Monday, August 08, 2005

What 5,000 will get you

The first PC I bought was a Tandy 1000EX, single unit (keyboard and computer in one) with a CGA monitor, a big 256k of RAM (later upgraded to 640k) and two floppy disk drives. It cost me in the neighborhood of just over $2,000 as I recall and if you added in the upgrades - a 1200 baud modem, the memory, and a whopping 40 MB hard disk, it was probably $3,500 all told.

My second PC was a Gateway.  They had a brilliant marketing slogan back then.  “Out-standing in their field”.  It was a two page spread with a bunch of pictures of cows and computers.  I just had to buy from them.  It was a 386sx, with a whopping 80 MB hard drive, 1 meg of ram, both kinds of floppy disk drives (modem was extra).  It was touch and go – lots of problems with it (they used the motherboard of the day back then, hardware du jour, and just hoped it would all work).  Mine didn’t.  After many go arounds with tech support, I told them I wanted to send it back.  They said I had to pay for the shipping, but – alas for them, I discovered “no in fact I didn’t”.  I told them it would be on my front porch, come pick it up.  I actually got a call from Ted Waitt that afternoon (at least he said it was he – this was the late 80’s, Gateway was still pretty small).  He had someone come and get the machine and replaced it with a working machine, at no additional cost.  I was hooked.  (Good customer service grabs my attention, and they cost less than the other guys). 

It was about $4,500.  Going up in price.  My 3rd computer, a full blown 486 – about $5,000.  The best money could buy.  I bet it would seem exceedingly slow today, but back then, it was supremely fast.

Then I read this PC Magazine review tonight.  This is what $5,000 gets you today.  I was sure the hard drive capacity was wrong, a typo – but it was not, It has 1024 GB, yes, that is right, a desktop gaming machine with a terabyte of storage.  A terabyte.  Just keep saying that.  A terabyte.  They seriously skimped on the RAM though (just 1 GB?).  But the monitor — a 24 inch LCD.  The difference 15 years makes (I still seem to buy a computer per year though – I cannot remember them all anymore, should have taken pictures).

A terabyte. Wow.  As the review says “… with an obscene 1TB of hard drive space …”.  That’s my kind of obscenity.



Blogger shrek said....

hey, i started my programming writing a payroll system for a 360/20 with 4K of core memory. been a few changes since then.;-)

Mon Aug 08, 07:35:00 PM EDT  

Blogger scubajim said....

I have to say a 2nd Gig of RAm and a 2nd CPU would have been nice.

The first computer that I owned was a Radio Shack TRS 100 with 24K or RAM. For $124 you could get another 8K. Programs were loaded via a cassette tape player.

The first one I used was a PDP 8i. Played a lot of Lunar Lander on it. Ate up a lot of paper. Also ear plugs would have been nice. 32K time sharing for 5 with 300 baud modems. We were advanced with 0's and 1's.

Mon Aug 08, 07:40:00 PM EDT  

Blogger Thomas Kyte said....

2nd CPU would have been nice

they have a dual core option (machine as advertised was hyperthreaded)

as they pointed out -- games don't use >1 cpu (yet).

It would not be a database server, but - A TERABYTE. wow :)

Mon Aug 08, 07:50:00 PM EDT  

Blogger Robert Vollman said....

I remember our family getting a Mac in 1985. Then in 1993 my Dad bought me my own first computer. 486dx, 33 MHz, I'm guessing 32 MB RAM, 640 MB hard-drive. With the 15" monitor it was about 2500$ Canadian.

Now I can get a really decent desktop for about 800$.

24" LCD may be fine, but what about hooking it up to a projector and putting it on your wall? I'm still waiting for the monitor that doubles as your desk. 24" nothing - I want a 48" touchscreen.

Mon Aug 08, 08:39:00 PM EDT  

Anonymous Anonymous said....

