What kind of computer could you buy for $10,600 only 38 years ago? In 1966, you could purchase a top of the line "kitchen computer" with 4 kilobytes of core memory and a 2.5 megahertz central processor for that price. The Honeywell H316 "Kitchen Computer" did not have any disk drive at all. If you look at the picture at http://www.old-computers.com/museum/computer.asp?st=1&c=927, you will note that it did not have a keyboard, nor did it have a video display. However, it did come with a built-in cutting board, a book of recipes, and an apron! A teletype machine was available as an option, and I believe that nearly all of the H316 systems were sold with that option.
My! How times have changed! Ten grand will buy a lot more hardware these days. However, if you would like to see what computers looked like in the “good old days," you will want to check out http://old-computers.com. You can find information about a lot of computers from 1960 and after. The Web site allows you to search by manufacturer's name as well as by model number or by year of manufacture.
I was surprised to find that most of the systems shown here seem to be mini-computers and microcomputers, not mainframes. Yet, 1960 through the early 1980s were the years of the mainframe. The smaller computers were interesting, but almost all data processing of that time was done on huge mainframe computers that filled an entire room. However, I found very little information about mainframes on http://www.old-computers.com. Even so, the Web site provides a fascinating glimpse into the history of computers.
Now I will let you in on a bit of my personal history: I actually repaired several of the Honeywell H316 computers from 1971 through 1975 or so. These systems were available in several different configurations. While the pedestal model was sometimes called the "Kitchen Computer," I don't think any buyer ever actually installed one in a kitchen. That was purely a marketing gimmick. The ones that I saw were all installed in corporate data centers. The H316's optional hard drives were about the size of a modern upright freezer. Those hard drives required weekly maintenance to keep them operational. Did I mention that each hard drive typically stored up to ten megabytes of information?
I also often worked on the later Honeywell DDP-516 as shown at http://www.old-computers.com/museum/computer.asp?st=1&c=551. You will note that it had a teletype machine for the operator, not a video monitor as we see today. If you look closely on the left side of the teletype machine, you will see the paper tape reader and punch used to load and store programs. The DDP-516 had a high speed CPU (approximately 1.1 megahertz), and the memory could be expanded to 32 kilobytes of 16-bit words. It weighed more than 200 pounds, not including the disk drives. The DDP-516 systems were quite popular in business use, much more so than the "Kitchen Computers" mentioned earlier.
Yes, those were the "good old days" of computers. Their specifications may seem primitive today but were considered to be very advanced at the time. And when was the last time that you saw a sales ad for a computer that included a cutting board and an apron?