What $7 might have cost in 1993
April 13, 2006
A few days back we took note of an HP 3000 Series 987 server selling this week for $7 on auction. (It's gotten exactly one bid since it went up at Lemons Auctioneers; the auction ends in about a week.) I scratched around our offices to dig up the HP original announcement of the /150 version of this server, just to see how much this kind of system used to cost.
Bottom line: A customer would've paid $138,320 for this RX version in October of 1993, which included a whopping 64MB of memory, a 100-user MPE/iX license a full 1GB of disk. Even at the usual 10-20 percent discount, this was easily a $120,000 system when outfitted for real use.
Armed with the numbers, I calculated the discount, in the event this system sells for under $10. Figure a savings of more than 99.99 percent on this unit. (I had to reach for an HP product even older than this Series 987 — my HP 14-B calculator, circa 1989, and still working with its original set of batteries — to figure the result to beyond five decimal places.) Only the cost of shipping and power makes this anything less than a steal, compared to its original asking price.
Configuration data shows this is a 110-pound system, so shipping it across half of the US will be the most costly part of the deal. But even sending it by UPS 2-Day would be less than $500, according to the UPS Web site. Shipping would cost a lot less by slower means.
As for power, HP's specs list the 987s at 810 watts/hour of power dissapation; the 9x9 line has a number 50 percent higher. Of course, much of the 9x9 line is 2-3 times faster than a 987, too.
HP rolled out the Series 987/150 at the 1993 Interex HP Computer Users Conference, so this computer has now outlived the organization which provided its debut venue. HP's general manager of the 3000 division at the time, Glenn Osaka, offered the party line on the value of running a business with the HP 3000.
"More than ever, customers are looking for flexible and scalable IS solutions that will allow them to maiximize their technology investments over longer periods," he said. Longer periods of up to 13 years might not be what HP had in mind when it wrote that quote. He called the /150 model "an easy and cost-effective upgrade for the Series 9x7 systems." That was at six-figure pricing. It's hard to imagine what Osaka might say about the value of six-dollar pricing.
The base 987 model now on auction has half a megabyte of on-board cache, while the /150 offered four times as much. Comparing it to the latest generation of HP 3000s, the 987/150 uses a PA-7100 chip; PA-8600s drive HP's A-Class 3000s.
HP took note of how popular the 9x7 line has become in the fall of 1993, saying the 9x7 "is the highest-volume package in the HP 3000 line of business systems." Some say that the resilient value in these 9x7s didn't get calculated into HP's business growth plans. Customers didn't replace them for many years — as evidenced by this 987 on auction, which went out of service in 2001 — and so HP struggled to sell enough 3000 systems to its installed base.
There were other ways to entice HP 3000 sales in the middle 1990s, technology HP was testing to boot more than one operating system on a 3000. More on that tomorrow, prompted by a dramatic step by Apple this month.