From the 80's: a PC Jr with 128k for ~$1300.
My first machine, an Atari 800 with 48k of RAM, was purchased in the early 80's. It came with a cassette drive, and my monitor was an old TV. I remember that it took the cassette player 4 minutes to load a 16k game like Pac Man or Donkey Kong but I thought it was quite wonderful. Eventually, I was able to upgrade from the cassette by purchasing a single-sided, floppy disk drive for somewhere in the neighbourhood of $400 - $500 (the prices had come down to that). The great thing about that disk drive was that it included a printer port, which otherwise would have cost an additional $100 or so. I used that machine to learn how to word process and to work with spread sheets and used both in my teaching. Although we soon changed to photo copiers, schools were still using those old ditto machines back then, and I would run the masters through my trusty nine pin, dot matrix printer, which was also very expensive, and my days of writing my teaching aids by hand were history.
I think my first MS-DOS machine (before Windows 3.1, which I later installed on it) had 4 megs of RAM and a hard drive of 100 megs and cost around $2000, probably in the early nineties. In retrospect, one of the funniest things, in a way, that I ever heard was said in our staff room several months after that purchase. A teacher had bought an even newer and more powerful machine and declared that he would never have to buy another computer. Apparently, he was quite wrong, and I didn't need to feel jealous. I pretty well knew how wrong he was at the time, but I confess to still feeling slight pangs of envy.
The several computers that came after that one also cost in the neighbourhood of $2000. By comparison, my newest baby is a 64 bit machine with quad core processor, 8 gigs of RAM, a terabyte HD, a 22" monitor and costs a fair bit less than two grand. Unfortunately, in four years time, it too will be a clunker.
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