Business Expenses: 1985 Hardware

My biz records from 1985 emerged from hiding on their way to the recycling bin:

Hardware Expenses - 1985
Hardware Expenses – 1985

Yup, you read it right:

  • $944 for what might have been a 20 MB drive
  • $406 for a 10 MB (!) hard drive
  • $1400 for an EGA graphics board & matching display

A few years after that, I gingerly plugged a $750 80387 math coprocessor into an 80386 system that we depreciated forever.

Another page of that report says I dropped nearly $3500 on various chunks of software.

The times, they definitely have changed. Nowadays, I buy throwaway off-lease Dell boxes costing less than that 10 MB hard drive and use Free Software for essentially everything I do.

I wish I still had that HP plotter, though…

30 thoughts on “Business Expenses: 1985 Hardware

  1. I clicked through your Dell link out of idle curiosity. Whoa! Those are some astonishingly good deals. <$150 for a 2G RAM machine? Not something I want to use on a daily basis, but for a random server, quite useful.

    1. If you watch the stock for a week or so, you’ll see when they unload a boxcar of fancy hardware: timing is everything. They used to “advertise” on, but I haven’t been getting any updates lately, so maybe that’s faded away; free shipping trades off with deeper discounts on a regular basis.

      That said, old dual-core i5 boxes with 4 GB of RAM suffice for my simple needs…

  2. I have two of the plotters, if you want one, it’s yours.

    1. You beat me to it. I have a 7475 and a 7470 in the throw-away/recycle pile.

  3. I gave away one of those plotters (IBM branded, but the same unit) a while back to someone who wanted to turn it into a vinyl cutter.

    1. Shortly after that piece of paper emerged, I found myself in the Cricut aisle at Jo-Ann Fabrics, thinking wistful thoughts…

      I’m not sure it’s capable of producing the forces involved in cutting vinyl, but it’s a really nice bit of machinery.

      1. Put a diode laser in the pen holder. You could use an arduino to intercept HPGL’s PU and PD and turn those into on/off, or you could just use a switch. I’ve built this with some success, although now I just use the cnc mill.

        1. Put a diode laser in the pen holder.


          #include “standard laser safety film horror story”

          But, given a suitable beam shield and turning it on only after a “pen down” command, it might actually do something useful in addition to releasing The Big Stink from vinyl…

      2. I thought about the Cricut, but’s a closed architecture, since they make their money selling patterns. Then I realized for about the cost of a Cricut, I could get one of the Chinese vinyl cutters. So I did. It has served me well for years now.

        1. a closed architecture

          Squidwrench has a Silhoutte Cameo cutter that runs reasonably well from Robocut, but reverse-engineering the interface was obviously a hard-fought battle.

          Having peeked inside both craft-grade cutters, an HP 7475 (from the old HP) wipes the floor with their mechanics, has a straightforward serial interface, and should last approximately forever.

  4. Starting in the early 80s, I had a few systems (Heath H8 and successive series of PCs from 8088 to 486). Barring the Mac Classic ii, each machine cost me $3000. Nice to see Moore’s Law in effect. I’m mulling over an off-lease Dell laptop, and the prices are attractive, at least running LInux.

    That Mac cured me of Apple products forever. The walled-playground and “appliance” attitude for low-end machines was bothersome. I would have spent some money to upgrade it, but that Just Wasn’t Done on that model. (RAM and drive size were the only options for that one.) Wish they would have made that clear ahead of time…

    1. each machine cost me $3000

      Indeed, my rule of thumb used to be: “The PC you want always costs $3000”. We spent much, much more on that old 386 system, a fact that Mary occasionally reminds me of.

      Now, that’s down by 10 dB: scary when you think about it.

      1. Mary occasionally reminds me

        The advantage of marrying late-ish in life. I bought my last $3000 system a year before I met Julie. [grin]

  5. The good old days. From ~1990 to ~1995 my full-time job was writing x86 assembly to wring performance out of an embedded system that used similar era hardware.

    I still remember showing off the ad for an IBM 1GB drive at the amazingly low price of only $1000.

    Not that anyone in that company bought one, nobody had 1GB of data.

  6. In our house during the ’90s it was a case of the cobbler’s children have no shoes — I refused on principle to buy them a modern PC to run games (er, I mean educational software) so we always had a two-generation-back used clunker found either at a ham radio flea market or through an online ad. Pennies on the dollar.

    They wore me down eventually, though, and we bought a few rounds of current machines to get them through high school and college.

    Now, my go-to source for hardware is the local university’s “surplus asset disposition” warehouse. Lots of fun to browse through assorted desktops and monitors, though you have to wade through piles of such dubious “assets” as old overhead projectors and ratty VCRs :-)

    1. the local university’s “surplus asset disposition” warehouse

      Our Larval Engineer reports snagging some good “hallway sale” items, although the pickings depend on the phase of the fiscal moon and getting there before the horde wakes up. I’ll take some credit for training her well… [grin]

    2. I got a 386 DOS laptop in the late 90s with plasma display, case, and a couple of working batteries for cheap. Ex-Amdahl [I know, Ed] field service machine. Almost regretted letting it go, but…

      We’re now living in a tech/post-industrial desert and the last of the commercial/industrial surplus shops closed its doors. I have to buy motors on-line or retail. [sigh]

      BTW, it’s not hoarding if you find a use for it, eventually. That’s my story and I’m sticking to it.

    1. Mmmm, enough to pay shipping for one in Dithermaster’s pile… [grin]

      More than that would mean I’m becoming a hoarder, right?

      1. Let me see if I can find it and if it still works. I think it’s the bigger brother that can do 11×17 plots… Cost of shipping sounds great!

      2. I’ll offer either or both of mine, too…
        Proviso: GPIB only.

        1. Alas, I don’t have a GPIB interface: you’re stuck with those puppies.

          A quick check shows that HP actually made an HPIBRS232 adapter board (07475-68101). I’m sure they sold at most ten over the years…

  7. If anyone’s junque pile has a 386 laptop in the 16-33 MHz range that is operational and capable of running DOS 5.0 or 6.22 I’d like it. I take care of a bunch of radios for the local Red Cross chapter, and the Motorola radio programming software of the day had timing loops in it to keep the programming computer in sync with the radio. A too-fast computer would finish the timing loops too fast and outrun the radio…
    I don’t care about the laptop battery as I can open it up and swap cells, or just ignore it and run it on the charger / wall wart.

    Note: “junque” is the stuff that is too good for the junk pile.

    Thanks in advance


    1. finish the timing loops too fast

      At this point, even a DOS emulator running inside a VM on a Raspberry Pi would outpace the radio …

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