Friday, January 08, 2010

We Really Have Come a Long Way

An ad from 1977: $1495 for 64k of RAM.

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.

Note: Ads found at Vintage Ad Browser


jinksy said...

Good job humans work on a longer time scale! :)

Ginnie said... sound very knowledgeable about all this tech stuff. I just sit down, start to write and hope the machine won't cut off on me !

Rondell said...

You ever heard of some computer brand called Tobisha? My cousin trying to sell me one out the back of he truck but I wasn't sure? I know Toshiba, but I didn't know they was a rival company called Tobisha. Is they any count?

Bernie said...

Ahhh I remember well those times in the early 80's and my son and I playing pac man and golf....I have used a computer all these years and still don't know what I am doing unless I am using a program I've learned....I'll never catch up but then who can afford too, it's fun learning though and I think computer's will keep us in this state a very long time....Hugs

Mary said...


We didn't have a computer until 1997 and it cost about $1500...very expensive. The prices sure have changed.

Hubby bought an Atari after we were married in 1988. We still have it and it still works. We have a small assortment of games.

When we were in DC, there was an Atari on display in the Smithsonian of American History. The boys laughed because it was historical, yet their grandparents still have one.

The thing with computers is that they are pretty much obsolete the moment you walk out of the store.


Lorna said...

This post reminded me of how shocked I was at Macdonalds when the person in front of me got annoyed at having to wait two minutes for bacon on his cheeseburger.

Barry said...

I enjoyed that walk down memory lane. It sounds like you followed pretty much the same path I did, except that my first computer was a Sinclair with only 2k. It plugged into the tv monitor and had no storable memory. every time you used it you had to program it with Basic then you could play a stripped down version of space invaders or pacman.

Turn it off and you had to program it all over again.

Still we had a lot of fun with it.

Anonymous said...

Wow, time does march on and seems to leave some of us in the dust... I agree... can you imagine what our grand children will think about what we think is the latest and greatest stuff.. :) Have a great weekend and enjoy that hot computer! The Bach

Donna said...

Can you please tell me the difference between 64bit and a 32??? No one I ask seems to know...My newest desktop is a HP, 64bit...hughugs

Anonymous said...

Congrats on the new computer. It seems no matter how many times we upgrade ... the new one is always exciting. What an age we live in. :-)

Sandy said...

Ah,memories of those early days! And so glad they are just memories.

Diana said...

We've come a long way baby!
Love Di

DHV said...

My PC is 8 years old! But my notebook is only a couple of months old. I don't worry too much about being left behind on the tech stakes. But when I do upgrade I'm like a kid with a new toy!We started with a Sinclair and worked up from there.

Mary G said...

Wooooo - lovely bit of hardware you have just described.
My first machine was an Osborne clone with two floppy ports. It cost about $1300.00 in 1984, I think. If I used it during supper hour in the winter or in air conditioning season, the floppy that had the OS on it would be fried by power surges. I loved that machine with a passion.

You could do the same trail with cameras, with equally startling results, I suspect.

Lynn said...

I still have my PC jr., but I can't blog or do Facebook on it.