How much did it cost in 1980 to buy a tape drive capable of backing up 5 megabytes of data? Both for the drive itself and per tape?

(If that exact data is unavailable, I'd be interested in something close, e.g. prices from a couple of years earlier, or storage within an order of magnitude of 5 megabytes.)

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    Well, it could be as cheap as a cassette deck attached to a personal computer of the time and as many cassettes as needed to hold 5 megabytes of data. – Ross Ridge Apr 30 '17 at 15:46
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    Your 5Mb storage requirement is rather small for the 1980s. In 1972, 3M was already marketing 20Mb quarter-inch tape cartridges. By 1984, the IBM 3480 had 200Mb capacity. – alephzero May 1 '17 at 3:18
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    This page hpmuseum.net/display_item.php?hw=258 gives the cost of a 133Mb tape system in 1988 as $3980. Maybe not close enough to "5Mb in 1980" to answer the OP's question, though. – alephzero May 1 '17 at 3:23
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    Details of several other HP tape products on the links from hpmuseum.net/exhibit.php?class=4&cat=85 – alephzero May 1 '17 at 3:30
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    @alephzero I don't think the first 3M QIC tape format was anywhere near 20Mb. The QIC-11 20MB format is a 4 track format, and the first QIC drives were single track. According to Wikipedia "The original product, the DC300, has 300 feet of tape and holds 200 kilobytes". en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Quarter-inch_cartridge – Ross Ridge May 1 '17 at 4:11

How much did it cost in 1980 to buy a tape drive capable of backing up 5 megabytes of data? Both for the drive itself and per tape?

The biggest issue here might be that in 1980 most users didn't have hard drives. Mind you, Tandy was at that time selling the Model II withoug hard disk, but 1-4 floppies as professional system. Even the lowest cost hard disk setup in 1980 was still way past 3000 USD, with the drive alone being way past 2000 USD - a well fited S100 system including a floppy would cost less.

A Corvus S100 HD subsystem would be close to 5000 USD - which isinteresting here, as Corvus already offered a tape backup solution in1980, the Mirror Backup System, which could use a standard VCR to backup the harddrive. Several full backups could be made onto a single standard tape. This added another 800 USD for the option plus ~1000 USD for a VCR. Compared with a professional QIC backup system a real bargain.

So if one had already bought a Corvus disk system, adding backup would be somewhat less than 2,000 USD. Tape cost was that of a simple VCR cassette, less than 10 USD.

  • It may well be because I was on Betamax, but my memory suggests that video cassettes cost somewhat more than USD $10 (= GBP £4.70 or more depending on precisely when you changed the currency) in 1980. – Jules Aug 8 '18 at 20:03

Your question implies "proper" tape storage, which would have been prohibitive for most computer users back then. Other answers give plausible price estimates for dedicated data tape products.

However, back then, the home computers that us peasants could actually afford often had only audio cassette tape as their storage medium. At a typical 1200 baud, 5MB is around 12 hours of tape, so a dozen or so C60s would suffice. Actually attempting to perform such a backup would be an exercise in boredom and frustration though. In practice, one would (or at least should) just save twice to two different tapes when creating the data in the first place.

I recall that tape recorders were a few tens of pounds and tapes about a pound each. These prices would vary wildly depending on quality. You perhaps don't want to do anything business critical with those 5 for £2 tapes.

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