Sure, the hardware was pretty cool, but the prices were just really, really high.
I remember a call to Sun where I was asking about a SunOS license for a used 3/80 I was thinking of buying from the department, and it was going to run me like $3,000 for the OS or $5,000 with development environment or something along those lines, and it was quoted to me as the *academic* price, and no matter which media delivery I wanted I would have had to buy additional hardware to read it, and so on. I mean, that's $5,000 to $8,000+ in today's cash for an already old, low-end Unix system at the time. I remember pleading with the person on the other end of the line to help me brainstorm and find other options, as I was a CS student and needed to be able to do my homework at home and all of that, but of course, they just felt like I was tying up the line—I looked sort of ridiculous from their perspective.
And then they told me that it was really too old to be useful, that I wanted an IPC or an IPX, I forget which, and the prices were well into five digits, again *academic* price for a bare bones configuration. And here I am a broke CS undergrad already struggling to pay $4k/year in tuition to a state school. It was a total non-starter.
Meanwhile, the first purpose-specific Linux box that I assembled (as my Linux excitement grew and I knew I wanted to do a dedicated build) was a 386/40 with 8MB RAM and about 1GB ESDI storage, along with a Tseng ET4000 VGA card. It was all used gear, again bought in surplus channels, but the thing was that it got me beyond what the 3/80 would have provided in terms of performance, and was perfectly servicable at the time as an X+development box, and it cost me a total of like $200. That was just plausible.
I built a sync converter circuit to connect an old Tektronix 19" fixed-sync color monitor to the VGA port and felt like I had a real, honest-to-god Unix workstation for $300, with a very competent development environment and Emacs, NCSA Mosaic, etc., rather than having had to spend 10x that much for less in the end.
People talk about *BSD, but the driver support on *BSD wasn't as good even a few years later when I looked at it. Linux supported crap hardware in addition to great hardware, which sounds bad until you realize it means that any broke student could scrounge around in the boardbucket and put together a fairly decent Linux system for peanuts.