Listening to vintage computing podcasts when the Coleco ADAM computer is brought up, you would have thought the ADAM was ridiculously expensive when it came out. That just doesn’t make sense to me, because when I look at the ADAM I see a robust product: keyboard, memory console with a software controlled tape deck, printer, controllers with one attaching to the keyboard to act as a numeric keypad and a built-in word processing application. The only thing it didn’t come with was a monitor.
So I did some simple digging through the world wide web and found some things. It seems the ADAM was going to be sold for $600, but when it finally came to market, it was priced at $749.99. That does seem like a lot of money, but I’m thinking about this from a modern day perspective. So I went to see the prices of other computers of the time. In 1983, Tandy’s TRS-80 Model 4 was selling for $1999. Also in 1983, the Apple IIe was priced at $1400. In 1981 the IBM 5150’s base model sold for $1600. And finally, the most popular home computer of all time, the Commodore 64 was selling for $595 when it was released in 1982.
Now before you send me messages about how each one of those computers would decrease in price, some dramatically, the ADAM did as well. However, at those original prices, the ADAM looked like a great deal. The Tandy did come with everything you needed to get up and running out of the box, but you had to take out a bank loan to get it. The Apple IIe and Commodore 64 were computers with built-in keyboards, but the customer still needed to buy a disk drive separately if you wanted to run serious software. The Commodore’s saving grace was that software cartridges could be inserted into the back of the unit without the need for a peripheral. The C64 would eventually drop to about 200 dollars but adding a 1541 disk drive and printer would set the price close to, if not more than, the ADAM’s introductory price.