A close up of electronic equipment

You Paid How Much for Your First Computer?!

I just read something that made me laugh outloud—mostly because it’s funny, but also because it is poignantly true.

“I wonder what my kids are going to tell their kids … ‘It was so rough back in my day. I didn’t get a phone ’til 4th grade and sometimes the wifi didn’t always work upstairs!’”

You’re laughing too, aren’t you! Well, I want to add one more thing: “And back then a computer cost more than a thousand dollars!” I can visualize those kids of the future, slack-jawed at the thought of having to pay that much money for a computer. Unthinkable. Right? Do you recall how much your first computer cost?

A close up of electronic equipment

Over the years, I have owned no fewer than eight computers—mostly because I just beat them to death, But also because I’ve convinced myself that as a writer, I need to be on the cutting edge of technology.

My first computer was the biggest, the heaviest, the slowest and the most expensive of all eight. With each upgrade, I welcomed a lighter, sleeker, faster and better computer. But here’s the surprising thing: Each new computer would cost less than the one it replaced. Technology is wonderful that way.

Speaking of wonderful, there really is no other way to describe what is happening in the world of Chromebook—a laptop computer that runs Chrome OS as its operating system,is designed to be used primarily while connected to the Internet and cost anywhere from $129 to $299. Even the higher end models are a $1,000 cheaper than a Macbook Pro with Retina display.

A number of companies such as Acer, HP, Samsung, Asus, and Toshiba are manufacturing Chromebooks because they have become so popular. In fact, Chromebooks have outsold Apple’s range of Macs.

Chromebooks are super popular with college students because they’re portable, lightweight, reliable and the best part—all of their files, documents, notes, music, videos, movies, etc., are stored online and available from anywhere on any device.

A Chromebook is a specific type of laptop computer that relies heavily on the Google suite of applications. And it doesn’t have a ton of onboard storage, with most apps and documents living in the cloud rather than in the machine’s hard drive—which if you’ve ever had a hard drive crash, should come as really good news.

For me, the most amazing thing about a Chromebook is the price. For example, this ASUS Chromebook Flip can be used as a laptop or flipped over to become a tablet. It has an HD touchscreen, 10.1-inch screen, 10-hour battery life, 2.0 GHz processor, 4 GB memory and 16 GB eMMC storage. And today it costs less than ten percent of what I paid for my first computer.

An open laptop computer sitting on top of a table

What’s the difference between Chromebooks and other traditional computers that run on Windows or Mac OS?

Chromebooks are designed to be used primarily while connected to the Internet, with most applications and documents living in the cloud rather than being downloaded or installed on the machine itself.

But aren’t Chromebooks inferior to regular computers, designed mostly for kids?

Not any more. In fact, industry experts are now saying the best Chromebooks are some of the best laptops overall. Chromebooks have come a long way!

Is Chromebook an option for college student?

Perhaps a Chromebook is a better option than say a pricey Macbook in that most schools have computer labs that actually provide a better atmosphere for studying.

Any gaps a student might have with his or her use of the college’s computer lab can easily be fulfilled by a Chromebook. Chromebooks are lightweight, they run Flash, and email. Students can  use Google Drive to easily have colleagues edit and to submit papers. A Chromebook allows them to read academic articles, browse social media, or even conduct other “recreational” research.

Generally, Chromebooks can run anything that uses Flash, which is what the majority of online and offline applications for his or her classes will be using. Be sure to check your student’s computer requirements, to make sure a Chromebook can run necessary applications or tools.

Do Chromebooks work offline when there is no Internet connection available?

Yes, but in a limited way. With the Internet and wifi so available these days, it’s rarely a consideration. Still, with a few offline-ready apps, you can:

  • Read and write emails with the app Offline Gmail
  • Take notes or make a list with Google Keep
  • You can create and edit documents, spreadsheets, and slides with Google Drive
  • View and even edit photos if you’ve saved them with the Chromebook’s built-in photo editor
  • Listen to music or watch movies with the built-in media player

Do Chromebooks have CD/DVD drives?

No, but you can play saved music and watch movies with the built-in media player. Or you can play files from a USB drive or SD card.

Can I print from a Chromebook?

Yes, by either setting up your printer on your Chromebook or setting up Google Cloud Print.

Could I use any accessories with a Chromebook?

Mac and Windows USB drives work with Chromebooks. So do computer mice, keyboards and external storage devices.

Is a Chromebook right for everyone and every situation?

I am not planning to get rid of my MacBook Pro anytime soon, so the answer is no—but I do love my Chromebook. It’s compact, sleek, lightweight and has a full-size keyboard.

I can take it with me to keep up with email. It’s perfect for browsing the Internet, creating documents, taking notes, which I save to my Google docs. I count on it for handling email, listening to music, and even playing a game or two. Or ten.

Add to all that the cheap price and it’s no wonder Chromebook laptops have become so popular.

Question: What was your first computer and how much did it cost?

