I grew up in a time when long distance domestic phone calls from AT&T costed $0.20/minute off peak ($1.30 in today's dollars). I also grew up close to AT&T Bell Labs, a mecca that claimed more PhDs than any university many doing independent research. Now I get all the phone minutes I can use and Bell Labs is a tiny fraction of what it once was. Was it a good trade?
Technology has helped eliminate many of the economic inefficiencies. Usually for the better but sometimes these inefficiencies has good side effects. For another example take airlines--we can now so easily compare airlines on price so they often compete on price at the cost of service. Don't even get me started on newspapers.
Universities remain one of the institutions where technological change has not had the cost savings effect that we've seen in communication and transportation. That's one of the reasons that universities have become more expense. We can't keep raising tuition and being pushed to focus on eliminating inefficiencies, seeking new ways to deliver classes for example. Will the research university as we know it survive?