What was the price one had to pay for an UNIVAC 9400?
40 years ago, computer systems were incredibly expensive. The prices in the following abstract are taken from the original UNIVAC price list from 1968 to 1970. To visualize what this mainframe is worth, we also investigated the prices of a Volkswagen Type 1 (commonly known as beetle), a typical economy car produced in Germany in the 1960/70s. In 1970, a 55 HP model cost about 6000 DM. In the USA, it was sold for approximately 2000 US $.
|model number||Name||price in DM||price in US $||Number of equivalent Volkswagen beetle|
|3019||Main processor cabinet (CPU and console)||258,000 DM||86,000 $||43|
|7010 *)||Plated wire storage 24 KB (minimum)||272,000 DM||90,000 $||45|
|7010 *)||Plated wire storage 131 KB (maximum)||900,000 DM||300,000 $||150|
|716||Punch card reader||70,000 DM||22,000 $||11|
|768||High speed printer||252,000 DM||84,000 $||42|
|5024||Disk drive controller||128,000 DM||42,000 $||21|
|8414 **)||Removable disk unit (6 drives)||764,000 DM||254,000 $||127|
|5017||Tape controller||121,000 DM||40,000 $||20|
|861||UNISERVO 12 (master)||102,000 DM||24,000 $||17|
|861||UNISERVO 12 (slave)||60,000 DM||20,000 $||10|
|862||UNISERVO 16||157,000 DM||52,000 $||26|
|UNISCOPE 100 (CRT terminal) ***)||15,000 DM||4,000 $||2|
|Hard drive (40 MB), 1 unit||2,950 DM||1,000 $||0,5|
|Sum (with 10 hard drives) about||2,800,000 DM||940,000 $||470 cars!!|
**) We have the successor 8425, with 5 drives
***) We have the UNISCOPE 200
These incredible prices originated from the very high development costs and the low quantities. The illustration on the right hand shows the curious value comparison: Arranging all these 470 cars successively would result in a 2.3 kilometer long chain of new cars! Therefore computer firms earned quite well in those days and were able to expand very fast.
The prices for random access memory are quite outstanding. After the development of semiconductor memories at the early 1970s, RAM got much cheaper.
Companies closed deals with UNIVAC for maintenance and paid more than 4,000$. Therefore it was cheaper for them to hire and train own engineers for exclusively this purpose.
Enterprises could also lease the mainframes from UNIVAC, which was quite common in the early days of EDP. Our mainframe with 10 hard drives and fully equipped RAM would cost about 18,000 US$ every month. Even at this time machine time was settled to the second, like at today's high end super computers where machine time can be purchased. Thus buying such a mainframe computer was only affordable for very big concerns.