Typical PCs Each Year

1987

Margaret Thatcher was re-elected this year, making her the longest serving PM for 100 years, as work on the Channel Tunnel began, and the British Government blocked publication of the SpyCatcher book. Oh yes, and the GSM standard for mobile phone networks was finally agreed, though it would be at least five more years before it entered widespread use. On TV, this year was the inaugoration of 24-hour programming after several trial runs, the BBC premiered the movie WarGames and introduced us to ThunderCats.

On the music scene, Fleetwood Mac released their "Tango in the Night" album, U2 launched "The Joshua Tree", and the year ended with Kylie Minogue's "I Should Be So Lucky".

In the world of computing, a lot of key events happened. IBM launched the first PS/2 computer with improved graphics, a 3.5" diskette drive and a new faster Micro Channel Architecture (MCA) bus. Acorn launched their first RISC processor-based Archimedes computer. Connor released the first 3.5" hard disk drive, the CP340A, with a capacity of 40 megabytes. 1987 saw Apple launch the Macintosh II and SE. IBM and Microsoft jointly released the first version of their new operating system, OS/2 though in December this year, Microsoft launched Windows 2.0 to rival it! And let's not forget that the Ad Lib sound card went on sale this year.

Models

In 1987, a budget PC looked something like this:

A 4.77 MHz computer would run at about 0.33 MIPS (million instructions per second), or 0.6 MIPS for an 8 MHz microprocessor. Influential PC manufacturers selling to the UK market included Amstrad, Tulip, Akhter, Zenith, Tandon and Viglen.

Moving to the pricier end of the market, a premium PC looked something like this in 1987:

A 386 running at 16 MHz scored a MIPS rating of 5, making it theoretically 15 times faster than the original IBM 5150. These premium PCs would often come with an early version of Windows 2.0 - Windows/386 wouldn't launch until Decemer 1987(?). Apricot, Olivetti and Elonex also sold into this market.

 

Motherboards

Back in 1987 it was atypical to buy a motherboard - people tended to buy the whole computer (or at least the system unit with no monitor or keyboard), since there were many third party companies churning out XT- and AT- compatibles for decently low prices.

Still, some places did sell motherboards. Here are some prices:

  • Super Turbo XT 4.77/8 MHz with up to 640 KB RAM support = £149 (no CPU, no RAM)
  • Small Footprint PC/AT compatible 6/8/10 MHz = £499 (no CPU, no RAM)
  • Baby AT motherboard, no RAM, includes Award BIOS ROM = $399.95
  • Novas NEAT Turbo 286-16 motherboard (10 MHz = 0 wait state, 16 MHz = 0.6 wait states) = $510
  • Novas Turbo 286-12 motherboard (0 wait state), Norton SI rating of 15.7, C&T chipset = $475
  • Novas Turbo 386-16 w/ 1 MB RAM board, AT-size = $1,395

Laptops

Toshiba were top of the pile when it came to laptop computers. By 1987, they really managed to shrink a PC down to something really usable on the move, both light in weight and no less powerful than a desktop PC. You had to have deep pockets, however; the T3100 typically sold for $3,000 !

 
Toshiba T1100 Plus (left) and T3100 (right)

Printers

Dot matrix printers continued to be all the rage in 1987 - all still monochrome. Epson ruled the roost, with printers as fast as 300 cps (characters per second). The highest quality dot matrix printers were those with 24 pins, while more budget-oriented models continued to have just 9 pins. The advantage of dot matrix printers was that they could print anything, including graphics - something daisywheel printers could not.

Anyone with a bigger budget may have opted for a laser printer, which could print at up to 8 ppm (pages per minute). The biggest sellers were HP, but Canon and Epson also had laser printer offerings.

At the cheapest end of the printer market was the Panasonic 1081, which printed at 120 cps and sold for just £155. For those who needed high text-only printing speeds without graphics, daisywheel printers were stll around. Juki sold their models 6100, 6200 and 6300 (different speeds) for £275, £425 and £635 respectively.


(From Left to Right): Panasonic 1081, Epson LX800, and Epson FX800

Epson's LX800 was a NLQ (Near Letter-Quality) printer that could print at 150 cps, and had a typical price of £195. Mid-range ones with speeds of 200 cps like the Epson FX800 were £305. To get 300 cps but still NLQ, the Epson EX800 sold for £395. These were all 9-pin dot matrix printers. To get the better LQ (Letter Quality) you had to go for the Epson LQ1000 which was £555 or the LQ2500 (faster) for £725.

On the laser printer front, HP's Series 2 sold for £1,895. Canon's LBP Series 2 sold for a little less at £1,595, whilst Epson's GQ3500 (6 ppm) sold for £1,495.

