I wrote my first computer programs in HP-Basic on a HP-85 desktop computer. The year was 1980 and we stored our programs on special "high-speed" cassette tapes. I remember proposing to buy a "Winchester-Drive" for our lab, but our management refused to approve the purchase because of its ridiculously high price tag. Does anybody remember how much the price of a Hard-Drive was in those days? And what storage-capacity we were dealing with?


1 Answer 1


The July 1983 HP-85 price list includes the following stand-alone Winchester drives:

  • 9134A (just under 5MB) for $3,500
  • 9134B (9.6MB) for $4,360

These were also available as combination drives with 3.5” or 5.25” “flexible” drives.

As Raffzahn points out, for comparison, the price for the HP-85A computer is given as $2,750, and the B model was $2,995, so a single hard drive cost significantly more than the computer it would end up attached to (and there were cheaper Series 80 models). $3,500 in 1983 is equivalent to $9,600 today (see this inflation calculator).

(All prices are given in US dollars.)

See also ST-506 price: wholesale or retail? and How much did the first hard drives for PCs cost?

  • 9
    To add some reference, 3.5k (which was not overly expensive) is not only past 10k of today's money, but also more than the machine itself did cost (2..3k). I always get lost when trying to understand how far we have come. The price of several Gig of ultra fast solid state 'drives' is more driven by packaging and shipping cost than the device itself. There is not even a remote way to explain that in a relatable way to young folks. To me that's about the worst point when doing tours.
    – Raffzahn
    Sep 6, 2021 at 12:37
  • 1
    Indeed, and then you get to supercomputers... Sep 6, 2021 at 12:45
  • 2
    Oh yes. But there at least the basic explanation about the value of being able to automate some operation at all, vs. not being able is something the students do understand. Most still remember the value of a simple calculator vs. having to do a triangle by hand :)) With super computers I do use a scale of tasks to show improvement between generations - which in addition nicely starts out in very relatable improvements (like the curvature of a wing) and slowly turning into less and less every day related needs. I wish the same could work for storage.
    – Raffzahn
    Sep 6, 2021 at 13:01
  • 1
    @CEOtech4lifeapps the drives only show up in HP’s catalogs in 1983. There might have been 85A-compatible drives available elsewhere in 1980, but I don’t know how much they would have cost — bear in mind that a ST-506 on its own cost $1,500 in late 1980. Sep 6, 2021 at 15:13
  • 1
    @CEOtech4lifeapps These were the very first drives in reach for micros at all. Think how expensive the first reasonable sized SSDs were.
    – Raffzahn
    Sep 6, 2021 at 16:36

You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .