[ Retro Scan of the Week ] The $99 Floppy Drive

August 24th, 2009 by Benj Edwards

Floppy Disk Drive Ad - 1990“Read/Write 720K Disks Too”

Nothing illustrates the frenetic pace of technological change like past/present price comparisons. As seen in this group ad by JDR Microdevices, a 1.44MB 3.5″ floppy disk drive sold for US $99.95 in 1990 ($164.69 in 2009 dollars). But that’s just for the generic model — for a name brand Misubishi, you had to pay $129.95 ($214.12 in 2009).

That’s quite a price for a now-obsolete commodity device that sells for $7.99 today (or $4.85 in 1990 dollars, interestingly enough). Of course, in 1990, a high density drive like this was cutting-edge.

As an aside, notice that the 3.5″ floppy drive pictured occupies a 5.25″ half-height form factor. That shows you how old this is — at the time, most owners slid 3.5″ upgrade drives into computer cases that only shipped with 5.25″ half-height bays (this bay size commonly holds desktop DVD-R drives today). To do so, many 3.5″ floppy drives needed a special face plate and brackets to fill the gaps between the smaller drive and the larger bay around it.

[ From BYTE, October 1990 ]

Discussion topic of the week: What’s the most you’ve ever paid for a computer peripheral or upgrade component?

16 Responses to “[ Retro Scan of the Week ] The $99 Floppy Drive”

  1. Ben Says:

    I thin the moist I spent was ~US$100 for an external 14.4 modem. The really cool Zoom model with 15 status lights!
    Several years later, I spent about $80 for the 56K model.
    As an aside, I have several of the items in that ad in an XT, that still works.

  2. Ben Says:

    Haha, maybe I should proofread before I hit ‘submit’! 😀

  3. Matt Says:

    I think my dad spent $119 on the Commodore VIC-20 external tape drive that took audio tapes in 1983 or so.

    But typing to defeat aliens (SPACE ZAP) made it all worth it!

    More recently, I spent $600 on a 40″ 1080 HDTV to use as my new monitor. That’s probably my record. And Yoshi’s Island looks awesome on it!

  4. EK Says:

    My “insane with hindsight” expenditures included $380 for a 640 meg hard drive and $420 for 32 megs of RAM. Ah, the early 90s…

    Of course my parents spent over $3400 in 1986 on a tricked out PCJr (640k RAM, dual floppy), so they win the prize.

  5. Kevin Says:

    Mine is a tie. I spent $300 on a 22″ premium LG monitor last year (well worth it), and $300 on a Motorola “Surfboard” cable modem. I laugh about the modem, it was a 1st gen model and ran something like 700Kbps down and 150Kbps up. I replaced it with a $40 dlink modem that runs 43Mbps down and 10Mbps up. There was about a 10 year difference between the two and around a 500% speed increase! Now the biggest choke point is my ISP, come on Cox, roll out a FIOS service in Phoenix!

  6. XCALIBR8 Says:

    I spent about $100 on 64 megs (2 X 32) of EDO ram on my old win95 computer. Since then I’ve gone the budget/linux route and haven’t broken more than $60 on a component in the last 11 years.

  7. DaveJustDave Says:

    I was 15 at the time, and I had seen an ad in the Sierra Online newsletter from an unheard-of company called Creative Labs selling this peripheral that coupled 100% adlib compatible FM modulation with 8bit digital audio. Today we remember this as the original SoundBlaster. I think i spent approx $250 on this (which was a crap-ton of moola for a 15 year old)

  8. Randy Stagehand Says:

    I spent $ 300 on a 32 meg G-Force(1) video card in 1998 . Just spent $550 for 1786 meg G-Force 295

  9. SQLGuru Says:

    I spent quite a bit on a Media Vision (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Media_Vision) kit that included a sound card and a cd-rom drive (plus Wing Commander II and Ultima Underworld — Stygian Abyss, woo hoo!). I don’t remember what I paid for it, but I did save up my own money to buy it, so it fell like a *LOT*. The 1x CD-ROM had a SCSI interface.

    Generally, though, I’m a value shopper. I get things after their price drops to “reasonable”.

  10. Troy Says:

    I bought a lame logitech sound card for about 80 bucks. i remember 4 megs of ram would run me about 200 bucks. ahhh and the infamous 2400 baud modem. Mmmmmmmmm, Slowness……… can anyone say 1 meg/hr

  11. robert Says:

    Hard to say…I’ve never spent far over $200 for any single component that I can think of. About 2 years ago, my 22″ LCD cost me about $220. Less than a year ago, my Blu-Ray burner cost about $240. I think those are at or near the top of the list. Not really too bad, although in about 2 or 3 more years, I’m sure the BD-R will be about $60.

  12. Moondog Says:

    Back in 1990 I built my first PC, and the Seagate 426mb hard drive was right around $1000. That was half of the system cost!

  13. Squeem Says:

    $149 for a 5 1/4″ floppy drive from Radio Shack for my CoCo 2.
    $179 bought a 512K RAM upgrade for the CoCo3.

    The dumbest purchase was $279 for a Radio Shack printer. Could have got a better printer for $100 less but didn’t want to wait for it to come by mail.

  14. Bruce Barker Says:

    In the early to mid 80s bought Atari 1050 floppy drive for around $300 I believe (for an Atari 800xl computer, also $300). Also bought a Starmicronics SG10 9 pin dot matrix printer for $300, could connect to Atari with the 850 interface. Also had a 300 baud digital modem but don’t remember the cost. A friend of mine was using a 300 baud acoustic modem! Upgraded the Atari 64k ram to 256k. No software used the extra memory above 128k so set it up as a ram drive to minimize disk swapping to run games faster.

  15. Paul Pousson Says:

    I think I spent around 100 bucks for a memory chip for my Amiga 500 back in the early eighties which brought my mem up to 1 meg! It was worth it. The Amiga put other PC’s to shame back then. Only gave up on it when software started become scarce in the U.S.

  16. Chris Says:

    In the early 80’s, I paid a little over $100 (a.k.a. three days’ pay) for an Avatex 1200 baud modem; I had to build an interface box so that my Commodore 64 could talk to the thing, since the C=64’s user port only flipped 0 to +5V on its data lines, while the RS-232 compatible modem wanted to see -12V to +12V . I also paid a little over $200 for a Commodore 1541 floppy drive around the same time. Of course, in the 90’s there was the required annual round of Wintel upgrades, from 286 to 386 to 486 to Pentium, Windows 3.1 to 95 to 98…ugh

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