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Hard Drive Prices Over Time: Price per GB from 1981 to 2010

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Hard drives keep getting bigger and prices keep falling, but when you look at the per unit prices it’s amazing how much prices have fallen since the early days of computing.

David Isenberg took the data from a website that has researched and tracked down the price of a 5MB hard drive from 1956 all the way up to the 2TB hard drives on the market today and was able to determine the cost per GB for storage going back to 1981.

Price per GB of Hard Drive Storage:

1981 — $300,000

1987 — $50,000

1990 — $10,000

1994 — $1000

1997 — $100

2000 — $10

2004 — $1

2010 — $0.10

Compared to the price of many other items, like gas or clothing, the decrease in price is astounding, but incredibly welcome as we store more and more of our lives in the digital world. The per GB price has also come down for the portable storage we carry in our phones and cameras, which at 1981 prices would be out of reach for pretty much everyone except Bill Gates and Steve Jobs.

Now, in 2011 we are already looking to a future of 4TB hard drives from Samsung, which will likely carry a price premium when first introduced, but nowhere near the $300,000 per GB of storage from back in 1981.

Currently the costliest storage is for SSD based storage which has a price of $1.50 per GB compared to the 10 cents or lower per GB pricing of traditional hard drives available on the market today. Still, it is expected that SSD prices come down closer to the hard drive prices of today in the next 3-4 years.

If you want to relive the early days of computing, take a look at the notes at the bottom of the hard drive price tracking website to see the old sales ads for hard drives which boast of a “18Mb Hard Disk Drive!” and harken back o the days where the best way to buy a hard drive was with a mail in rebate.

Josh Smith is a longtime mobile tech user, currently using a Droid as his primary smartphone. Josh is also an editor at Notebooks.com where he reviews notebooks and other mobile tech. Follow Josh on Twitter @Josh_Smith or email him Josh@Notebooks.com.

3 Comments

  1. k2001

    March 9, 2011 at 12:41 pm

    It would be a more effective presentation if they could put it in a chart/graph like they did for mint.

  2. Yogh

    March 9, 2011 at 4:37 pm

    Of course nowadays stuff often takes a lot more space too. I wonder if it would be possible to come up with some metric of what a MB back then was usefully comparable to in terms of MB or GB today and then compare prices of those. It would still be significant, but possibly not as extreme as six orders of magnitude.

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