BYTEDec1981The cover of BYTE magazine December 1981 issue

Thanks to ThumpNuggett, who uploaded a nearly complete archive of BYTE magazine, I was able to read the prices of various computers in the USA from the December 1981 issue, published not long before the Commodore 64 made its début at the CES. Well done, ThumpNuggett!

atari-400-advertAn ad for the Atari 400 and 800 computers, which could both have their RAM upgraded

I found the prices for various computers listed, but from what I could see the cheapest computers available at that time were the Atari 400, and the Sinclair ZX81, before it was licensed as the Timex Sinclair 1000. People could have got off to a good start with either of these computers, widely advertised at $349 for the Atari 400 with 16K (sometimes as low as $329), while the Sinclair ZX81 with 1K was the cheapest computer available at $99.95 in kit form, or either $149 or perhaps $149.95 already assembled.

ZX81BYTEadThe type of Sinclair ZX81 ad which appeared in BYTE magazine’s December 1981 issue

Both these computers were widely criticised for having only touch sensitive, flat keyboards, not even with calculator type keys, but various people managed to type on these keyboards, which were similar to the keyboards used in fast food restaurants. Later on, dealers such as Silica Shop managed to fit replacement keyboards to the Atari 800, giving a similar feel and quality to the Atari 800, and third parties managed to upgrade its RAM beyond 16K as mentioned on , but I’m not sure what the maximum amount of RAM was, but I seem to remember reading recently that 48K was possible. It’s widely known that the Sinclair ZX81 could be upgraded to 16K with an externally fitted RAM pack.

ZX81$99Another Sinclair ZX81 $99.95 ad from the USA before they marketed it as the Timex Sinclair 1000

So much for the Commodore 64 with its original price of $595 making computers cheap enough for more people to buy!

AtariNOTgeniusadAtari computers. You don’t have to be a genius to use one, unlike the Commodore 64!

Posted June 25, 2014 by C64hater in Uncategorized

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