Typical PCs Each Year


This year the very first permanent USA-to-Europe internet link was created, called Nordunet as well as Internet Relay Chat (IRC). We had the Winter Olympics in Calgary, AL, where Eddie "The Eagle" Edwards got the longest ski jump in British history. The Soviet Union began its gradual dissolution through growing unrest amongst the republics, starting with the Baltics who were expressing the need for independence, and rebellion in the Caucasus. In our skies, the secretive F117 Nighthawk stealth bomber was officially acknowledged to exist by the US Air Force, and the year ended with the Lockerbie air crash.

For movie-watchers, 1988 brought us a deluge of soon-to-be classics: Rainman, Who Framed Roger Rabbit, Coming to America, Die Hard, Twins, A Fish Called Wanda, and Big. In music, George Michael sung Faith, Guns n Roses came out with Sweet Child O' Mine, Belinda Carlisle topped the charts with Heaven is a Place on Earth and Def Leppard gave us Pour Some Sugar on Me, to name but a fraction of them.

In the world of computing, Steve Jobs unveils the NeXT which came with a Magneto-Optical drive and 3 CPUs, Creative launch the iconic Sound Blaster, the very first computer virus, the Internet Worm, propogated itself across our networks, and Acorn Computers release their new operating system, RISC OS.


A budget model looked something like this:

  • Unbranded Intel 8088 @ 10 MHz
  • 640 KB RAM
  • One or two 5.25" 360 KB floppy drives
  • Hercules mono graphics card and monochrome 12" monitor

A mid-range model looked something like this:

  • 80286 @ 12 MHz
  • 1 MB RAM
  • 3.5" 720 KB floppy drive
  • 40 MB hard disk

A premium PC looked like this:

  • 80386DX @ 16 or 20 MHz
  • 1 MB RAM
  • 3.5" 1.44 MB floppy drive
  • 80 MB - 120 MB hard disk


This year we saw much more 80286-based and even 80386-based laptop computers hit the market. Luggables like the Compaq Portable 386 were still popular for customers who wanted expansion capability, as it had standard ISA slots. The GRiDCase 1530 was an 80386-based laptop the same size as a Toshiba T3100 that ran at 12.5 MHz. The fastest clock speed is the Compaq which has a 20 MHz 80386 CPU. NEC V20 and V30-powered laptops are commonplace.

Memory was no longer limited to 640 KB. Higher-spec laptops could support up to 8 MB (GrIDCase 1530) or even 10 MB (Compaq).

The GrIDCase 1550f

Whilst some machines still had non-backlit LCD displays on their budget offerings (Toshiba's T1000 for example), these became few and far between in 1988, with backlit supertwist (STN) technology the common option - these were brighter and clearer. Nearly all laptops still only supported CGA, but a few early adopters of the new EGA technology could be bought, including the Kaypro 2000 Plus (the first ever to support EGA), and DataVue's Smoke 386.

At the high end of the laptop/luggable/portable PC market were those with a Gas Plasma display. Compaq, GRiD Systems and Toshiba all provided one or more of their computers with this technology. The downside (apart from higher price tag)? Power consumption. Many portables that used Gas Plasma technology only supported an AC mains option for power.

Way down on the budget end of the laptop market, 1988 saw Amstrad launch their new 8086-based laptops. The PPC640 was launched for the small sum of just $999 and came with a built-in 2400 baud modem. It had a supertwist LCD display and single 3.5" floppy disk drive. A second floppy drive could be bought for a further $100.

Amstrad PPC640 (1988)

Meanwhile, Toshiba launched two high-end models to the range in the form of the T3200 and T5100. The T3200, priced at $5,499, was built around the 12 MHz 80286 processor and came as standard with a 40 MB hard disk. Like its forebear, the T3100, the T3200 was the same in that it came with two internal expansion slots - one full-length 16-bit one, and a half-length 8-bit one. Meanwhile the T5100 which came with a price tag of $6,499, got a 16 MHz 80386 CPU and 2MB RAM, and also came as standard with a 40 MB hard disk as well as the same gas plasma screen of the T3200.


Toshiba's High End 1988 Models, the T3200 (left) and T5100 (right)

NEC introduced the Multispeed HD, an improved version of its earlier twin-floppy Multispeed. This one came with a 20 MB hard disk and a brand new backlit LCD display that was almost as good as the class-leading Zenith Z-183 at the time. The Multispeed HD came with a blazing NEC V30 CPU running at 9.54 MHz. List price was $3,695. Battery life with moderate disk access was 1 hour 55 minutes.