First published: 5-25-16; Revised & Updated with expanded information for 2019: 8-29-19. Last modified 9-2-19.


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  1. MoreFreedom says:

    While the Chromebook is a good deal, but readers should be aware that for the price Google collects data on the users, including kids, and sells it to people interested in influencing your purchases and your votes. Just search the internet on “Chromebook spying”, but don’t use Google for the search. Instead try a web search engine that doesn’t track your searches like duckduckgo.com.

  2. Pamela L Fishel says:

    I bought an Acer Chromebook in March 2014. I received this message last week, “You have received your final update. We update Chromebooks for approximately 6.5 years. We recommend you upgrade in the near future.” Hmm. Now Chromebooks are disposable? They need to work on their math. My 6.5 years are not up. I also don’t know how long I can trust this “final update” to protect me. Like you said, “Chromebooks are not for everyone.”

  3. Christine Garcia says:

    We bought an XT with a color monitor and a dot matrix printer for $3,000 in 1985. We were on Prodigy and the only people I knew with email addresses were my kids, 6, 8 and 11 years old. I was a Federal employee and we did not have PCs at our desks and word processing was still being done on a stand-alone word processor.

  4. Adele says:

    Here is a newer model of this item mentioned in your vlog.
    ASUS Chromebook Flip C101PA-DB02 10.1inch Rockchip RK3399 Quad-Core Processor 2.0GHz, 4GB Memory,16GB, All Metal Body,Lightweight, USB Type-C, Google Play Store Ready to run Android apps, Touchscreen
    ASUS Chromebook Flip C101PA-DB02 10.1inch Rockchip RK3399 Quad-Core Processor 2.0GHz, 4GB Memory,16GB, All Metal Body,Lightweight, USB Type-C, Google Play Store Ready to run Android apps, Touchscreen
    In Stock with Amazon…. ps… I became a programmer in 1969 and my first desktop computer was a Commandor 126i… I had an earlier one, but it was a hair pulling experience and I can still hear the sound in my head of dial up modems. LOL.. This article reminds me of Erma Bombeck .. you are such a good writer.

  5. Bookworm says:

    Can you read Kindle books on the Chromebook? If so, can you download them to read offline?

    Our first computer was a Texas Instruments “portable” computer, which we bought in 1984. It was about 1.5’x1.5’x7″ and weighed about 25 pounds! It cost about $3.000. The separate keyboard could be latched to the combination computer/monitor box which had a handle on it, and you could carry it around if you were strong!

    • Mary Hunt says:

      You sure can read Kindle books on a Chromebook. Here a link to a great article that explains how to set it up plus all the benefits like reading your library of books offline: https://www.omgchrome.com/kindle-cloud-reader-offline-reading-chromebook/ Hope that helps!

  6. JimS says:

    My first computer was $1500.00 in 1984, a Tandy T-1000. a 20 MB hard drive and 640 kb on the mother board, it was top of the line.
    I do agree that the new Chromebooks are good for things like school work and gaming, I will NEVER get one to do personal things like finances and shopping. Have you ever noticed that when you shop on Amazon and then go to Facebook on the same phone or tablet (which I have only done once) you receive adds for that product within Facebook? I have and am being drug down the downward spiral of the continued loss of personal privacy….
    Google is the worse one about loss of privacy and selling of personal information. If you searched for blue dog collars with studs 19 years ago through Google, they still have who you are, where you clicked to check inventory, the make of and what your computers memory and static IP address, and knows within 200 yards of where you accessed the interweb and still maintain that information to this day.
    Apple is little better but at least you can turn off tracking to a degree, and Google will not let you do that. I do like the price of a Chromebook but they are not for me.
    One last thing, Microsoft will be removing the pay once for Windows and will be introducing a monthly pay for use windows in the near future with tracking software to try to compete with Google…..time for everyone to find another cheaper, better operating system, less intrusive operating system other than Google and Microsoft…….did I hear someone say Apple Mojave ?

  7. Ellen Fehr says:

    Mary, you state that one can print from the Chromebook.
    My understanding is that to do so risks crashing the system. Please tell us how to do it safely without using the Cloud.

    • Mary Hunt says:

      There are many resources out there to help with this, but I lke this one best because it presented clearly: https://www.howtogeek.com/311330/how-to-print-from-a-chromebook/. When you get there scroll down to find How to Use a Local Printer on a Chromebook.

      Hope that helps!

  8. Andee Wyatt says:

    We bought our first “real” computer in 1985 for our business. The internet was not available yet. But it, along with necessary accessories (printer, keyboard, monitor, and slide generator) – yes, this was before Power Point. We made presentation media for businesses. The total bill for this new equipment was over $5,000. The computer (I think it was a Gold brand computer) was around $3,000 if I remember right. That was a lot of money then. But it more than paid for itself. We believed (and still do) it was a great deal!

  9. COLLEEN says:

    It was $2400: $400 monitor which lasted thru several towers and $2000 for the tower, next tower was $1000, then less and less after that

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