The flash drives are advancing incredibly fast. Last year the 1 GB ones came out and now you can get an 8 GB one. 1 GB hard drives did not come out until what 1992? Now you can put that much in your pocket.

The size of hard drives doubled every year for about 4-5 years and now it has really slowed down. The 500 GB hard drives have been out for over a year with no advancement..., but that is still alot of storage.

Do you know what the most RAM you can possibly get in a PC? I have not seen anything over 8 GBs.


Mon Aug 08, 09:12:00 PM EDT  

Anonymous Anonymous said....

Forgot to add this. InPhase Technologies is working on 'holographic storage'. Their roadmap says they will have a 1.6 TB REMOVABLE storage device(about the size of a DVD) by 2010. This is the equivalent of 340 DVDs.

To put that into perspective you can put

-- every episode of star trek ever made
-- every star trek movie ever made
-- all the star wars movies
-- the Lord of the Rings extended edition

on one disk and have enough room left for the entire library of congress and probably 100,000 songs and then some...

Mon Aug 08, 09:18:00 PM EDT  

Blogger Connor McDonald said....

It would not be a database server...

I dunno...we recently had a large conversion exercise which was running like a dog on our very expensive (but now several years old) Solaris we dragged the whole lot down to a PC running Win2K with a single CPU, couple gigs of ram, and a couple of large IDE disks.

It ran about 4x faster! Now don't get me wrong - a concurrent user test would be an entirely different matter, but as a "churn through the data and get a result" task, the PC did a remarkably good job.


Mon Aug 08, 09:41:00 PM EDT  

Anonymous Michael Olin said....

$5,000 has always been my benchmark price for a PC. My first, an IBM PC AT had 1.5Mb of RAM (all but 640K on an expansion card), a 60Mb Priam Hard Disk (partitioned into 32Mb and 28Mb drives, since DOS couldn't deal with anything larger than 32Mb), a Princeton Graphics Systems 12" CGA monitor and an Okidata Microline dot-matrix printer. And I spent $5,000 on this setup so I could run Oracle V4.1.4.

My next $5,000 PC was a Northgate 33Mhz 386 with more memory and disk, then a Zeos 486 followed by a Dell Dimension with a 200Mhz Pentium Pro. Just about $5K for each.

Finally, I dropped below the $5,000 mark last fall with another Dell desktop with a 3.6Ghz Pentium 4, 2Gb of RAM and mirrored 400Gb hard drives. Along with the 17" flat screen monitor, CD and DVD burners, I also got a 26" Dell LCD TV and a new desktop machine for my in-laws. With tax and shipping, it still wasn't quite $5,000.

And to think what that Univac 1100 we used to program on at college cost...


Mon Aug 08, 09:51:00 PM EDT  

Anonymous Anonymous said....

For a gaming rig 1GB of memory is plenty.

Mon Aug 08, 11:46:00 PM EDT  

Blogger Noons said....

"It would not be a database server, but - A TERABYTE. wow :)"

Having started with the ubiquitous 20Mb disk on my first 286 and 80Mb on my Mac, I agree entirely: it's mind-blowing. Particularly when I used to run the entire Bureau of Statistics of a small country on six 30Mb drives and 12 6250bpi tapes!

But then again: now that I've gone "dry" in my photography, I'd have to say 1Tb is an absolute necessity. A few thousand colour slides scanned at full rez plus intermediate cleanup files and you blow the Tb easily!

Jim Gray from Microsoft research claims everyone needs a Petabyte disk drive or equivalent in capacity. Sufficient to store your entire life in video/photos plus whatever else you may be able to produce in 100 years. He reckons it's less than 10 years away.

I can't agree more. And I can't wait: need it now!

PS: can you imagine indexing all that? We need something better than indexes...

Tue Aug 09, 12:18:00 AM EDT  

Anonymous cspierings said....

as they pointed out -- games don't use >1 cpu (yet).

I'm sure I've run doom in SMP mode on my dual CPU machine.

Tue Aug 09, 01:14:00 AM EDT  

Anonymous Neelz said....

