Data InsightsThe price of computer storage has fallen exponentially since the 1950s
May 21, 2024Edouard Mathieu

The price of computer storage has fallen exponentially since the 1950s

Line graph depicting the historical price of computer storage from 1956 to 2023. The y-axis represents the price in US dollars per terabyte on a logarithmic scale, ranging from 10 billion dollars to 100 dollars per TB. The x-axis represents the years from 1956 to 2023. Three lines represent different types of storage technologies: 'Disk' in orange, 'Solid State' in purple, and 'Flash' in green. The orange line starts from the highest price in 1956 and shows a steep decline over the decades. The purple and green lines start later in the timeline, around the late 1990s and early 2000s, respectively, both beginning at lower prices than the disk and following a similar downward trend.

This chart shows the dramatic fall in the price of computer storage between 1956 and 2023. It relies on the data carefully collected by the computer scientist John C. McCallum.

In the last 70 years, the price for a unit of storage has fallen by almost ten orders of magnitude. The data is plotted on a logarithmic scale on the vertical axis. The line follows an almost straight path, indicating an exponential reduction in price.

A 256-gigabyte storage capacity — commonly found in standard laptops sold today — would have cost around 20 billion dollars in the 1950s. (That’s in today’s prices.)

And cost has not been the only improvement: modern solid-state drives offer much faster and more reliable data access than early magnetic and hard disk drives.

Read more on the exponential growth of computing capabilities