Fun with numbers, from 6G connectivity to "Gee, the Galaxy F


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Around Ars, we're journalists—not mathematicians. We only occasionally focus on the hardcore arithmetic when Emmy Noether anniversaries or new shapes come up. But everyday digits and metrics are quite frankly journalism's secret sauce.

For instance, you can say LEGO bricks are durable, but if you can quantify that it takes 30,000+ impressions to dull them, that becomes an eye-popping bit of information. We all know old computers pale in comparison to what we have in our pockets today, but putting the Macintosh IIsi's 20Mhz of power up front really provides perspective. Maybe folks would be interested in our opinions on the all-time must-see sci-fi film canon, but everyone definitely is curious about why we set that number at 42 films.

So for this week's Orbital Transmission, we're focusing on a journalist's best friend: numbers. A few have recently come across our desks and really stood out. So before we in 2019 miss out on another singular leap second—the beloved 23:59:60, which comes between 23:59:59 and 00:00:00—we'll share some figures that have stayed with us this February.

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Orbital Transmission 02.27.2019
More like Super Mario Bro$

$100,150, or how much this Super Mario Bros. costs

"It took somebody doing something that made no sense for this copy [of Super Mario Bros.] to survive. A grown man buying video games and putting them on the shelf without playing them, that just didn't happen back then." That's what the anonymous video game collector Bronty told Ars after he sold a sealed, NES test market edition of Super Mario Bros. for a cool $100k this month. It's the most expensive video game collectible to date, though perhaps it's a sign of things to come. The players of early video games are now aged well into full employment age, the cultural cache of the medium is fully mature, and the historic value of artifacts like this will only increase as gaming continues to grow. Here's how video game's Action Comics No. 1 was discovered, preserved, and sold—plus how it may well become the first $1M video game collectible. 

The Galaxy Fold

$1,980, or the foldable future (?) price of smartphones

Maybe it's not exactly like those tablets on Westworld, but Samsung recently unveiled its flexible smartphone, The Galaxy Fold. The future of phablets (as in, it's a phone that literally expands into a tablet via a hinge) is certainly interesting with its two OLED displays: a 4.6-inch, 21:9, 1960x840-resolution panel that serves as a more traditional smartphone display, and a foldable 7.3-inch, 4.2:3, 2152x1536-resolution panel that behaves more like a tablet. But impressive specs do not make a success, and it'll be hard to ignore the initial starting price—$1,980—when this launches in late April.

5G (not 6G) is "here")

6, the amount of Gs the president demands (because it's obviously better)

Putting our Nigel Tufnel jokes aside, US President Donald Trump last week urged wireless carriers to deploy 5G and "6G" networks "as soon as possible." The only problem? That sentiment seemingly ignores the fact that 6G technology doesn't exist yet. As Ars' Ron Amadeo has extensively pointed out, even 5G is currently nothing more than the marketing term du jour—5G hardware in 2019 is going to be a decidedly first-generation affair. Early adopters for 5G will have to accept all manner of tradeoffs. And when there might not even be 5G reception in your area, it might be better (for consumers at least) to just wait the whole thing out for a year or two.

Money, down the drain

$4,302.17, or how much it costs to cancel unreliable Internet in WI

Candace Lestina runs the Pardeeville Area Shopper, a weekly newspaper in rural Wisconsin. She has a business plan from Frontier, but told her local news station it's often unusable. "I would have times where I need to send my paper—I have very strict deadlines with my printer—and my Internet's out." Lestina thus decided she'd cancel, deal with the cancellation fee, and switch providers... but that fee ended up being $4,302.17. Lestina reportedly hasn't gotten any traction with Frontier and now the Wisconsin's Bureau of Consumer Protection is looking into the matter.

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