Dear Tom,

Recently found another website which describes about "Human Area Networking technology" that uses the surface of the human body as a safe, high speed network transmission path.

Exciting stuff indeed:)

Tue Aug 09, 02:41:00 AM EDT  

Blogger DaPi said....

shrek said....
hey, i started my programming writing a payroll system for a 360/20 with 4K of core memory.

So I'm not the only "grandpa" round here!

My first IBM was a 360/44 - nice thing was that you could debug using a printed core dump - try that with 1GB!

Tue Aug 09, 05:36:00 AM EDT  

Blogger Thomas Kyte said....

'holographic storage'.
I was reading about that last week -- here is 30gig the size of a credit card (put it in your wallet) coming out next year

so we dragged the whole lot down to a PC

agreed, my desktop can sometimes blow away the poweredge CPU wise, but beyond single user, it did not scale up. I guess my comment was about the fact that while it might have a terabyte, I doubt it is optimial for a "database", I doubt much thought went into raw IO optimization, it is just a lot of storage.

Tue Aug 09, 07:13:00 AM EDT  

Anonymous Anonymous said....

Don't forget that $5000 back in, say, 1984 is equivalent to about $9500 today when adjusted for inflation.

Tue Aug 09, 07:24:00 AM EDT  

Anonymous Anonymous said....

back in '83 my live in companion at the time and I chipped in $2500 each and purchased the Tandy 2000PC....state of the art at the was the first 386 chip
with a 25mg hard drive...exceptional graphics capabilities and high resolution monitor.

We had screen modes(1,2,3,4) that would display in varying pixels format.

It came with gw-basic and we had a blast programming video games and animated geometric patterns
(sine,cosine) in colors. Still have all those old gw-basic programs on floppy disks and the MS-DOS version 6.0.

I remember us squabbling over who would have the computer.

Tue Aug 09, 08:45:00 AM EDT  

Anonymous Anonymous said....

Dapi and Shrek

I got my start with my computer career working for a Service Bureau in NYC on the 360/20 IBM card system.

I still remember those old 026,028 keypunch machines chomping down on those card chads..some of those
keypunch gals could make those machines sound like machine guns...pity the poor computer operater(me)
who accidently dropped the cards or had the misfortune to load them into the stacker out of correct sequence.

are we old dinosaurs...nah!!...just valuable antiques.

Tue Aug 09, 09:20:00 AM EDT  

Anonymous Anonymous said....

"Don't forget that $5000 back in, say, 1984 is equivalent to about $9500 today when adjusted for inflation."

I would say computers lose value at a quicker rate than inflation, so using the same value ($5000) as a comparison over time is a fair estimate of bang for the buck.

Tue Aug 09, 09:28:00 AM EDT  

Blogger Joel Garry said....

My first paid work computer was an 11/34 with two washing machine sized 20M drives. It was light-years ahead of the 360/40 from school - it had VT-52 terminals!

My first home computer was a pdp-11/23 with RT-11 and two 8-inch floppy drives - $3000, 1983. I eventually traded the floppies and some db work for a winchester, memory and a hardware hack to turn it into an 11/23+ so it could address the memory and run RSTS/E.

(Bought my young nephew an Apple IIe then, he now programs flying radio telescopes).

Second was an Amiga 1000, 1985 $1600.

Third was a PC, $2000, 1990. Through various upgrades (driven by outside sources such as ISP or remote work requirements), I'm still using it. The largest and newest disk is slowly dying, so I'm going to buy a new computer soon.

I figure I've saved about $1200/year for 20 years by generally being cheap and not being bleeding edge. Of course, work usually provides modern equipment so I haven't missed much.

I've kept the wife and kid's computers to a $1000 each, but that has created some problems ("Packard Bell - what the world comes home to.") But at least I have a place for my stuff from the dying disk drive, which includes a copy of the original c drive...

