The original Mac cost $2,495 in 1984 and came with Mac OS, MacPaint, MacWrite, an internal floppy disk, a black and white screen, and a mouse.
I’ll argue that Macs are cheaper today but cost us even more.
To be fair, feature for feature, software and hardware cost less today than nearly 23 years ago.
That first Mac, and many Macs for years afterward, cost more than most iMacs today. Compare what you got vs. what you get.
The Mac 128k, then the 512k, and Mac Plus just didn’t do much for the money compared to a new Mac out of the box today.
In some respects, today’s Mac and our Mac life may actually cost us more.
In 1984, $2,495 didn’t get much productivity of any kind. Add $495 for a printer, a few hundred more for a second floppy disk.
The first Apple LaserWriter came on the scene in 1985 and was priced at around $7,000. That sounds like pricey hardware compared to prices in 2006.
From my perspective, the cost of owning a PC or a Mac has shifted from hardware to software, and it’s arguable that the overall costs are higher.
Today, a mid-range iMac (or a higher end PC) will approach $2,000 including a quality color printer.
Advantage? Today’s hardware prices are a bargain.
What about software? The difference today is that our purchases fall into four different groups, and they’re much different than did 20 or so years ago.
Group #1 – Bundled Software. The Mac comes with a fantastic suite of applications in iLife and within Mac OS X.
Group #2 – Applications. There are more tools to do more jobs and we buy more software. Microsoft Office is a bargain, relative to anything available 20 years ago.
The same is true with nearly any other application or utility for the Mac. Looking at what’s on my Mac today, I venture to say that I spend more money on software than I could possibly have spent 20 years ago on a Mac.
Advantage? Software, in the whole, costs us more today.
Group #3 – Open Source. More applications and utilities are available today in the Mac open source community than even existed 20 years ago.
Advantage? Software from the open source arena costs less, though many Mac users don’t take advantage of it.
Group #4 – Ongoing and Online Expense. We spend more to stay connected via the internet. We spend more on peripherals for our digital hub.
For example, internet connections via broadband could range from $20 to $50 a month. Then there’s the digital cameras, scanners, printers, printer paper for color photos, external drives, and other gadgets that drive up the cost of ownership.
We may do more, but we need more to get it done, and more of anything costs more money. Advantage? Ongoing and online expenses are more. Much more.
Overall, it’s a good argument that we spend more money for our digital lives than we did 20 years ago, even though hardware is less expensive (we need more of it), software does more than ever (we buy more of it), connectivity is required for a digital life (didn’t exist 20 years ago), and we have more digital toys.
We could say that there’s been an inflation of digital needs and digitals solutions. But no matter how we look at it, maintaining a digital life these days costs more money than it did when the Mac was introduced in the 1980s.
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