Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Second Story About New Technology

One of the grand old men of economics was a professor at South Carolina. One day we were talking in the break room. Some journals were lying around. The professor said, "At one time, I owned all of the first volumes of the American Economic Review and those others there."

I asked what he did with them. He said he sold them a long time ago. I said, "It is too bad you do not still have them. They would probably be worth a fortune today."

He said, "No. They're not worth much at all anymore."

I was confused. "Why?"

He said, "Xerox copiers."

I had never imagined what the world was like before copiers. If you wanted an article from a journal that you did not own, you had to get it from the library. Or perhaps you could travel to another library if your library did not have it And at the library you would have to read and make notes there, since one cannot usually check out a journal. If you went back to your office and wondered about an aspect of the article that you had not noted . . .

The past was so inconvenient.

At the time that I had this conversation, one could not sit at one's desk and, within seconds, access electronic copies of all these materials. Companies who make furniture such as filing cabinets must be suffering.

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