Hard Drive Cost Per Gigabyte: From 1980 to 2009

Posted in Technology
Tue, Sep 29 - 6:00 am EDT | 9 years ago by
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Remember when everything you needed fit into a bunch of nifty floppy disks? (yes, I’m that old) What about the first time you got a hard disk?

xcomp-subsystem-hard-diskMatt Komorowski was lucky enough to get his first computer during the early 1990s—which came with a 30GB hard disk—and he was ” wondering how I could possibly fill all 30 megabytes of hard drive space, even if I had a thousand years.” now we know how short-sighted that supposition was. Like Matt, I’m looking to buy a 1 terabyte hard disk soon, probably for or with my next computer, as it takes only months for me to cause low disk space warnings on a computer with a 500GB hard drive.

Fortunately, upgrading your hard drive storage capacity isn’t really an expensive proposition, as evidenced by the hard of work Komorowski. He simply plotted the prices of hard disks from 1980 to this year, creating a graph that tracked the downward progress of the dollar cost per gigabyte. The exercise revealed that “space per unit cost has doubled roughly every 14 months”, meaning Moore’s law is getting beat in the world of hard drive storage. Some highlights of Komorowski’s history:

Date Drive info Size Cost $/GB
January 1980 Morrow Systems 26MB $5,000.00 $193,000.00
March 1989 Western Digital 40MB $1,199.00 $36,000.00
February 12, 1999 Quantum 8GB $299.99 $43.10
July 24, 2009 HITACHI 0A38016 7200 RPM SATA 3.0Gb/s 1TB $74.99 $0.07

Somewhere in that timeline is no doubt the $3398 10M hard disk.

$193,000 per gigabyte to 7 cents represents a cost decrease of nearly three-million percent! Yes, I may feel old thanks to the analogy that started this article, but at least I don’t have to spend too much on a 1 terabyte hard disk nowadays—even if that HITACHI hard drive currently costs $80 on NewEgg.com, not $75. Personally though, I’ll think I’ll shell out for the Western Digital Caviar Black 1TB 3.5″ SATA 3.0Gb/s. Though it’s currently more expensive at $95, I pretty much find Western Digital Drives much more reliable.


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  • Ricky

    Well, I bought a 750GB Seagate Freeagent External Hard Drive for about $50 ($20 coupon) so my cost/GB was about $0.06. Granted this did involve coupons but there also was a price premium with the Seagate name (not sure if it was worth it).

    I try not to buy any hard drives priced higher than $100 and I try to make sure the cost/GB is less than $0.10 while still buying from a reputable supplier (Seagate, WD only). It is hard to fill all these requirements as you can see.

  • JohnAdriaan

    “Matt Komorowski was lucky enough to get his first computer during the early 1990s—which came with a 30GB hard disk”

    It’s amazing how “GB” just flows off your tongue – or off your fingers – nowadays. I assume the later mention of 30MB was the correct figure? Otherwise, using the above chart, his computer would have cost him around $1,000,000.

    However interesting it is to compare cost per GB, I wonder how easy it would be to compare cost per file? Windows used to come on 7x 1.44MB floppy disks, and take around 10MB to install. Now, Windows 7 comes on one DVD, and takes over 1GB – a 100x increase. Similarly, a word processed document used to be barely larger than the amount of text inside. Nowadays, documents are commonly so large that they trip e-mail size limitations.

    Are we still storing the same number of documents that we did 20 years ago? Probably we’re storing more. But 30,000 times more? Are we still running out of hard drive space as quickly as we did back then?

  • greentea

    So, for 1TB Harddisk, it would cost about 192 Million USD
    but today, it is less than 100 USD.

  • Fred Friendly

    If I recall correctly in 1980 300MB CDC drives were $15,000.
    Your numbers are way off.

  • Math Genious

    If a price decreases 100% it means the price has gone to zero. Therefore, the price of something cannot decrease 3 million percent. This is something you will learn when you get your GED.

    • Guest

      Nigga please. Increases and decreases in percentage can be interchangeable with multiplication and division via diving the percentage by 100. In this instance, a 3 million percent decrease is the equivalent of a reduction of 30,000 times.

      193,000 / 30,000 = $0.0643, nearly $0.07 as the author claims.

      Where’d you get your GED from anyways, prison?

    • Andrew

      Thank you for the analogy. I just need to know how much is $/GB today… Haha, I don’t argue with your math. As long as it makes sense to all of us. The formality does not matter. =)

    • sigs

      no, percentage decrease goes exactly as Math Genious explained. Also, only complete idiots or pathological bullshitters ever discuss percentage increases or decreases that large; if it’s over 100%, you should use ratios: “reduction of 30,000 times” is a very accurate and instantly understandable expression, while “a cost decrease of nearly three-million percent” is vague, and complete bullshit.

    • Math Genious’ Smarter Bro

      you may be a ‘math genious’ but you sure can’t spell. idiot.

  • http://technogra.ph Rico Mossesgeld

    Your below-$100 requirement is very reasonable, so long as people wait for retail-driven holidays like Black Friday and Cyber Monday. You do this, right?

  • http://technogra.ph Rico Mossesgeld

    Indeed, and apologies for the error. As for cost per file, how would you quantify this? Are you talking about cost per format, such as how much it would cost to store a typical .doc file?

    We’re definitely storing more documents, especially since it’s a lot easier to bunch everything up into our My Documents. Remember when we had to swap out floppies? And yes, we still easily fill our storage like before; we’ll always find a reason to do so (*cough*p0rn*cough*). :)

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