Cheap, cheap memory

I see that Kogan is selling a 128GB USB drive for just $79 at the moment.

Which got me to check some of the memory prices I’ve recorded in times past. For example, back in July 2010 the cheapest (on a per megabyte basis) memory I could find was 4GB USB stick costing $12.00. At that price the Kogan stick would be $400.

In July 2007 memory was an order of magnitude more expensive. The cheapest per MB was a 4GB SD card at $90. The Kogan 128GB card at those prices would have been $2,800.

Now let’s go right back another five years, to October 2002. Back then the cheapest memory I could find was in Compact Flash form, with a 256MB card costing $277. Ouch!

At that cost per megabyte this Kogan card would not cost $79, but $135,000. You could buy four of them or one house.

Update: Thanks to Russ Roberts at Cafe Hayek for linking to this post. Great reading there, and lots of cool economic and tech stuff at Econtalk.

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6 Responses to Cheap, cheap memory

  1. Simon Reidy says:

    Great post. Its always interesting to reflect on memory. My first computer, an Amiga 500, had 512k ram and it cost me $120 for a 512k upgrade card. I still remember being excited by all the possibilities of a whole 1MB of ram! 🙂

    I’ll have to try to remind myself of this, the next time I get annoyed that my phone has “only” 32GB of storage.

  2. My second computer, an Amstrad CPC6128, only had 128kB, and only the bottom half of that was readily accessible. You could use the other 64kB as a RAM disk or bank-switch memory in and out. I wrote a spell check program in Pascal in which the top 64kB would hold the dictionary. Or, rather, the roots of words and algorithms would look after suffixes and prefixes (approximately, with no provision made for irregular constructions). Round about the time I had the program working and was getting it learning words (I had to build the database from scratch, so I put in a few hundred words as a seed and the plan was to ‘add to dictionary’ words from checked documents) I traded up to a proper IBM AT clone.

  3. Billy Paulson says:

    Point is valid, but I’m not sure size and price and perfectly correlated. Has an 8 GB USB drive ever been twice the price as a 4 GB USB drive?

  4. Ah, Billy, no perfect correlation. But the prices I’ve used were the cheapest per MB at the time in my ad hoc searches. For example, the cheapest memory I found in October 2001 was Compact Flash at $1.08/MB for 256MB cards, but 128MB and 512MB and especially 1024MB cards were more expensive on a per MB basis ($1.11, $1.18 and $1.75 respectively).

    That’s usually the case: memory is cheaper per MB as the capacity increases, until it gets near the maximum available capacity. The very highest capacities are usually more expensive because the tech is newer and it’s cooler.

  5. Per Kurowski says:

    The other side of the coin: When the price on memory goes down, up goes the incentives to saving what should not be saved, causing and overload of information, and probably making it even harder to remember where one stored what is truly important.

  6. Per, that’s what you’d expect in theory, and I agree a lot more stuff is saved that would have been or used to be. But at the same time technology has given improved ways of finding the stuff that we want within the data proliferation. And just the saving of time in not having to repetitively cull the contents of storage to release more room is worthwhile.

    I see price reductions in storage of three orders of magnitude pretty much an unencumbered good.

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