ($120 to $500); then you’ve got financial packages, graphics packages and anti-virus packages and other utilities, etc. It’s not cheap. In total, computer costs have actually gone up, not down.
Household cameras and film processing used to be pretty inexpensive too. Today we have digital cameras and camcorders which range in price from hundreds to thousands of dollars. I don’t think anyone remembers “Brownie” cameras, “Instamatics,” or Polaroids anymore.
One has to ask, as the price of technology goes up, has our quality of life gone up? I guess that’s debatable. I know driving has become infuriating as people actively chat on their cell phones as opposed to concentrating on the road. It also seems people like to “tune out” on their iPods or other devices as opposed to socializing. And I question the quality of our programming on television. All I can say is “Thank God for remote controls.” I can’t image a television set without one anymore.
If you were to add it up, you would probably find that technology has quadrupled the cost of living, and that’s probably a conservative estimate. Kind of scary isn’t it? Maybe the best thing I should do is simply not open those boxes of bills and just burn them instead.
Such is my Pet Peeve of the Week.
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Copyright © 2007 by Tim Bryce. All rights reserved.