1988 vs. 2008: A tech retrospective

Think the iPhone is pricey? The cool cell phone of 1988 cost $4382 in today's dollars. A 150MB hard drive? $8755. Take a trip with us down memory lane, and you'll never whine about the price of a gadget again.

Game Consoles

1988: Nintendo NES

Price: $200 ($351 adjusted for inflation)

CPU: 1.79-MHz 8-bit

RAM: 2KB

Game format: cartridge

2008: Sony PlayStation 3 40GB

Price: $399

CPU: 3.2-GHz cell

RAM: 256MB

Game format: optical- and hard-disk-based games with Internet connectivity

The Nintendo NES was a great value and the runaway-hit game console of its time, selling 60 million units worldwide. NES's flagship game title, Super Mario Brothers, holds the all-time video game sales record, and it lives on in the Nintendo Wii. Even in 2008 dollars, the NES costs less than the Sony PlayStation 3, though the PS3 doubles as a Blu-ray movie player.

There's no comparison in image quality, however. The NES was limited to 64 8-by-8 or 8-by-16 animated "sprites" on screen at one time, and just 48 colors with five gray levels; the PS3 provides realistic full-color, full-motion animation with its advanced Cell and video processors.

That said, people probably had just as much fun playing The Legend of Zelda back in 1988 as they do now playing Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare.

Undoubtedly another generation of consoles will follow this one, and it will offer even more-realistic imagery and more-precise control devices. Nevertheless, the biggest trends in gaming today are the growth of family content and the evolution of virtual worlds, as evidenced by the Wii and by Second Life.

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Becky Waring

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