Other printer brands available in 1987 included Star Micronics, Oki with their Microline range, Diconix who did portable inkjet printers, Citizen, Brother and NEC (the Pinwriter range).

Monitors

In 1987 the choice of graphics cards and monitors was expanding. Graphics capabilities ranged from Hercules monochrome, to 4-colour CGA (640 x 200), and at the top end, 16-colour EGA in 640 x 350 resolution. Monitors started at 10" and 14" was typically top of the range.

At the low end the 10" diagonal Philips 7513 monochrome monitor sold for £69. Their popular CGA-compatible one, model 8833 which supported up to 640x200 resolution sold for £225.

If you wanted a typical EGA (non-multisync) monitor, Mitsubishi's 1440 Enhanced Colour Monitor sold for £425.

An NEC Multisync monitor would set you back £460.
Taxan MultiScan monitors were £550.
Sony Multiscan was up at £625.

But you could get a cheap multi-scan EGA monitor such as the Eizo ER8042H 14" ultra-high res EGA colour monitor which cost just £336 - quite the bargain!

If you shopped around you could bag an EGA card with 256 KB of video memory and a 14" EGA monitor for as cheap as $479 in the U.S..

Monitors in the U.S. were similarly-priced:
An NEC Multisync 1401 was $529, while the Multisync Plus was $869.
A Mitsubishi XC-1409 CGA monitor would cost $329; the XC-1410/1430 EGA monitors were $399/$449 respectively.
A Sony Multiscan 1302 cost $599, and a Taxan 635/650 was $349/$399 respectively.
At the upper end of the price range, an NEC Multisync XL 19" EGA monitor cost $1,996.
Other known brands that were US-only were Amdek and Princeton.

Hercules as a company were doing very well still in 1987. They sold their Mono Graphics Plus card for £189, whilst their "InColor" sold for £290. ATI's EGA Wonder was considered quite a premium card at the time - this sold for £249.

Hard Disks

Both hard disks and hard "cards" (a hard disk physically mounted side-on on the hard disk controller expansion card) were available in 1987. Dyson, Miniscribe, Western Digital and Seagate were the big players. You could buy 20 MB of storage on a hard disk for £225 (Seagate ST-225 including controller and cables). For a hard card equivalent if you didn't have free drive bays, it was usually more: a Plus 20 MB hardcard cost £525 and for 40 MB was a whopping £850, but for the budget-conscious a Dyson 20 MB File Card was just £279, A Miniscribe 32 MB hard disk was a bargain £289 or you could go for the Seagate ST-251 40 MB hard disk for £350 (drive only). In the US, these sold for $495 (drive only).

Miniscribe's hard card range was called "ScribeCard" - available in 20 MB or 30 MB capacities, but relatively slow at 61ms access time. Prices were $389 and $419 respectively.

For XT systems, you could get a Miniscribe 3650 which was a 40 MB hard disk for $399 including an 8-bit hard disk controller card and cables. This had an access time of 61ms.

The best hard disks provided 28ms access times, but the norm was still 40ms access time.


Seagate ST-225 hard disk (left), Plus Hardcard 20 (right)

So typically the cost this year is between £8.75 and £12.50 per megabyte (as you would expect, the more you buy the cheaper each megabyte is).

 

Software

Ashton-Tate's dBase III Plus, at around $389, was a very popular database for power users in 1987, alongside Borland's Paradox 2.0, which retailed for $439.

 

Other Stuff

You could get an Intel 8087 math co-processor for £95 (5 MHz) to £135 (8 MHz), or an 80287-8 for £185.
The popular AST SixPack Plus 64 KB memory multifunction card was available for £165, or the Intel AboveBoard with zero KB RAM installed was £199.

 

UK DESKTOP PC Prices

Cheapest/Clearance PCs

Tandon PCX20
640 KB RAM, 8086 @ 4.77 MHz, 20 MB HDD, 360 KB floppy, Hercules graphics card, 12" monochrome monitor (for EGA add £295).

£895

Amstrad PC1512HD
8086 @ 8 MHz, 512 KB RAM, 20 MB HDD, 360 KB floppy, 12" mono monitor. £845
Amstrad PC1640SD
8086 @ 8 MHz, 640 KB RAM, 360 KB floppy, EGA graphics, 12" mono monitor. £695
Amstrad PC1640DD
8086 @ 8 MHz, 640 KB RAM, 2 x 360 KB floppy, EGA graphics, 12" mono monitor. £795
Amstrad PC1640HD
8086 @ 8 MHz, 640 KB RAM, 20 MB HDD, 360 KB floppy, EGA graphics, 12" mono monitor. £995
For all of the above, to replace mono with CGA add £165.