Haven't gotten rid of a computer yet. Saved some stuff from dumpsters. Have a whole pile of operating systems. Not enough hours in the day.

Tue Aug 09, 09:47:00 AM EDT  

Anonymous Rob H said....

I just dropped half a terabyte drive into my existing computer, a friend asked "Why?", I had to reply "Cause I can.."

On another note, look at the new game consoles coming out. Loaded with hardware power. The PS3 has 3(!) PowerPC Chips running at 3.2 ghz.....

"Because they can........"

Tue Aug 09, 10:19:00 AM EDT  

Blogger Jeff Hunter said....

My first was an Apple ][e way back in 1982-1983. I don't even remember how much it was, but remember I mowed lawns for a long time before I got it.

1TB of storage
Eh, big deal, two 500G drives in a RAID 0. Give me 12 spindles and two 0+1 filesystems and then we're talking nice disk!

Tue Aug 09, 11:07:00 AM EDT  

Anonymous John Spencer said....

My first PC was an 8088 with dual 360K floppies, 1M RAM, didn't get a hard drive until much later.

I still have an old (1981 or 82) PC Magazine at home with a huge cover splash heralding the brand new "Blazing Fast 12 Mhz 286".

Tue Aug 09, 01:17:00 PM EDT  

Blogger Noons said....

Amazing. Cut my teeth in programming with Neat/3, Fortran and an NCR Century 200. Followed shortly by a 360/44 at uni and a Univac9400 at the Bureau of Stats. And a long string of Univac systems after that.

Tue Aug 09, 08:20:00 PM EDT  

Anonymous Bob Bunch said....

On the subject of antiques, gotta wonder how well Oracle would run on one of these beasts? ;)

The first computer I had to work with in the Navy (~1985) was one of these buggers. What was hysterical was the replacement "cards" (credit card sized boards filled w/ big 'ol transistors) -- new ones were dated 1965, when I was born! (*yowza*)

It was fun, rebooting it by poking a slew of big 'ol buttons, flipping some switches, then more buttons......... :)

Tue Aug 09, 09:02:00 PM EDT  

Anonymous Mark said....

I can't believe no one mentioned the Vic 20, or Commodore 64. I also upgraded and had the tape drive to store the programs on instead of the 5.25 floppy.
She was a screamer!!! Used to stay up all night typing in peeks and pokes to do screen graphics for games.
Hard drive - who needs it. I've got a tape. If you play it backwards you can hear voices :)


Wed Aug 10, 10:03:00 PM EDT  

Anonymous Jeni Russell said....

My husband recently talked me into a nifty little 250Gb Buffalo Linkstation NAS on sale so we could share photo archives, music library, backups, etc. over the home wi-fi, plus it doubles as a print server. As geeks go, I'm a cheapskate and he knows it, but once he had my ok, he had to try for the upsell: a 1Tb NAS that you could RAID anyway you want, for just under a grand. I said "pass" (cheap, remember?) But I got thinking later: "that's less than $1 per Gb! OMG!" And that's when I remembered the first 1.6Gb hard drive I installed, in my dad's computer. I think it was somewhere around $300-$400. You can't tell me inflation is that bad!

Thu Aug 11, 01:29:00 AM EDT  

Anonymous Anonymous said....

My first machine, the ubiquitous TRS-80 Model 1... $799 with B&W Monitor (a TV without the RF section), an external storage unit (okay, it was a cassette player), and an incredible 4K of memory...

Compare that to the 4 machines I have now that are all 2GB of RAM, 1.5 to 2.5TB of disk (using RAID-5 yet) and 3.2Ghz processors, and I'd have to agree that things have changed. (let us not forget the 2 Sun boxes I play with Oracle on)

I had an Amiga 2000 in the mid 80s and I'll never forget paying $400 for a 40MB scsi drive. Of course, the Amiga came out before there were more than 16 colors on the average PC and had stereo sound, all built in.

Thu Aug 11, 03:14:00 PM EDT  


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