Once wildly expensive and inaccessible but to the very rich, computers today are one of the most ubiquitous technologies worldwide. Though many personal computers in the early 1970s were much cheaper, the most basic model of an HP 3000 sold for $95,000 in 1972, the equivalent of slightly over half a million in today’s dollars.
Today, a brand-new computer costs just a few hundred dollars and has capabilities that in 1972 were in the realm of science fiction.
The advent of the personal computer is one of the most important technological developments of the last century. In the early 1970s, the technology improved to the point that personal computers no longer needed to be the size of a car to function. Not all personal computers released in the early 1970s cost as much as the HP 3000. In fact, many became accessible to the public in both cost and size, offering consumers a product that could fit within a small room and a typical budget.
As the computer transitioned from a technical marvel to household staple, a number of landmark devices came on the market throughout the years that set the bar higher for the generation of PCs that would follow. These computers, which include 1977’s Apple II, 1980’s Commodore VIC-20, 1981’s IBM PC, were extremely popular at the time of their release. The Commodore 64, which was released in 1982, would eventually sell about 20 million units to become the best-selling personal computer of all time.
24/7 Wall St. identified the price of a specific computer representative of each year between 2016 and 1971 — the year the first personal computer was released.