Tulip pc compact 2
8086 @ 9.5 MHz, 640 KB RAM, 20 MB HDD, 360 KB floppy, EGA graphics, no monitor
£995
For EGA multisync monitor, add £595

Akhter PC 1000 8088 @ 8 MHz, 256 KB RAM, single 360 KB floppy drive, Hercules graphics card, 150W PSU and 8 expansion slots. No monitor. £495
Akhter PC 1500 8088 @ 8 MHz, 256 KB RAM, dual 360 KB floppy drives, Hercules graphics card, 150W PSU and 8 expansion slots. No monitor. £595
Akhter PC 2000 8088 @ 8 MHz, 512 KB RAM, 20 MB HDD, single 360 KB floppy drive, Hercules graphics card, 150W PSU and 8 expansion slots. No monitor. £795
Akhter PC 3000 8088 @ 8 MHz, 512 KB RAM, dual 720 KB 3.5" floppy drives, Hercules graphics card, 150W PSU and 8 expansion slots. No monitor. £645
Elonex PC 88 NEC V20 4.77/8 MHz, 640 KB RAM, 20 MB 65ms hard disk, 360 KB floppy drive, Hercules-compatible mono graphics card, HiRes 12" mono monitor, mouse, professional keyboard, MS-DOS 3.21, GEM collection £795+VAT
Viglen VPC 10M NEC V20 4.77/8 MHz, 256 KB RAM, 360 KB floppy drive, mono monitor. MM-211 Amber monitor option for £86.15. £539
Viglen VPC 100M NEC V20 4.77/8 MHz, 1 MB RAM, 2 x 360 KB floppy drives, 2 parallel and serial ports, game port and a realtime clock. Mono monitor. MM-211 Amber monitor option for £86.15. £679
Viglen VPC 120M NEC V20 4.77/8 MHz, 1 MB RAM, 20 MB hard disk, 360 KB floppy drive, 1 parallel and 2 serial ports, game port and a realtime clock. Mono monitor and MS-DOS 3.2. MM-211R Paper White monitor option for £85.15. £949
Zenith Eazy PC 8088 @ 8 MHz, 640 KB, 20 MB HDD, 3.5" 720K floppy drive, mono monitor. £899
(unbranded) XT-compatible 8088 @ 10 MHz, 512 KB RAM, 2 x 360 KB floppy drives, mono graphics card, 12" hi-res green or amber monitor, 84-key keyboard, MS-DOS 3.1, 8 expansion slots, Phoenix BIOS. £495

Standard PCs

Tandon PCA20 640 KB RAM, 80286 @ 8 MHz, 20 MB HDD, 1.2 MB floppy, Hercules graphics card, 12" mono monitor (for EGA add £295) £1,195
Tandon PCA30` 640 KB RAM, 80286 @ 8 MHz, 30 MB HDD, 1.2 MB floppy, Hercules graphics card, 12" mono monitor (for EGA add £295) £1,495
Tandon PCA40 640 KB RAM, 80286 @ 8 MHz, 40 MB HDD, 1.2 MB floppy, Hercules graphics card, 12" mono monitor (for EGA add £295) £1,695
Tandon PCA70 640 KB RAM, 80286 @ 8 MHz, 70 MB HDD, 1.2 MB floppy, Hercules graphics card, 12" mono monitor (for EGA add £295) £1,995
Apricot Xen i286 80286-10 MHz, 1 MB RAM, 30 MB HDD, 1.2 or 1.44 MB floppy, mono monitor (replace mono with paper white add £145, for EGA £750) £1,895
Tulip AT20 80286 @ 10 MHz, 640 KB RAM, 20 MB HDD, 1.2 MB floppy, EGA graphics, no monitor (for EGA multisync monitor, add £595) £1,495
Tulip AT40 80286 @ 10 MHz, 640 KB RAM, 40 MB HDD, 1.2 MB floppy, EGA graphics, no monitor (for EGA multisync monitor, add £595) £1,795
Akhter PC AT 80286 @ 6/8/10 MHz, 1 MB RAM, 20 MB HDD, EGA graphics card, 102-key enhanced keyboard, MS-DOS and monochrome monitor. £1,295
Elonex PC 286 80286 6/8/10 MHz zero wait state, 640 KB RAM, 40 MB 40ms hard disk, 1.2 MB floppy drive, Hercules-compatible mono graphics card, HiRes 14" mono monitor, mouse, professional keyboard, MS-DOS 3.21, GEM collection £1,295+VAT
Olivetti M24 8086 CPU, 640 KB RAM, 20 MB HDD, Olivetti monitor and keyboard, MS-DOS £1,295
Viglen AT 286iM 80286 6/8/10/12 MHz switchable, 1 MB RAM, 1.2 MB floppy disk drive, 20 MB hard disk, 1 parallel and 2 serial ports. Mono monitor and MS-DOS 3.2. VA-078 EGA card and colour monitor add £449. £1,499.
Zenith Z-286 80286 @ 10 MHz, 512 KB RAM, 20 MB HDD, hi-res monitor, keyboard, MS-DOS, Windows £1,545
(unbranded AT-compatible) 80286 CPU @ 6/10 MHz, 640 KB RAM, 20 MB Seagate HDD, TEAC 1.2 MB floppy drive, mono graphics card, 14" green or amber monitor, 102-key keyboard, MS-DOS 3.1 £1095

