1988 vs. 2008: A tech retrospective

Think the iPhone is pricey? The cool cell phone of 1988 cost $4382 in today's dollars. A 150MB hard drive? $8755. Take a trip with us down memory lane, and you'll never whine about the price of a gadget again.

Hard Drives

1988: 150MB Core HC150

Price: $4995 ($8755 adjusted for inflation)

Cost per MB: $33 ($58 adjusted)

Seek time: 17ms

Controller: ESDI ($495)

Data Transfer rate: 1.25 mbps

Heads/Disks: 9/5

Expected life: 50,000 hours

2008: 1TB Seagate Barracuda 7200.11

Price: $363

Cost per MB: $0.000363

Seek time: 9ms

Controller: SATA 3Gbps

Data Transfer rate: 300 mbps

Heads/Disks: 8/4

Expected life: 750,000 hours

Hey, want to buy a 1-terabyte hard drive for $58 million? We thought not. But based on per-megabyte prices in 1988, that's how much a 1TB drive would have cost in 2008 dollars.

By contrast, today's top-of-the-line 1TB Seagate Barracuda 7200.11 is one of the fastest drives around and dirt-cheap at just $363. Back in 1988, of course, we didn't have scads of 10-megapixel photos and high-definition video cluttering up our drives, much less entire music libraries. (You can fit about 2500 CDs on a 1TB drive in lossless format, and far more as compressed MP3 files.)

Hard drives perfectly exemplify the law that content expands to occupy available space. In the future, we'll probably continue to fill up every yottabyte and gibibyte that the storage gods bestow on us, even if we have to get a PhD in units of measure to comprehend the volume of space available to us.

But the true game-changer in storage is no longer capacity; it's size. Ever-tinier flash drives provide the data needed for powerful handheld devices, from cameras and smart phones to media players.

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Becky Waring

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