We couldn’t think of a good pun for the title.
Thanks to the utterly magnificent work of someone calling themselves Trippyglitters, Flickr now plays host to not one, not two, not four, but THREE complete Argos catalogues from the past. One from 1976, one from 1985 and one from 1986. This, as any reasonably rational person will understand, is absolutely fantastic news.
So, what are the items therein which seem comically aged from a modern-day point of view? And how much did they actually cost, both at the time, and when accounting for inflation? WE SHALL INVESTIGATE. And hopefully squeeze some mileage out of the zany concept that things from the past are different to things from now. Don’t think anyone has ever thought about exploiting that potential comedic goldmine, have they? They have? Well, we’re going to do it anyway.
First up, to 1976, and that astonishing technological innovation, a digital watch.
Note that these are LCD watches, not the cheaper (at the time) red LED watches as invented by Not-Yet-Sir Clive Sinclair. Going from the picture, you could save a whopping yet strangely precise sum of £52.05 on these…
Now, consider that these don’t even have a stopwatch, or calculator, or alarm, or anything like that. They’re pretty much the exact same watches you could reasonably have expected to pick up for three quid at a market stall in the 1980s. So, it’s a bit of a shock that they ‘clocked’ in (Reader’s voice: “That joke doesn’t work, it’s a watch not a clock, you dolts”) at £53.95 and £59.95 respectively. That’s down from a pretty hefty RRP of £105 and £112.
But adjusting for inflation (based on an average of 5.2% per year, as per the Bank Of England website), those prices equate to a whopping £289.76 and £321.96 respectively. For a pair of watches that don’t even tell you which day of the week it is. Really, our digital watch even has a button which brings up an unfunny piece of lifestyle advice at random, and it only cost us a third of that.
Another technological marvel at the time was the pocket calculator, and if you wanted to be especially fancy during double maths, you’d probably have wanted to have the Sharp EL8010 Elsimate Liquid Crystal Calculator, which boasts: ALGERBRAIC LOGIC! EIGHT DIGITS! A ‘CONSTANT FACILITY’! A ‘%’ KEY! amongst the features listed in the catalogue. It looks pretty nice too, even by modern standards:
See how there’s even a carry case thrown in? Hey, if you’re going to be amusing yourself by keying in 5318008 and turning it upside down, you may as well do it in style. Style that would cost you… how much?
A shilling under a score. But hey, that’s a saving of a Lady Godiva (fiver) off the retail, so can’t say fairer than that, do wot, turn it aaaht, etc etc we’re so sorry. Came over all Arthur Daley for a moment there. So, that’s just £19.95, but how much would that be in today’s currency? £107.32. And, of course, you wouldn’t be able to rely on solar power to keep the thing ticking over, though it did come with a plug. Yep, a pocket calculator you could plug in.
“Mummy! I want an electric toothbrush that needs to be mains operated! Can I?”
But anyway! Maths and stuff? That’s just for whatever people in 1976 would have called geeks! ‘Swots’, probably. Driving around whilst listing to modern pop music, that’s much cooler. If you’re going to be doing that, you’re going to need a radio in your second hand Hillman Imp – or better yet, a stereo cassette deck. And if you’re going to be getting one, it’s a safe bet to buy one manufactured by that well-known producer of car audio… erm, ‘Motorola’.
Bleeds coolness from every square millimetre of its plastic with faux-black-leather trim, doesn’t it? Better yet, it boasts Long Wave AND Medium Wave radio, offers tone AND balance controls, and up to twelve whole watts of power pumping through the included door mounting speakers. Oh, and a rewind button, but not a fast-forward button or auto-reverse button. So, you’ll have to keep ejecting, rewinding the other side of the tape, then flipping it over again to see if you’ve successfully skipped past the annoying seven minute long album filler that the bassist wrote. But still, what a bargain at…
A mere £72.95. Or, in modern-day-dough, £391.71. Erm, that’s almost forty times the amount of money we sold our last car for. And that car had £25 of petrol still in it at the time. Sad, but true.
“Look mummy! There’s a thing Stuart Maconie will talk about on television in thirty years!”
Still, who needs to go out to listen to music? You can bop along to, oh we don’t know, the Bay City Whatevers from the comfort of your own brown and beige three piece suite, with one of these super music centres. And why bother with one you’ll have to put on a sideboard or something? Getting one that comes complete with a stand – admittedly one that you’ll need to crouch on the floor to play anything on – is a must. Decca to the rescue.
Swish, eh? The Decca ‘Compact 4” Home Entertainment Unit comes complete with two 23 watt speakers, a radio capable of picking up a VHF signal – with stereo decoder, a multi-speed record deck, one cassette deck, and best of all, twin VU meters. Thrilingly, the cassette deck is recordable, which means the cash you’re spending on this could be saved by simply killing music (i.e. home taping). Just how much would you be paying and by extension stealing from the needy phonographic industry?
Well, it’s down from £255, but still, £195 is a not inconsiderable sum. You’ll need to tape quite a few hit parades from Funtastic Radio One before you save enough pennies to recoup that, especially when you consider that after inflation, that equates to a 2010 price of £1046.37.
Yes, £1046.37! Think of the number of Pifco 3002 Hoverdryers you could buy for that!
(Specifically, 21.787709 Pifco 3002 Hoverdryers.)
NEXT TIME, OR MAYBE A FEW TIMES AFTER THAT: THE 1980S