Special Report

The Cost of a Computer the Year You Were Born

Kenbak 1, 1971
Source: Wikimedia Commons

1971
>Notable computer:
Kenbak I
>Price tag: $750
>Inflation adjusted price: $4,410

Deemed to be the first personal computer by the Boston Computer Museum, the Kenbak I looks nothing like modern computers. The Kenback I was designed as an educational machine to teach students how to write programs.

1972
>Notable computer:
HP 3000
>Price tag: $95,000
>Inflation adjusted price: $541,209

Hewlett-Packard’s 3000 was the company’s first foray into smaller business computers. The original 3000 was generally considered a failure, but the company would go on to make 20 different versions of the 3000 through 1993.

Wang 2200, 1973
Source: Wikimedia Commons

1973
>Notable computer:
Wang 2200
>Price tag: $3,500
>Inflation adjusted price: $18,772

With the introduction of the Wang 2200, Wang Laboratories successfully transitioned from calculator manufacturer to computer company.

Xerox Alto, 1974
Source: Wikimedia Commons

1974
>Notable computer:
Scelbi-8H
>Price tag: $440
>Inflation adjusted price: $2,116

The Scelbi was initially advertised in the back of an amateur radio magazine in 1974. The product would only sell about 200 units and was discontinued before the end of the decade.

IBM 5100 portable computer, 1975
Source: Wikimedia Commons

1975
>Notable computer:
IBM 5100 Portable Computer
>Price tag: $8,975
>Inflation adjusted price: $39,555

At about 50 pounds, IBM’s 5100 Portable Computer was hardly portable by today’s standards. A decade earlier, a computer with the same processing capacity would weigh about half a ton.