Back in 1988 you could purchase motherboards separately, but this would have been to replace a pre-existing one, as the concept of home-built PCs wasn't yet a thing. An 80286 12 MHz, zero wait-state motherboard with 8 expansion slots and an Award BIOS would sell for around $399 with no memory (and of course no CPU).


Your choice of printers was still quite a simple affair: either dot matrix or laser, though dot matrix colour printers were now available. The big players in dot matrix printers were Epson (of course), NEC, Okidata, and Citizen, though other companies like Diconix (part of Kodak), IBM, Panasonic and Toshiba were also there with their offerings.

Oki's Okimate 20 was about the cheapest dot matrix printer on the market, at just $122. Citizen's extremely popular 120D (120 cps, characters per second) was also cost-effective at $150. An Epson LX-800 80-column printer which offered 150cps was $180. Star Micronics' NX-1000, which was slightly slower at 140cps was the same price.

Laser printers were still pricey - an HP Laserjet II cost $1,700 - but this was also the year the first inkjet printers arrived. HP introduced the Deskjet for just $689, claiming laser quality printing for a fraction of the price.

Monitors and Graphics Cards

In 1988 monochrome monitors started at around the $90 price point for a 12" amber or green screen one - this would be a good brand like Philips or Samsung.

CGA colour monitors (often just referred to as "RGB Colour") started at $240. EGA was the midpoint at $390, while a Compaq colour VGA monitor was $550. If you had no limits you would push to an NEC Multisync XL 19" colour VGA, though it would cost you just under $2,000. If that was too much a 14" NEC Multisync II was a more palatable $600.

VGA cards from Orchid, Paradise, Genoa and Video 7 started at about $280. If you were looking for a decent EGA card, ATI EGA Wonder cost $200, while their Super-EGA Hi-Res 800x600 one was $240. At the cheapest end of the EGA bin was the Paradise auto-switching EGA 480 for $170.

Hard Disks

In 1988, hard cards were popular. a MiniScribe 30 MB "Flashcard" was yours for $425.

Basic MFM/RLL hard disks were now up to 80 MB in capacity, but for large businesses you could get an ESDI hard disk up to 380 MB.

A 40 MB MiniScribe MFM hard disk with 28ms access time sold for around $610. For 80 MB this was $850. Seagate tended to be cheaper, with an ST-225 20 MB drive going for around $270, an ST-238 30 MB for $320, 40 MB for $590 and 80 MB for $740.

Other Hardware

A 360 KB 5.25" floppy disk drive would cost about $110.
A Logitech C7 bus mouse cost $90 and a Microsoft serial mouse cost $130. They usually came bundled with some form of paint software like Dr. Halo.
A 150W XT power supply cost $70.
A 101-key Enhanced keyboard was $105.

Math coprocessors were still in widespread use of course, with an 8087-2 costing $160, an 80287-10 $340 and an 80387-20 a whopping $770!

Modems were still super slow, coming in either 1200 baud or 2400 baud speeds, with the former selling for about $75 and the latter, $180. 1988 would see the very first 9600 baud modems hit the market from key players Hayes with their V-series Smartmodem 9600, USRobotics with the Courier HST, and more from Racal-Vadic, Concord and others. Prices of these at launch were through the roof, averaging between $895 and $2,000.

AST's SixPak Plus 576 board was going for $150, and for those looking to expand their XT to 286 performance, the Hot Shot 286 Accelerator could be yours for $350. If you already had a 286 and wanted 386 power, the Intel Inboard 386 cost $799.

A pack of 10 Maxell 5.25" DS/DD (360 KB formatted) floppy disks cost about $9.50, or for the newer 3.5" DS/DD (720 KB formatted) floppies, these were $18.50. Oddly, Sony branded diskettes were slightly cheaper at $7.99 for 10 of the 5.25" variety, and $16.99 for the 3.5" ones.


The operating system of choice was still MS-DOS 3.3, though version 4.0 would be released in August of this year, offering hard disk capacities up to 2 GB. The larger utilities now supported the use of a mouse, and disks now got a unique serial number when they were formatted. MS-DOS 4.0 was buggy, so 4.01 and 4.01a soon followed.

Ashton-Tate's very popular dBase III+ sold for $389. Borland Paradox 2.0 competed against it

The popular spreadsheet, Borland Quattro was $129, which was a load cheaper than Lotus 1-2-3 at $299.

In word processing, WordPerfect was still top of the pile with version 4.2, at $199.

