In context: If you’re old enough to remember some of the most iconic tech products from history, you might recall that many seemed pretty expensive at the time. But those prices look miniscule when compared to their cost today once adjusted for inflation.
HP has examined some of the most iconic tech reaching back to the start of the previous century right up to 2016’s Oculus Rift, working out what each one would cost today after inflation.
First up is the Kodak Brownie introduced in 1900. The cardboard box camera featured a simple meniscus lens that took two 1/4-inch square pictures on 117 roll film. It cost just $1 at the time—not much money today, but after inflation, the Brownie would cost $31.53 in 2021, which is still pretty cheap for a camera, albeit a very basic one.
The original Victrola phonograph of 1906 shows a more significant price difference. Originally $15 in 1906, it would be $451 in today’s market, making it around $50 more expensive than an Apple Home Pod. There was also a Chippendale cabinet version that cost $600, or over $17,000 today.
The Dumont model 180, one of the earliest TVs, was $395 in 1938. Today, the 14-inch set would be $7,420: the same price as some high-end 85-inch OLEDs.
Are you one of the many people who name the Atari 2600 as their first console? It was $199 in 1977, or $868 today—about what you’d pay for a scalped PlayStation 5 on eBay. This same year saw the RCA VBT200 VCR launch for $1,300, which seemed like a lot even then. Now, it would be $5,672.
Moving onto home computers, the Apple II was $1,298 in 1977 ($5,664 today), while 1981’s Osbourne 1 was $1,795 ($5,247 today). Five grand would get you a killer PC in 2021, but that’s nothing compared to the HP-85 from 1980; its $3,250 price would be $10,409 today.
Elsewhere, the most popular home computer of all time, the Commodore 64, sees its 1981 price of $595 jump to $1,624, and the IBM Model 5150 (masthead image) goes from $1,565 to $4,575.
Think mobile phones are too expensive these days? The Motorola Dynatac 8000X was $4,000 in 1984, which would be $10,217 in 2021, or about five Galaxy Fold3 handsets. However, the Nintendo Entertainment System goes from $179 in 1987 to $417, which is slightly less than the MSRP of the latest consoles.
Moving into the 1990s, the original PlayStation’s $299 price in 1995 looks good compared to the $519 it would cost in 2021, and the $1,599 Apple iBook G3’s current $2,548 price puts it in the same bracket as many top gaming laptops.
Interestingly, the first iPhone from 2007 would now be around $134 more expensive, and the most recent item on the list, the $599 original Oculus Rift (2016), sees its price increase to $658. Check out the full infographic below for all the items.