Koss introduced these headphones over 40 years ago, and they remain affordable favorites to this day.

Moore's Law and Affordable Computing

The Intel 4004. Two and a half thousand transistors of fun.

You've probably heard of Moore's Law. It's the notion that the number of transistors in dense integrated circuits will double every two years. When Intel co-founder Gordon Moore threw out the idea in 1965, he had no inkling that his observation would hold true for the next 50 years. In 1971, the Intel 4004 microprocessor contained about 2,300 transistors. In 1990, the Intel 80486 processor offered a staggering 1,000,000 transistors, and a modern 6-core Intel i7 processor crams several billion transistors onto a single die. 

A late model Commodore PET.

Analysts have highlighted the amazing rise in desktop computing power for decades, but many have missed the point -- it's not neccessarily about creating faster, more powerful machines. When I first started playing with computers in the early 1980s, they were cumbersome and expensive. My father gravely pointed out that we couldn't afford a $1000 home computer (the equivalent of $2,600 in 2014 dollars), but he was willing to rent me an old Commodore PET from the local microcomputer emporium for a month. In 1981, computer ownership was out of the question for all but the most die-hard fanatics. 

A surprisingly decent $150 computer.

Fast-forward 34 years and it's possible to purchase a name brand Windows 8 notebook computer for only $150. While it won't set any performance records, it's an ideal lightweight travel companion (which is why I recently bought one) or a decent starter machine for someone on a Mac & Cheese budget. In 1981 dollars, that computer would have cost a mere $58 -- about the same price as a couple of Atari 2600 video game cartridges. 

While bleeding-edge computing power still costs thousands, the industry has progressed to the point where a $150 notebook (or even a $59 smartphone) can fulfill the computing needs of many. And things are only going to get cheaper; the $100 laptop that was once the holy grail in third world educational circles will soon be something that anyone can pick up from a local big box retailer.

The recent availability of decent "good enough" computers is important for the millions of people here in the developed world who still don't own a computer or have access to the Internet. It's a good thing for parents who want their kids to have phones but don't want to spend hundreds of dollars on a gleaming new iPhone. It's a good thing for seniors who rely on the Internet to stay in touch with family and friends.

Information is power, and access to information has never been easier or cheaper.

Boutique Swiss Made Calculators

DM-16 calculator

I'm a huge fan of classic H-P calculators, especially the HP-16C -- their first and only programmer's calculator. It has become a much sought-after collector's item, which ensures that good examples sell for insane amounts on eBay. That's not so great for those of us who actually want a real, honest-to-goodness programmer's calculator on our desks. 

Every calculator should have a leather coat...

Enter DM Swiss Made Calculators. These clever little Swiss devices are miniature emulations of vintage Hewlett-Packard calculators, including the HP-11C (Advanced Scientific Programmable), HP-12C (Business Calculator), HP-15C (Scientific with Matrix & Complex Math) and HP-16C ("Computer Scientist" model). Each model costs 89 Swiss Francs (about $95) and is available in untreated, brown and blue titanium. They run on a single CR2032 battery which should last for years in normal use, and it's possible to update the firmware using a serial connection. 

Apart from that... they're calculators. They're really small. They fit in cool leather pouches, too. 

Visit DM Swiss Made Calculators for more info

Earliest Known Official Batmobile For Sale

I'm considering this as my daily driver.

Robin Lee writes, "A heavily-customised Oldsmobile said to be the first officially-licenced Batmobile will go to auction later in December. Created in 1963, three years before the infamously camp Batman TV show hit the airwaves, DC Comics allowed a US chap named Forrest Robinson to build a Batmobile."

I love the swooping look of this prehistoric Batmobile and I'm somewhat sad it didn't have the opportunity to star in its own series. Preferably in black & white. With gangsters. The minimum bid price is $112,500, but the auction house is expecting the final price to be significantly higher. 

Holy fish fins, Batman!

From Heritage Auctions: "What is believed to be the world's first car that became an officially licensed Batmobile was conceived and customized starting in 1960 by 23-year-old Forrest Robinson. After finishing the design, Robinson and a young friend, Len Perham, begun building the car in the Robinson family barn. Robinson completed the car in 1963-two years before the George Barris customization of the TV Batmobile was started. The '63 Batmobile is the earliest known car in existence that was sanctioned by a DC Comics licensee.

Although many people associate the Batmobile with the cars seen in recent Batman movies or the late-60s Batman TV show, Robinson's earlier car is instantly recognizable as 'more authentic' by comic book lovers. It has features seen in DC's Batman Comics from the 1940s and '50s, including the prominent front-end bat-nose and rear-end single fin.

The '63 Batmobile was custom-built from the ground up. Starting with a 1956 Oldsmobile 88 frame and the famous 324 Rocket engine -- a predecessor of 1960s muscle cars -- Robinson replaced the Oldsmobile body with his custom-designed body, measuring 17 feet by 83 inches, sporting the Batmobile's iconic dorsal fin, bat-nose front end and pocket sliding doors." 

Earliest Known Official Batmobile Goes On Sale [register.co.uk]

The Last Revox Repairman in Brazil

The Revox Man from Baucia on Vimeo.

Alfredo Luiz Baucia writes, "I think you would like to know about the last Revox specialist still working in Brazil, Getulio Cinquetti."

Indeed, we would. Alfredo took the time to capture a typical working day for Mr Cinquetti on video. The result is a nod to the past and a reminder that in a few short years none of the original Revox technicians from the 1960s and 1970s will be around. Sadly, few want to learn their craft and there's a real risk that decades of technical knowledge will vanish moments after the last puff of solder smoke from the old workbenches. 

Click here for more ...