With a disk drive, it was $400 in 1983 dollars. The floppy drive was priced the same as the computer in the summer of 1983: $200. In 1983, a candy bar was still about $0.25, and a typical magazine was $3. Paperback books cost a couple of bucks apiece. A decent new car was perhaps $10,000.
It was pretty much state-of-the-art in home computers, too. The Apple ][+ was more expandable, but the typical configuration for one of those was a CPU with 48k and one or two floppy drives...and it cost some $2,000 in that configuration. The IBM PC (model 5150) could address more memory, but it too was thousands of dollars. (And a hard drive was a mere $4,000 more! Get two!)
So when I think about the machine I use as my main computer--which cost $650 in 2007 dollars, when a decent new car started around $17,000--I realize that the prices of computers have not exactly kept pace with inflation.
...particularly when you start comparing processing power across the years. My old P3 can emulate a C-64 in real time--in fact the program needs to throttle itself to keep from running the C-64 programs too fast--and it was a mere 18 years newer than the C-64.
So a few years ago I saw, at Best Buy, an Acer something-or-other for $250 that would have stood Mom in good stead, and she considered buying it...and at $250 it was almost a "buy it and try it, and if it isn't good for you we can find another use for it" kind of purchase. We decided against buying the thing, which is just as well.
But the machine I'm building is approximately equivalent to that Acer, and so far I have $116 into it. Granted I'm using stuff I've got on hand to complete the build--a hard drive and an optical drive, keyboard mouse etc--but a 500 GB hard drive can be had for under $50 if you're not too picky about brand or speed.
So figure that if I had to buy the mouse, keyboard, hard drive, and optical drive, I could still have a complete CPU for around $200. (DVD-R drive, $20; hard drive, $50; keyboard and mouse, maybe another $30 at most.) Add a 19" LCD for $100 and you've got a complete system for about $300.
All these prices are shipped, too.
Understand, that's dirt cheap compared to what computers used to cost. $200 for a complete 21st century computer? Granted it's not a powerhouse, but it's more powerful than my P3 was and it will handle 90% of the things I use computers for.
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Apparently, over in India they're producing a tablet computer which will sell for about $70.
...if it's any good, they could bring it to the US and sell scads of them at that price. $70 is "impulse buy" territory for most employed people in the US. Or they could ramp the price up to $100 and still sell about 80% of the number they'd sell at $70, and make obscene profit on it to boot--because it's for damn sure they're not selling that thing in India at cost, not at the $70 price point. (There's a lower price for students which I expect is probably the actual cost of the thing.)
Tablet computers are not powerhouses, either; but--again--for 90% of the things people use computers for, you don't need a crapton of power. Word processing, e-mail, spreadsheets, surfing the web--all that works fine on a lower-power computer and you don't need an i7 processor to do it. A keyboard, yes; and a mouse would help. But otherwise?
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Just got an email informing me that the case has shipped. Oh, man, this is going to be a long weekend.