Central Point's PC Tools Deluxe, which offered fast hard disk backup, data recovery and disk management sold for $70.



Cheapest/Clearance PCs

Olivetti PC1 NEC V40 @ 8 MHz, 512 KB RAM £399

Standard PCs


Premium PCs




Cheapest/Clearance PCs

CompuAdd Standard Turbo/8 4.77 MHz/8 MHz processing speed, 8 expansion slots, 8088 processor, 360 KB floppy diskette drive with controller, 256 KB RAM, 5060, 5151 or 101-key enhanced keyboard (your choice) $399
Noname branded XT 8088 10 MHz, 640 KB RAM, ERSO BIOS, 150W power supply, one 360 KB floppy drive, floppy disk controller, AT type keyboard (84 keys). 20 MB hard disk and controller card version for $769. For amber 12" monitor/graphics card, add $165. For EGA card and 14" color monitor add $575. $429
Noname branded XT 8088-1 CPU running at 4.77 or 12 MHz switchable, 0 wait states, Phoenix BIOS, 640 KB RAM, 8 expansion slots, 1 x 360 KB floppy drive, AT-type keyboard, Multi I/O (ser/par/Clock/calendar with battery backup) with floppy controller, 150W PSU. Base system only (no monitor). Add $120 for Samsung 12" mono amber monitor and mono graphics card, $290 for Samsung 14" RGB color monitor and CGA card, or $440 for Samsung 14" EGA color monitor and EGA card 640x350. $485
Packard-Bell PB88 Turbo XT, 512 KB RAM, single floppy drive, mono graphics and monitor, keyboard. 20 MB hard disk version = $956. $645
CompuAdd Career Starter Kit Standard Turbo/10 computer, 640 KB RAM, 150W PSU, half-height 360 KB floppy drive, 5060-style keyboard and system reset button, monographics video (high-resolution 750x350) amber monochrome monitor with 12" screen, monochrome graphics card and printer port. Star Micronics NX-1000 printer, Professional Zen software MS-DOS and GW-BASIC, 200 sheets continuous form paper, printer cable, and 10 double-sided double density blank diskettes. EGA version with 14" color monitor for $1,195. $795
Dell System 100 With bundled software worth over $400 (MS-DOS, DOS Manager and Microsoft Works), the System 100 was cost-effective for a good brand PC. Intel 8088 running at 9.54 MHz, 640 KB RAM, 3.5" 720 KB floppy drive, 84-key keyboard, 1 serial, 1 parallel, mono graphics card and monitor. $799. Add a second floppy = $949, 20 MB hard disk = $1,299. To move to colour CGA, a single floppy version was $899, 2 floppies $1,049 or 20 MB hard disk = $1,399. VGA mono and single floppy = $999, twin floppy = $1,149, 20 MB HDD = $1,499. VGA Colour and single floppy = $1,199, twin floppy = $1,349 and 20 MB HDD = $1,699. $799
Olivetti M24 (AT&T 6300) 640 KB, single floppy drive. Add a 20 MB hard disk = $1,159, 30 MB = $1,187, 40 MB = $1,410. $849


Standard PCs

Noname branded 286 80286-10 MHz, 0 wait states. Base system only (no monitor). Add $120 for Samsung 12" mono amber monitor and mono graphics card, $290 for Samsung 14" RGB color monitor and CGA card, or $440 for Samsung 14" EGA color monitor and EGA card 640x350. $875
Noname branded 286 80286-12 MHz, 0 wait states, 512 KB RAM expandable to 1 MB, Phoenix BIOS, Clock/calendar with battery backup, Dual floppy/hard disk controller card, 1.2 MB floppy drive, 101 enhanced keyboard, 200W PSU. Base system only (no monitor). Add $120 for Samsung 12" mono amber monitor and mono graphics card, $290 for Samsung 14" RGB color monitor and CGA card, or $440 for Samsung 14" EGA color monitor and EGA card 640x350. $945
Noname branded 286 80286-16, 640 KB RAM (80ns), Onboard clock/calendar, Eden BIOS (w/ set up software), 200W power supply, one 1.2 MB floppy drive, hard & floppy controller, enhanced capacity keyboard, SI v3.0 18.7. 20 MB HD version = $1,829, 40 MB HD version = $2,039, 60 MB HD version = $2,439. For amber 12" monitor/graphics card, add $165. For EGA card and 14" color monitor add $575. $1,549
CompuAdd Standard 286/12 6 MHz-12 MHz selectable speed, 0 wait states, 80286 processor, 5060, 5151 or 101-key Enhanced keyboard (your choice), 1 MB RAM, Clock/calendar with battery backup, Phoenix BIOS, 200-watt power supply, 1.2MB floppy drive $1,149
IBM PS/2 Model 30 With twin floppy drives, prices started at $1,272. Adding a 20 MB hard disk = $1,725 $1,272
Packard-Bell VT286 80286-10, zero wait state, 1.2 MB floppy drive, monochrome graphics and monitor. Add a 20 MB hard disk = $1,573, 40 MB = $1,724. $1,299
Dell System 220 Dell claimed the 220 to be the fastest 286 computer on the market - "as fast as most 386 computers at less than half the price". They might have been right! 80286-20 MHz, <1 wait state, uses page mode interleaved memory (also <1 wait state) which provides about 15% increase in performance. Other stats were: 1MB RAM, integrated hard & floppy disk interface and VGA controller, 1 x 1.44 MB floppy drive, enhanced 101-key keyboard, 12 mth on-site service. VGA mono started at $1,799. For VGA Color it was $1,999, and for "VGA Color Plus" it was $2,099. Add a 40 MB hard disk for $700 or a 100 MB hard disk for $1,600. $1,799