Premium PCs

Tandon 386
80386 @ 16 or 20 MHz, 2 MB RAM, 112 MB HDD, 1.2 MB floppy, Hercules graphics card (for EGA add £295), 14" monochrome monitor (colour monitor is an option).
UK price in 1987: £?
FR price in Jul 1988: 59.990F (mono), 63.490F (colour EGA), add 2.500F for 30 MB Data Pac or 3.900F for the 40 MB Data Pac.

Only available on Tandon 386, these had a unique feature: the "Personal Data Pac" - a smaller removable hard drive which was in addition to the fixed hard drive. The Tandon 386 was available in 16 and 20 MHz versions. They got 2 MB of RAM, made on proprietary cards that did not occupy the standard slots. This meant you could upgrade to a maximum 8 MB of RAM on the Tandon 386. They also came with 64 KB of 35ns cache RAM, 112 MB RLL hard disk drive, and a 5.25" high-density floppy drive - 3.5" (720 KB or 1.44 MB) would be available in the first half of 1988. As on the Target 286 and Pac 286 models, the standard monitor was monochrome (720 x 348); a colour monitor and an EGA card are available as an option. GW Basic, MS-DOS and MS Windows software come with the Tandon 386.

Apricot Xen i286 80286-10 MHz, 1 MB RAM, 45 MB HDD, 1.2 or 1.44 MB floppy, mono monitor (replace mono with paper white add £145, for EGA £750) £2,795
Apricot Xen i386 80386-16 MHz, 1 MB RAM, 30 MB HDD, 1.2 or 1.44 MB floppy, mono monitor (replace mono with paper white add £145, for EGA £750) £2,695
Apricot Xen i386 80386-16 MHz, 2 MB RAM, 45 MB HDD, 1.2 or 1.44 MB floppy, mono monitor (replace mono with paper white add £145, for EGA £750) £3,495
Elonex PC 386 80386-16 MHz, 2 MB RAM, 44 MB 28ms hard disk, 1.2 MB floppy drive, Hercules-compatible mono graphics card, HiRes 14" mono monitor, mouse, professional keyboard, MS-DOS 3.21, GEM collection £2,495+VAT
Tulip AT386 80386 @ 16 MHz, 2 MB RAM, 30 MB HDD, 1.2 MB floppy, EGA graphics, no monitor (for EGA multisync monitor, add £595) £2,595
Viglen AT 386M 80386 6-16 MHz switchable, 2 MB RAM, 1.2 MB floppy disk drive, 1 parallel and 2 serial ports and a clock. Mono monitor, MS-DOS 3.2 and Microsoft Windows with mouse. VA-073 Multiscan monitor add £499. £2,995
Zenith Z-386 80386 @ 16 MHz, 1 MB RAM, 40 MB HDD, colour monitor (£3,495 with no HDD) £3,925

US DESKTOP PC Prices

Cheapest/Clearance PCs

MIT Systems Turbo PC/XT (sold through Telemart)
256 KB RAM, 8088 @ 10 MHz (keyboard-switchable from 4-10 MHz), 135W power supply, single brand name 360 KB floppy drive, AT-style keyboard, 8 expansion slots. No graphics card or monitor. $346 (though base model with mono graphics and monitor was $490 - see below).
With 640 KB: $405, with 640 KB and two floppy drives: $475.
With 640 KB, two floppies and 20 MB hard disk: $725, or with 30 MB hard disk: $755.

Mono graphics card w/ printer port: Add $55, Auto-switch EGA card: Add $145.
Amber monitor: Add $89, Color monitor: Add $255.

CompuAdd Standard Turbo/8
Keyboard-selectable 4.77-8 MHz, AT-style keyboard, 256 KB RAM (expandable to 640 KB on motherboard), 8 expansion slots, Intel 8088, one 5.25" 360 KB floppy drive with controller. $399.

