Top Ten Most Breathtaking Computer Prices of the 1989 Tandy Catalogue

Breathtaking Tandy Prices 1989

Tandy was a technology and electrical store with branches throughout the UK in the 1980s. The outlet was renowned for its relatively attractive prices on good, usable equipment. You’d probably go there to get your hi-fi, your intercom, your multitester… But you might just have thought twice before ordering their computer gear. In fact, legend has it that several UK-based IT Managers quite literally collapsed from clinical shock whilst obtaining RAM upgrade quotes from Tandy… But let’s not get ahead of ourselves…

Computer gear was expensive at the end of the 1980s. There’s no getting away from that. But in the Tandy catalogue, alongside a huge raft of reasonably priced products, that expense was exaggerated. I’m sure I’m not the only one who has hyperventilated over the computer pages of a late ‘80s Tandy catalogue. But here in late 2012, the shock factor of those prices seems, if anything, to have increased. To illustrate, allow me, if you will, to present the top ten most breathtaking computer product prices of the 1989 Tandy catalogue – in reverse order. Make sure you’re sitting down… Actually, better make that lying down…

10. Drum/Cleaner/Maintenance Kit for Deluxe LP-1000 Laser Printer: £148.35. So, you’ve splashed out £1838.85 on the printer, and now you’re going to be charged another £150 to prevent it from dying the tragic death of dirt-induced doom when you use it.

9. ST-506 Hard Disk Controller: £320.85. That’s not the actual hard disk. It’s just the controller – a small circuit board which allows the computer to connect to the drive. The disk itself was more expensive, obviously. May I recommend the 74 megabyte capacity, Sir?… Excellent – that’ll be another £1,206.35 please… Let’s just call it the round £1,527 and forget about the pence, shall we?… And of course you will be needing a computer with that…

8. 150MB Tape Streamer: £1,033.85. 150 megabytes of magnetic-tape-based archive data storage, basically. Think of it as a massive SD card, with a tiny fraction of the storage capacity, for about a hundred times the price.

7. Tandy 1400HD Portable Computer: £1953.85. So, essentially, two grand for the design equivalent of a cross between a personal organsier and a 1979 adding machine. But it had a hard drive, so the boss couldn’t pick it up and throw it at the trainee in the way most bosses did with adding machines. Well, most of my bosses did – I assume it was a pretty universal practice… I suppose, shape and design aside, you could consider the 1400HD a sort of primitive laptop, but with a small and tacky bi-tone LCD display, and just 768 kilobytes of RAM.

6. DMP-2102 Dot Matrix Printer: £688.85. I had a (non-Tandy) dot matrix printer back in 1995, and each time I used it, the neighbours would complain about the noise. I printed a 79-page script on it in 1996, and they threatened to call the police. Whether Tandy’s offering came with protective ear-muffs and/or any soundproofing advice I don’t know, but for nearly seven hundred quid I think it should have come complete with a bloody eviction lawyer on 24/7 standby!

5. The Fast Tandy 3000 NL (PC) with 10 megahertz 80286 processor, 20 megabyte hard drive, and an actual colour monitor: £2298.85. Fast, in the sense that it was slow, obviously. However you tart up an 80286 PC, the fact remains that it’s a 286. Have you ever used a 286? If you have, you’ll know why that retail price of nearly £2,300 made it to Number 5 in this list. Press any key to continue, go for a piss, come back, still says “Press any key to continue” on the screen. That’s how long it took the vapid lethargic brain of a 286 to realise someone had actually touched the keyboard.

4. Tandy 5000 MC Micro Computer (PC) with 20 megahertz 80386 processor, 40 megabyte hard drive, and a 12 INCH MONOCHROME monitor: £4368.85. I mean, a 12 inch monitor is one thing, but monochrome???…

3. 40 Megabyte Hardcard: £573.85. A hardcard was a form of storage media which was mounted inside the PC. Essentially a slimmed down hard drive which went into a PC’s internal expansion slot. In terms of capacity, this hardcard would have enough space to store two or three digital photos in RAW format, or 1/400th of a basic Windows 7 installation. That’s OR, not AND.

2. 344 Megabte SCSI hard drive for the 5000 Micro Computer (PC): £2,758.85. It’s a hard drive for God’s sake!

1… Cue fanfare – duh, duh, de de derrrrrr!… Okay, so brace yourself… Topping our Top Ten chart, the undisputed most breathtaking price in the computer section of the 1989 Tandy catalogue, is that of the…

8MB SIMM kit. In 2012 speak that’s eight megabytes of RAM. But in the 1989 Tandy catalogue, this seemingly rather meagre memory upgrade weighed in at a truly earth-shattering £4,368.85. Just to avoid any suspicions that I’ve blooped in a misprint there, that’s four thousand, three hundred and sixty-eight pounds, and eighty-five pence. Or in today’s money, adjusted for inflation, about nine grand! For eight megabytes of RAM. Of course, it has to be recognised that these computer systems were being built for and aimed at serious business professionals desperate for computing power – not some fast-food-chompin’ youth who wanted a marginal increase in performance out of Skyfox II. And 8MB was a hell of a lot of RAM in 1989. The entry level systems were still firmly in the territory of measuring RAM in kilobytes. But nearly four and a half grand for any RAM upgrade… That’s gotta go down as a true spectacle in PC pricing history.

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