Premium PCs

Noname branded 386 80386[DX]-16, 1 MB RAM (120ns), 64 KB RAM cache, 6 x 16-bit ISA slots, 2 x 8-bit ISA slots, 1.2 MB floppy drive, 101-key Enhanced keyboard, 195W power supply, monochrome graphics card and 14" mono monitor. Add a 40 MB hard disk = $2,420, 70 MB = $2,725, 130 MB = $3,890. For EGA graphics with 14" Evervision monitor add $320. $1,995
Gateway 2000 A12 80286-12, Phoenix BIOS, 1 MB zero wait-state RAM (100ns), 1 x 5.25" 1.2 MB floppy drive, 1 x 3.5" 1.44 MB floppy drive, Seagate ST251 (40 MB) hard drive, 14" Samsung EGA monitor (640 x 350), Sigma Designs Autoswitch EGA card, 101-key Enhanced keyboard, 1 parallel port, 2 serial ports, battery-backed clock/calendar, 8 expansion slots. $1,995
Compaq Deskpro 286 Model 1 Prices start from $2,095. For a 40 MB hard disk version it's $2,580, for 70 MB it's $2,895. $2,095
AST Premium/286 80286-10, 1 MB RAM, 40 MB hard disk (28ms access time), 1.2 MB floppy, serial/parallel/clock card, 101-key Enhanced keyboard, MS-DOS 3.2 + BASIC, 1 year nationwide warranty $2,195
IBM PS/2 Model 60 With a 40 MB hard disk = $3,340, 70 MB = $3,399. $3,340
IBM PS/2 Model 80 With a 40 MB hard disk = $4,497, 70 MB = $5,677. $4,497
Compaq Deskpro 386 The 40 MB version started at $4,662. For the 20 MHz Model 60 (60 MB hard disk) it was $5,579. For the 20 MHz Model 130 (130 MB hard disk) it was $7,059. For the 20 MHz Model 300 (300 MB hard disk) it was $9,168. $4,662



Compaq Portable II For the Model 2 prices started at $1,896. For the Model 4, this went up to $2,797. $1,896
Compaq Portable III For the Model 20 prices started at $3,577. For the Model 40, this went up to $4,159. $3,577
Compaq Portable 386 80386-20 MHz, 1 MB RAM, 40 MB hard disk, gas plasma display, full IBM enhanced-style keyboard. Hard disk upgrade option to 100 MB available for a further $4,299. $7,999
Epson Equity LT NEC V30 @ 4.77 or 10 MHz, 640 KB RAM, Two floppy drives = $1,895 (see display options below).
640 KB RAM, One floppy drive, 20 MB hard disk = $2,995 (see display options below). Display options: Add Supertwist LCD (non-backlit) for a further $300, or backlit LCD for a further $500.
GRiD GRiDCase 1530 80386 @ 12.5 MHz, Magnesium case, Backlit Supertwist LCD or Gas Plasma screen, 10 - 40 MB hard disk options. Up to $7,000
HP Portable Vectra CS 640 KB RAM, with two 1.44 MB floppy drives. One floppy drive can be replaced with a 20 MB hard disk for a further $1,100 (this model is called the Portable Vectra CS 20). $2,495
NEC Multispeed HD    
Toshiba T3100   $3,495
Zenith Z-183