CompuAdd Standard Turbo/10
Keyboard-selectable 4.77-10 MHz, AT-style keyboard, 640 KB RAM, 8 expansion slots, Intel 8088, one 5.25" 360 KB floppy drive with controller, system reset button. $495.

For the above two CompuAdds:
Add Standard brand monographics video card w/ parallel port: $65.
Add 12" flat screen Samsung mono monitor w/ tilt/swivel base: $95 (or buy the combo mono card/monitor: $139).
Add Standard brand CGA video card w/ parallel port: $69.
Add 12" CGA color monitor: $315 (or buy the combo CGA card and monitor: $359)
Add Standard brand EGA video card w/ 256 KB display RAM: $149.
Add 14" high-resolution EGA color monitor: $349 (or buy the combo EGA card and monitor: $479)

Swan XT10
640 KB RAM, 8088-1 @ 10 MHz, 150W power supply, two 360 KB floppy drives, Hercules graphics card, 12" tilt/swivel amber monitor, 1 serial port, 1 parallel port, 1 game port, clock/calendar w/ battery backup, 101-key Enhanced "AT" touch & click style keyboard.
$749
With a 20 MB Seagate hard disk: $949, with a 30 MB Miniscribe hard disk: $999.
Base unit w/o monitor or video card: $519

Swan AT12
640 KB RAM (upgradable to 1 MB), 80286 @ 10/12 MHz (keyboard-switchable) - 11.7 Norton SI rating, 200W power supply, single 360 KB floppy, Hercules graphics card, 12" amber monitor, 2 serial ports, 1 parallel port, 1 game port, clock/calendar w/ battery backup, 101-key Enhanced "AT" touch & click style keyboard, dual floppy/dual hard drive controller. $1,099.
With a 40 MB Miniscribe 3650 hard disk: $1,499, with a 40 MB Seagate hard disk (ST-251): $1,649.
Base unit w/o monitor or video card: $949

Upgrade from Hercules to CGA and RGB color monitor: Add $170
Upgrade from Hercules to EGA and Packard-Bell EGA monitor: Add $399

Tandon PCX20 640 KB RAM, 8086 @ 4.77 MHz, 20 MB HDD, 360 KB floppy, Hercules graphics card, 12" mono monitor $1,595

Standard PCs

 

Other Stuff

Hard Disks 20 MB Seagate ST-225 Drive w/ controller $289
Hard Disks 30 MB Miniscribe XT Drive w/ controller $339
Hard Disks 30 MB Seagate ST-238 Drive w/ controller $359
Hard Disks 40 MB Miniscribe AT Hard Card $379
Hard Cards 30 MB Miniscribe Hard Card $429
Hard Cards 20 MB Western Digital File Card 20 $439
Hard Cards 30 MB Miniscribe AT Hard Card $479
Hard Disks Seagate ST-4038 AT Drive $549
Hard Disks 40 MB Seagate ST-251 AT Drive $469
Hard Disks 42 MB Miniscribe Hard Drive (28ms access time) $575
Hard Disks 70 MB Miniscribe Hard Drive (28ms access time) $849
Monitors Amdek 410A Amber Green or White monochrome monitor $149
Monitors Packard-Bell Amber monitor w/stand $97
Monitors Samsung TTL monochrome monitor $89
Monitors Xtron Amber TTL/CGA autoswitch [mono] monitor $119
Monitors Magnavox 8562 RGB colour monitor $269
Monitors Magnavox 8515 RGB colour monitor $289
Monitors Zenith 1330 RGB colour monitor $407
Monitors Zenith 1470 EGA monitor $219
Monitors NEC Multisync EGA monitor $?
Monitors Amdek 722 EGA monitor $477
Monitors Thomson Ultrascan EGA monitor $499
Graphics Cards ATI Graphics Solution card $169
Graphics Cards ATI EGA Wonder card $274
Graphics Cards BOCA Research EGA/CGA/MDA/MGA card $149
Graphics Cards Hercules Graphics Plus card $179
Graphics Cards Hercules Color Card $147
Graphics Cards Paradise Autoswitch 360 $149
Graphics Cards Paradise Autoswitch 480 $169
Graphics Cards STB EGA+ $259
Graphics Cards Chauffeur HT $214
Math Coprocessors 8087-3 $129
Math Coprocessors 8087-2 $159
Math Coprocessors 80287-6 (6 MHz) $219
Math Coprocessors 80287-8 (8 MHz) $269
Floppy Drives 5.25" 360 KB floppy for PCs (black faceplate) $99
Floppy Drives 5.25" 360 KB floppy for ATs (grey faceplate) $109