These are called "scary thoughts" not because they're intended to frighten, but because they document some of the easily-overlooked changes that have shaped modern life.
- A digital camera that takes photos good enough for a magazine cover costs less than dinner for two at a good restaurant.
- The Federal debt is equal to $1,800 for every second that has passed since the US declared independence in 1776.
- Web video is about as old today as movies with sound were when "Snow White" and "The Wizard of Oz" were first released
- Modern radial tires have only been widely used on American cars since the 1970s, saving millions of gallons of gas a year
- Forced-air central heating was only introduced as recently as 1935
- Someday, the Burj Khalifa will outlive its usefulness and have to be dismantled.
- Only 50% of American adults used the Internet in Y2K.
- Today's micro-SD card stores as much data as a full computer hard disk stored ten years ago.
- It took almost 40 years after its invention for the microwave to reach widespread adoption.
- Even if you only know how to plug in a floor lamp, you know more about alternating current than Thomas Jefferson ever did.
- No one had ever seen dedicated pay-TV programming on cable before the Nixon Administration.
- In 1995, the average US household still paid $21 a month in long-distance phone charges. Then the cell phone arrived.
- If Saturn really does close, it will have lasted less than half as long as Packer or Studebaker as an automaker
- Automobiles, airplanes, and television were all invented before anyone figured out how to make antihistamines.
- GPS has only been available for public use since 1993.
- Nobody ever heard the true sound of their own voice before 1877. Today, we get annoyed by voicemail.
- America's first oil well was built 150 years ago, which in turn was 150 years after the start of the Industrial Revolution.
- The porta-potty was invented around the same time as the nuclear bomb
- The first Moon landing is almost as distant in the past today as Lindbergh's crossing of the Atlantic was in 1969.
- Apple sold more iPhones in 2008 than the total number of refrigerators sold in all of the 1920s.
- The majority of American households didn't have air conditioning until the 1970s.
- American highways were rarely paved in concrete before World War II.
- In 1909, the leading cause of death in the United States was tuberculosis. Today, it kills fewer than 700 a year.
- Nobody knew CPR before 1960.
- If allergy medications recover just two weeks of lost productivity for 40 million Americans, that's 1.5 million person-years saved annually.
- Nobody thought to develop a measuring scale for tornado intensity until 1971. Average warning lead time today is 13 minutes.
- Too bad Leonardo da Vinci was born 550 years early for custom manufacturing. With CAD, he could've built most of his designs.
- Open-heart surgery is younger than many Baby Boomers, some of whom will live to have bio-engineered heart replacements.
- More people on the planet today would recognize a cell phone than a corded phone.
- Five years after WWII ended, Toyota was a major supplier to the US Army in the Korean War. What will we soon import from Iraq?
- The widespread use of weather radar started after President Obama was born. Now it's used to identify tornadoes before they happen.
- Some day, schoolkids will look for WhiteHouse.gov archives from the Reagan Administration and won't know why they don't exist.
- Scheduled transatlantic passenger flights have only been around for 70 years. No wonder we're baffled by pandemics.
- Henry Ford set the land speed record in 1904: 91 mph. Do you know anyone who drives a car that couldn't pass him today?
- We've only been disinfecting drinking water in the United States for about a century
- Gandhi's campaign for India's independence predated commercial TV west of the Mississippi. Would he have used Twitter, Facebook?
- Legend says Abe Lincoln went to great lengths to borrow and return books. Imagine if he'd lived to see Amazon.com and Netflix.
- In the last 65 years, we've gone from never having seen Earth from space to real-time satellite views of much of the planet.
- Anything my grandmother learned in college in 1925 is most likely accessible in under 60 seconds using Google on my PDA.
- Akira Kurosawa and Stanley Kubrick were born at least a generation too early to take advantage of digital video cameras.
- My new cell phone contained 5 pre-recorded songs, which exceeds the world's entire library of recorded music in Mozart's time.
- Thanks to freeways and automobiles, you can cover the entire Oregon Trail today in under 24 hours.
- I know more about nuclear physics than Benjamin Franklin ever did. You do, too.