As part of my ongoing project to organize and pare down my files (physical and digital) to something understandable to someone other than me (i.e. my heirs), I've been coming across many interesting glimpses of history. I try not to read more than a very small fraction of these, for the sake of making progress, but every once in a while something catches my eye.

We discovered e-mail long before 1993, but this is the oldest reference I've found so far.

GE Electronic Mail
Sub: Saturday, 30 January 1993

This is a test of GEnie on our new machine! Our new tape drive
appears to be a good one. I backed up the hard drive, Porter
repartitioned it into three drives, including a small one just for
Aladdin. (This is so if Aladdin crashes and fouls up our file
allocation tables, it doesn't mess up the rest of our stuff.) We
moved Aladdin and associated files this afternoon. It appears to
work and it's even in color!

Some of you may be wondering what our "new machine" was.

In November of 1992, we ordered a "Gateway 2000 clock-doubled 66 MHz 486 machine" (original cow boxes!), with

  • 200 Mb hard drive
  • 1.44 Mb 3 1/2 inch drive
  • 1.2 Mb 5 1/4 drive
  • 120 Mb streaming tape drive for backup
  • 8 Mb of memory
  • 14-inch color SVGA monitor
  • 33 MHz local bus
  • and a tower case with one expansion slot reserved for CD-ROM. "CD-ROM technology is supposed to make major improvements shortly, so, while it is very attractive, we’re waiting on that one."At

At the time, I wrote the following.

It completely amazes me how much you can get for relatively little money these days. Total cost, including shipping: $3115. I know, that hardly seems “little,” but you have to remember that we once spent $1500 for an Intecolor graphics terminal, and then later had it repaired for $900! And that was when $2400 was worth a lot more than it is now. And our 14-year-old printer cost us $800. I’d really like a new printer, since with the Epson we can’t take advantage of a lot of what the new machines and software can do, and people are more and more frowning on dot-matrix letters. But I have to respect a piece of computer equipment that’s that old and still working as well as the day we got it!

Inflation calculators vary, but most put the cost of that 1993 machine at about $6650 in today's dollars. And our dot-matrix printer? $3300! This is not even attempting to take into account the difference in computing power between then and now. What really blows me away is that the $2400 we paid for the color terminal and its subsequent repair works out to nearly ten grand! 

We were normally very good about sticking to a lean budget, but since computing was both vocation and avocation for each of us, well.... All I can say is that it's a good thing we were otherwise quite self-controlled in our spending. When it came to computing equipment, we had colleagues who were even more free-spending than we were—disproportionate to other areas of life. I guess it was the nature of the new, exciting field.

I'm going to have to remember this when it comes time to buy a new computer or a new phone.

Posted by sursumcorda on Monday, February 20, 2023 at 7:00 am | Edit
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Yes, I remember that. I like to joke about your early adoption and long cling time. That digital camera to floppy disk was so embarrassing. . . I also joke about being in the first generation of kids to know the frustration of their parents being addicted to screens. It's so easy to not notice how much time and money it's taking from us. Our kids don't know we're thinking about them when we're on them. I wish I'd blogged less and hugged and hung out more.

Posted by Janet on Tuesday, February 21, 2023 at 2:41 am

That reminds me of your sister as an infant. She liked to sit and watch me work, but by "work" she meant housework. Vacuuming, washing dishes—she was happy. But the moment I sat down to desk work—I was still consulting in those days—she'd start to fuss. I remember trying to explain to her that work with pencil and paper was still work, but she insisted that I had to be moving.

These days, those who work with computers often set alarms to remind themselves to get up and move periodically; I guess she was just ahead of her time.

Posted by SursumCorda on Tuesday, February 21, 2023 at 5:47 am
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