Look how far PCs have developed

David Albrecht provides some background on what the first generation of computers looked like in his expression of gratitude to the innovations of Commodore International’s founder.  See his post, Jack Tramiel 1928-2012.

The VIC-20 had 5K of RAM. Yes, 5K, not 6 megs, Not 1 meg. Not even 512K.  Try .005 meg of ram. (That Dell machine I linked to has 1,229 times more RAM than a VIC-20.)

You could buy a cartridge to add 3K or even 8K.  But there was only one slot.

The Commodore 64 was so named because the breakthrough was it had that much memory. Yes, a whopping 64K RAM. Yes, that’s .06 megs.

And that represented a mind-boggling improvement over the computer lab where you dropped off your project and picked up a printout of the results the next day.

Oh, that shoebox-sized thingie on the right side of the Commodore 64 in the photo? It’s the $600 hard drive (in 1980s dollars, not constant dollars) that could hold a 5½” floppy that could store a whopping 10K of data.  A DVD holds, oh, about 481 times more data.

We’ve come a long way as I ponder my first computers.  I recall those machines as I write this on one of my two work PCs, both with dual monitors, loaded with bunches of multi-tasking programs with oodles of RAM and more hard drive space than I could use and load the post on my off-site blog which in a few seconds from now can be read anywhere on the planet.

Shall we discuss cost?  I’ve not made any calculations, but which of the following do you think costs more in constant dollars, 2 items then or 7 items sitting in my office today:

  • 1980s:
  • C-64 and
  • disk drive


  • 2012:
  • laptop PC,
  • desktop PC,
  • 500gb external hard drive
  • 2 B&W printers,
  • 1 color printer, and
  • 1 scanner.

Progress from 20 or 30 years ago is astounding.

The best part?  You ain’t seen nothin’ yet!

2 thoughts on “Look how far PCs have developed”

  1. Jim,

    Please remember that with the VIC-20 and the C-64, the monitor was not bundled. That was a separate purchase. When we ditched the C-64, we used a VCR as the tuner, and plugged the Commodore monitor into it.

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