Microsoft open sources GWBASIC

Peter Corlett abuse at
Wed May 27 05:55:46 CDT 2020

On Tue, May 26, 2020 at 02:19:41PM -0700, Yeechang Lee via cctalk wrote:
> Longstanding tradition in the British computers market.

> "*New Scientist* stated in 1977 that 'the price of an American kit in dollars
> rapidly translates into the same figure in pounds sterling by the time it has
> reached the shores of Britain'."
> —<>

It's better now, though. Price differences can be explained by delivery costs,
import duties, and VAT/sales tax. And in the case of 1977, middlemen who
exploit the difficulty in importing stuff oneself.

The USA is some sort of gravity well when it comes to postage. It's cheap-ish
to send stuff to it, but unreasonably expensive to send stuff from there. So
for a product actually made in the USA, USPS, UPS, etc all conspire to ratchet
the price up. Now that this stuff is mostly made in China, postage is mostly
independent of destination.

(I observe a similar but smaller effect for stuff crossing the North Sea, which
is also where where Royal Mail and PostNL apparently like to dump parcels
rather than hand over to their opposite number for delivery.)

Other than that, there is currently no EU import duty on computers. Countries
set their own VAT rates, which is generally around 20%. One difference here is
that the USA quotes prices exclusive of sales tax, whereas consumer prices are
quoted inclusive of VAT. So that's an apparent ~20% difference in sticker price
even for something that costs the same either side of the pond. B2B prices in
the EU are quoted exclusive of VAT ("ex-VAT") and are thus more comparable
like-for-like with USA prices.

UK VAT was 8% back in 1977, except for "petrol and some luxury goods" which was
12.5%. It's possible that computers were considered luxury goods, but since the
main purchasers back then would be businesses who effectively do not pay VAT,
this is moot. Businesses and consumers alike would still have to pay import
duties, which I suspect would have ben quite formidable back then.

These days, the ex-VAT price of mass-produced tech goods and similar generic
non-perishables seem to be pretty much the same across the world.

For example Amazon ASIN B07FNK6QMT is €149.99 in Germany (inc 19% VAT; €126.04
ex-VAT), €152.51 in the Netherlands (inc 21% VAT; €126.04 ex-VAT again), and
£139.99 (=€156.61) in the UK (inc 20% VAT; €130.51 ex-VAT). The same product
with a different ASIN is $139.99 (=€126.94 before sales tax) from the USA.

Oddly enough, I tend to import this sort of thing from Germany. I'll pass on
that particular Brexit Bonus.

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