CRN 30th Anniversary: How Much Did That Cost?

Time And Money

From gasoline to video gaming systems, prices have fluctuated with the evolving economy over the past thirty years. The inflation of many of these products can be defined by the value of the product, and the value of a dollar, at that time. Mobile phones, for example, were items reserved for those with substantially fatter wallets in 1982 -- but today, someone with as little as $5 in their pocket can own a cell phone (as long as they can afford to pay the bill).

As we celebrate CRN's 30th anniversary, let's take a look at how the prices of some tech and other items have changed since 1982.

Desktop Computer

The Dual Processor Rainbow 100, which was a microcomputer desktop unit that featured a video-terminal display, was introduced by Digital Equipment Corporation (DEC) exactly 30 years ago in 1982 and was priced at $3,245. This desktop unit was a "low-cost, user installed personal business computer designed to run applications in the Fortune 100 marketplace," according to It was displayed at the June 1982 National Computer Conference (NCC) in Houston, Texas.

Today, a desktop computer packages (including a monitor and a tower) can range from about $450 to about $2,000 depending on its make and model. However, desktop computer set-ups can cost much more than $2,000 if extra memory (RAM), a higher GHz processor or accessories are added.

Gallon Of Regular Gas

We all know that gas prices at the consumer level fluctuate with the economy, the seasons and breaks in the distribution network around the world. It seems as though every time we read the newspaper, watch television or go to fill up our cars that gas prices have hit an all-time high, but we are always wrong. They can always go higher, and they do. 30 years ago, the average cost of a gallon of regular gasoline was $1.30. Today, the average price has risen to $3.62. This increase correlates with the increase in value of the natural resource, so we better get used to this trend for the foreseeable future.

Atari 5200 Vs. Nintendo Wii

Exactly 30 years ago in 1982, the Atari 5200 was released to the market and made a groundbreaking splash featuring four controller ports when all other systems of that day only had two. It also featured a revolutionary new controller that was considered innovative during that time. This gaming unit was priced at $299 in 1982 (now $610 because it's a vintage system). The comparable gaming system today, the Nintendo Wii, also featured a cutting-edge new controller with its motion-censored remote and wand duo. A Nintendo Wii is priced at $149.99, which is slightly lower than the price of an Atari system during its time.

New Car

Over the past 30 years, the average price of a new car has steeply gone up. The inflation of the listing prices of cars has grown for many reasons including the Wall Street crash, the economic recession and the cost of manufacturing both on and off U.S. soil. The average cost of a new car was approximately $8,000 in 1982, and it is approximately $30,000 today.

ColecoVision Vs. Microsoft Xbox 360 Kinect Or Sony PlayStation 3

Coleco launched its ColecoVision gaming console in August of 1982, which offered near arcade-quality graphics and game quality. The system was priced at $175 (now $395 because it is a vintage system). An equivalently high-quality gaming system with HD graphics is Microsoft's Xbox 360, which is priced at an average cost of $250. A Sony PlayStation 3 is approximately $250 to $340, depending on whether or not the system includes the Move Bundle. The price of the Xbox, which now comes with Kinect, and the PlayStation 3, is a steal compared to the price of ColecoVision if you consider the quality of the hardware.

U.S. Postage Stamp

It's a safe bet that walking to the post office to purchase stamps was more prevalent thirty years ago, but that doesn't mean it won't cost you double in 2012. The U.S. postage rate for a first-class letter was 20 cents in 1983. Today, mailing a single letter will cost you 45 cents. Given that the majority of us pay our bills online and probably correspond with our pen pals via email, you won't hear too many complaints about going postage rate these days. But, that doesn't change the fact that you still have to send your grandmother a birthday card, regardless of the year.

Mobile Phones

The first mobile phone, the Motorola DynaTAC 8000X, became commercially available 30 years ago. It was more than 1 foot long, weighed over 2 pounds, had only one hour of talk time and only stored 30 phone numbers. To make matters worse, this mobile phone was priced at a whopping $3,995. Mobile phones today are not only less than half the size and weight but also a fraction of the cost, as they are approximately one-sixteenth of the price. The cost of the iPhone 5 is $199 for the 16 GB, $299 for the 32 GB and $299 for the 64 GB.

Storing hundreds of contacts, sporting a 4-inch Retina display, connecting instantly and effortlessly to wireless Internet and boasting a plethora of applications and more, it's safe to say that when it comes to mobile phones, pioneers like Steve Jobs have absolutely innovated in the right direction. The technology accessible today has not only improved the way we communicate on the go but also created a society in which this technology is available at more affordable prices.

Movie Ticket

"E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial" debuted in June of 1982, costing moviegoers roughly $3 to per ticket. In 2012, a trip to the box office can cost you around $8, on average. Of course, the monetary differences in movie going between today and 30 years ago don't stop at the ticket booth. Hitting the concession stand for a soda and popcorn will likely cost you just as much, if not more, than the price of your ticket.


One piece of electronics that is a must-have in every home today is a television, and things weren't much different 30 years ago. However, the technology and cost of the television was very different. In 1982, a color tabletop 19-inch television was priced at $430, and today the same-sized TV costs approximately $150 depending on the make, model and store where it's purchased. And, for less than half the price of what it was, a television at that price today is thin, flat-screened and HD versus the large, bulky and lower-quality of a typical 1982 TV.

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