The History of Business Technology Prices

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Direct Capital takes a trip back in time to see how technology and their prices have changed. Small businesses today rely on technology to help grow and succeed.

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Automate an office, 1970s

As computer technology made its way from cold rooms and into work rooms in significant numbers in the 1970s, office automation was for big companies with big budgets. Small businesses made do with pens, pencils, papers, typewriters, and those old mimeograph machines that used stencils and duplication fluid. These price tags will show you why:


  • Wang word processor, $4,000 in 1973, $20,694 adjusted for inflation


  • Sharp EL-8 Calculator, $395, $1,687 adjusted for inflation


  • Xerox 914 Photocopy Machine, $29,500 in 1959, $152,622 adjusted for inflation


Automate an office today

Even when prices are calculated in 1977 dollars, today’s business technology is a steal compared to what was available at the beginning of the office tech era. Businesses also need fewer devices because so many functions have been rolled together. Desktop calculators? Separate copiers, printers and faxes? Please!


  • Microsoft Surface Pro tablet, 2014, $899, $337 indexed for inflation back to 1977


  • MacBook Air 13’, $999, $263 indexed for inflation back to 1977


  • Xerox WorkCentre 3210 copier, scanner, fax machine and printer $219|pcrid|41836150682|pkw|workcentre|pmt|p|


Mobile phones, history is calling

Cell phones are another example of how business technology has outpaced inflation. The original cell phones were so expensive that even most large businesses didn’t bother with them, seeing them as more of a novelty than a serious business tool. Now they’re indispensable for voice, email and remote management. Technological advancements have brought prices down dramatically – even if you’re buying at full retail without contract.


Now Then
DynaTAC cell phone, 19841 $8,822 $3,995
Motorola Star TAC flip phone, 19962 $1,000
Apple iPhone (original), 20073 $558 $499
Samsung Galaxy S5 smartphone , 20144 $660 $232






Time marches on, prices don’t

After the UNIVAC became the first commercially available computer at a hefty $1 million in 1951, computer technology prices steadily came down to the point today where small businesses can afford to computerize everything from the register to inventory to bookkeeping and payroll. But they also have to keep pace. According to a Microsoft survey, 91 percent of small business customers will walk away if they think small businesses are using outdated technology that puts their privacy and information security at risk.





More memory for less money

What helped make office technology cheaper and more accessible to small businesses? The steadily declining price of Random access memory (RAM), an essential building block for computers, tablets and smart phones. It can be in so many products because the price has dropped so sharply since 1980.


Average cost of RAM per gigabyte

2013 $5.5
2010 $12.37
2005 $189
2000 $1,107
1995 $30,875
1990 $103,880
1985 $859,375
1980 $6,328,125