Personal Computers

1981: $3,693 in 2009 dollars (*$1,565 in 1981 dollars)
2009: **$710
Change in real dollars: -80.8 percent

As technology has improved, computer prices have declined sharply when you adjust for differences in quality. Prices for computers and peripheral equipment have dropped by over 90 percent since 1998, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. The example above reflects the price decrease in real dollars, based on IBM's (IBM) first personal computer, which made its debut in 1981 with a price tag of $1,565. That compares to the average selling price of all computers and laptops in June 2009, according to market research firm NPD. Few people in the 1980s owned personal computers. Dramatic price drops have since made them accessible to millions.

*Price for IBM 5150 in 1981; **Average price for all computers and laptops in June 2009 from NPD

NOTE: Unless otherwise stated, nominal prices on all slides are based on the Council for Community and Economic Research's ACCRA Cost of Living Index reports for second-quarter 1980 and the same period in 2010. C2ER surveyed a greater number of cities in 2010 than in 1980. The 1980 and present-day prices for some items may come from different sources, but they refer to comparable products or brands. On all slides, the price change is based on the difference in real dollars, adjusted for inflation. The inflation-adjusted value was calculated using the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics' consumer price index. $1 in June 1980 had the same buying power as about $2.64 in June 2010.
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