If you’ve found yourself complaining, or slightly perturbed when it comes
to your next computer purchase and or update, stop right now.
Have a kool-aid and think about when the cost of your device was on par
with your college tuition. Here’s a glimpse into the emptied wallet of a baby-boomer who
wanted to journey into personal computing.
The Programa 101 (1965)
At first glance it is nothing more than a typewriter and to some degree yes it was. This Programa could add, subtract, multiply and divide and if that wasn’t enough for its time, it could load and record programmed sequences.
NASA was one of the first to purchase this PC, which contributed Apollo 11 landing on the moon. Even though this computer was about the same size as that rocket ship, it was considered the most expensive PC of its time, and perhaps the only of its time at a $3,500 price tag. (Which would translate to a brand new Prius today at $24,000 in today’s money.)
IBM Portable Computer (1975)
The IBM 5100 Portable Computer was released as the world’s first mini-computer. However, there was nothing mini about this device that weighed nearly the same of an eight year old (55 lbs). This computer was targeted by scientist, and by scientists we mean ones with plenty of grant money. For only $19,997, or $88,000 in today’s money, you get a CPU with a circuit board processor and state-of-the-art integrated display in a self-contained machine. Or perhaps you’re looking to get a new home in the suburbs?
Cromemco System Three (1979)
In 1979 a pair of Standford grads founded this computer company that was designed to accommodate several terminals along with a printer. With top-end configuration running at 512KB of RAM and the added bonus 5MB external hard drive, the only early adopters that could read and understand the specs were NASA and the U.S. Air-Force. System Three was able to drive the original Unix-like OS – Cromix, in addition to Fortran IV and Z80 Basic.
What was the damage? $12,495. (Around $36,000 today.)
The Apple Lisa (1983)
Presenting the first personal computer with a mouse and a manual that the common folk could actually read and understand. Not just any lay person could buy her. Lisa listed at a top dollar $9,995 which would be nearly $24,000 today. With that investment you got a highly unreliable floppy drive, some RAM, and a nice 12” monochrome display. Today, however, you would be one of the cool kids who could say they hopped on the Steve Jobs train long before the masses. Worth it?
Osborne Vixen (1985)
One of the first computers that a person would actually carry, or actually could carry, was released in 1985. An attached keyboard that folded down from the from 7” display (nearly the size of your cell-phone screen today) and suite of word processing, spreadsheets, business graphics, heck even a riveting adventure game landed you about $2,800 in the hole. However today that would only be around $6,200… Or a used 2000 Honda Civic (coupe of course).
Apple Macintosh Portable (1989)
Apple’s first portable Mac was created to be smaller, faster, and stronger. Oddly enough, the battery life on this first rendition of the Macbook is about the same as some today averaging six hours. The hard drive boasted a 40MB and a unique monochrome display. Sure, it was built around a 16MHz Motorola CPU, but selling at the price $6,500 then and the $12,500 it would cost you today… can it be justified?
Risc PC (1994)
Just across the pond, known as the “British Apple” the U.K. computer company Acorn made a series of popular systems in the 80’s. In the early 90’s the Risc PC was compatible to IBM software with its dual processor and 420 MB hard drive. Let’s let the exchange rate buffer for a minute or two and realize that this would convert to around $3,000 USD. Adjust a bit more to the current rate today, you’re looking at $5,000.
Dell Dimension XPS T600 (1999)
The personal computer market clinched in the late 90’s and just a few years later almost everyone had a computer in their home or at the office. As the technology age began, prices started to even out making computers more affordable to the general public. Just 15 years ago before the millennium hit, the Dell Dimension XPS T600 sat at the top of the charts with its Pentium III-600 CPU, 128 MB of RAM, 20GB hard drive, and the 17” display.
You know exactly where you were when you found out your neighbors got one before you. That thing of beauty retailed at $2,300 ($3,400 today) and you couldn’t wait to put it on your wish list that year.
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