1996 was only 12 years back. The adverb ‘only’ doesn’t exactly fit in right here. It was only the year before that the Indian public got access to the internet. As for me, I was still in school and a very few friends (whose parents could afford it) had a computer that they could call personal.

Though we were taught BASIC as a part of an optional computer course (additional computers fee was charged) and I along with a friend would also visit the city campus of the university in order to expose ourselves to this newly emerging world, I don’t remember much from what I did or learned then (apart from GOTO 10) Things have changed so much.

Chanced upon a few interesting bits from those days of shell accounts and 8 MB of RAM. What is interesting is not the advances made in technology (that is expected) but the drastic fall in prices.

VSNL’s rates for internet service in 1995:

All prices are flat annual rates (in Rs). Professionals only get shell accounts, the others can choose SLIP or PPP. Dial up users have a total of 250 hours to use up in a year and 512 kb disk space. Leased line rates only include what VSNL charges for bandwidth – the physical link will have to be paid for to the telecom provider – the DoT. These costs are typically 10% of VSNL’s corporate rates, for distances up to 50 kilometres (30 miles). [Source]

And some PCs sold in 1996 (Click on images for a better view). Wondering what I can get for Rs 120,945 today.

[From Gladrags, February 1996]

PRICE: Rs 74,195
FEATURES 208Mb hard disk, 8Mb RAM, five slots, Media, Vision soundcard BEST FOR Reasonably well-specified for the price and is a nippy performer. An enormous box, but with no real advantage in terms of card or drive installation space. Poor socket labelling and an oldfashioned looking monitor don’t do it any favours either. The bundle of programs provided is comprehensive, with everything from Works to a typing tutor, atlas, encyclopaedia, zoological reference work and games including Star Wars, Zork, and chess. For audiophiles there’s the “pocket mixer” utility which combines outputs from CDs, a microphone, digitised sound sources and Midi instrument files and the Pocket CD player which lets you program favourite music tracks.
Unfortunately, the speakers are a bit ropey.
CHANCES OF YOU GETTING ANY WORK DONE Good. It’s a bit too lumpy to enjoy playing games on.

PRICE Rs 78,210
FEATURES 64 hard disk, 4Mb RAM, four expansion slots, MediaVision soundcard
BEST FOR Games and simple business applications. You should be able to run business software, garnes, and creativity packages and with the right video hardware can also run movies from CD-V discs. Once you have a multimedia PC you never have to move from your seat again and the Arnstrad is one of the cheapest on the market. Its soundcard, CD-ROM drive an.d speaker system work well. Other software provided includes a comprehensive business suite, games including the legendary Doorn, and an interactive encyclopaedia on CD- ROM.
CHANCES OF YOU GETTING ANY WORK DONE High. Not enough entertainment value to distract you.

PRICE Rs 120,945
FEATURES 850Mb hard disk, 8Mb RAM, Pentium processor, Soundblaster sound card, quad speed CD-ROM
BEST FOR People who drink bottled beer with a slice of lime. IBM clearly intends to make the multimedia PC as familar in the home as a hi-fi or microwave oven. The latest Aptiva designs overcome most of the shortcomings of earlier versions, offering better ergonomics and specifications. Also new is a software system including Personal Desktop, which allows several users to arrange the Windows Program Manager in their own favourite way, and Rapid Resume, which saves all your default settings and powers the machine down to save energy when it’s not in use. An optional extra is MWave, a card which serves as a fax modern, answer machine interface and sound care. The price may be a bit steep, butin terms of features, they have done the business.
CHANCES OF YOU GETTING ANY WORK DONE More of a lifestyle statement than a workhorse.

PRICE Rs 98,890
FEATURES 411Mb hard disk, 8Mb RAM five slots, Compaq soundcard, integrated modem
BEST FOR Small businesses. The Presario comes with a good preinstalled software bundle, though the compression system means it takes half-an-hour to decompress the software and get going. The built-in modem means e-mail, compufax and Internet services are close at hand, and the computer will even function as a telephone answering machine. Business applications include Works, and instead of the usual Windows Program Manager there’s TabWorks, a singlepage indexing system grouping programs by category. But the speakers are crap.

PRICE Rs 83,930
FEATURES 333Mb hard disk, 8Mb RAM, four slots, Creative Labs SoundBlaster 16-sound card
BEST FOR Anything you fancy. As reliable as any PC you could hope for, with plenty of expansion slots and memory making up for the relatively small hard drive. The Prestige comes with pre-loaded software including Works, Microsoft Money, Encarta, Golf, Dangerous Creatures and a pack of other games. The SoundBlaster 16-sound card is the industry standard, and the speakers are decent too, so try one if you’re a big games-player or like the idea of playing CDs on your computer while you’re working.

PRICE Rs 76,945
FEATURES 264Mb hard disk, 8Mb RAM, two slots, Creative Labs SoundBlaster sound card BEST FOR Sophisticated games, education. With its generous 8Mb memory,
the Adventure is beefy enough to run the most demanding programs, though the hard drive might not be big enough for storing large graphics files. The software bundle includes Microsoft Works., an accounts program, organiser, fax facility, Encarta, the movie database Cinemania, and a 3D golf game which will lure you away from work again and again. Only the piddly speakers stop this from being a package – dump them and plug the soundcard output straight in your hi-fi if you want real entertainment.
CHANCES OF YOU GETTING ANY WORK DONE Fair. A better soundsystem would be more likely to tempt you away from work.