Closing the Mac price gap

Closing the Mac price gap

Summary: I was digging through some old crates in my garage last night and stumbled across some of my old college notebooks. While flipping through them I happened across a couple of computer price lists for students. I graduated from Drexel University in Philadelphia, one of the first Universities in the United States that required you to purchase a Macintosh to attend (I believe that Darmouth may have been the first).I had my own Mac when I enrolled (a Mac II with 13-inch color monitor) and didn't need to buy one, but the price lists are extraordinary to look back at.

SHARE:
TOPICS: Apple
50
I was digging through some old crates in my garage last night and stumbled across some of my old college notebooks. While flipping through them I happened across a couple of computer price lists for students. I graduated from Drexel University in Philadelphia, one of the first Universities in the United States that required you to purchase a Macintosh to attend (I believe that Dartmouth may have been the first).

I had my own Mac when I enrolled (a Mac II with 13-inch color monitor) and didn't need to buy one, but the price lists are extraordinary to look back at.

The price list dated 25 August 1991 features some of the following Macs:

Mac Classic 4MB RAM, 40MB HDD - US$1,679
Mac IIci 5MB/160MB (CPU only) - US$3,480
Mac IIfx 4MB/160MB (CPU only) - US$5,389

The list also includes such other gems as the Mac LC (US$2,065) and the IIsi (US$3,174). My favorite item from the 1991 price list however is the machine that started the Apple portable (or should I say, "luggable") revolution:

Mac Portable 4MB/40MB - US$2,959

It should be noted that the first generation Mac Portable had a non-backlit screen, the backlight was a US$993 upgrade. The Portable Data Modem 2400 set you back another US$316.

There are all kinds of other goodies on the 1991 list, like the LaserWriter IINT (US$2,408), IINTX (US$2,996), which were great printers and the Radius 19-inch (US$2,841) and 21-inch (US$2,971) color displays. The monitors did not include a card, the DirectColor/24 Interface cost an extra US$2,346.

The other price list I found was dated 1 February 1992 and featured such beauts as the Quadra 700 (4MB/400MB/512KB VRAM) for US$5,354 and the Quadra 900 (4MB/400MB/512KB VRAM) for a whopping US$6,299.

The 1992 price list took a dramatic leap in the portable department and replaced the Mac Portable suitcase with some real portables:

PowerBook 100 4MB RAM/20MB HDD/ext floppy - US$2,474
PowerBook 140 4MB/40MB - US$2,883
PowerBook 170 4MB/40MB - US$3,631

Keep in mind that these were academic prices, retail was probably 25 - 30 percent higher.

I remember my first Mac purchase quite vividly, in 1985 my Mom bought me an original beige 128kb Mac toaster, it had no HDD - just a 400kb internal floppy - and it was priced to moved at US$4,400. She bought it from ComputerLand (I think) inside of a department store called The Bay.

We've certainly come a long way from 1991 baby. With MacBooks started at only US$1,100 and iMacs at US$1,300 (and even less for academic customers) Apple has certainly closed the Macintosh price gap. In fact, now that the Intel Macs can run Windows natively, a case can be made that these dual and tri-boot machines are even cheaper than many Windows PCs. Did I really just type that?

How much did you pay for your first Mac?

Topic: Apple

Kick off your day with ZDNet's daily email newsletter. It's the freshest tech news and opinion, served hot. Get it.

Talkback

50 comments
Log in or register to join the discussion
  • For media pc's, the gap is more than closed

    Interesting set of reviews of Media PC's over at Wired:

    http://wired.com/wired/archive/14.06/play.html?pg=13

    Note that one of the big selling points of the iMac is that it is massively cheaper than the Windows alternatives.
    tic swayback
    • Nice review!

      Good find. I recently built my own media PC since I was tired of staring at an ugly beige box and listening to a hurricane while trying to watch The Hurricane. While the cost was probably half that of the iMac, it was not a fun (or bloodless!) experience trying to cram a full computer's worth of stuff into a miniature box!! My hands still haven't forgiven me. :(

      Forgive my ignorance but does OSX have an equivalent to Microsoft's Media Center software? From the sounds of the review, this couldn't be used for watching TV, just DVDs, videos, and music. Also, it had no TV out. Is there an easy way to add TV out capability to that iMac? Seems a little odd to me that a media PC wouldn't have a TV out.
      NonZealot
      • The iMac needs some help

        Agreed that the iMac is not set up out of the box to be the perfect media pc. The big failing is a lack of a tv tuner. This can be purchased separately:

        http://www.elgato.com/

        Still seems economically like a good deal though, given the price of most of the competitors.
        tic swayback
      • could be coming

        At the last Apple shareholder meeting a shareholder pretty much asked job about this media PC thing and Jobs replied, we hear you loud and clear. I would expect we see something in the near future.
        observer1959
      • Front Row!

        RE: "Forgive my ignorance but does OSX have an equivalent to Microsoft's Media Center software?"

        NonZealot -

        While it's not fully-equipped yet (i.e. no DVR) Apple's Front Row software is a decent Media Center type interface:
        http://www.apple.com/imac/frontrow.html

        Equinux's freeware MediaCentral shows a lot of potential:
        http://www.equinux.com/us/products/mediacentral/index.html

        - Jason
        Jason D. O'Grady
  • My First Mac

    A 1987 Mac SE with 1 MB RAM, two floppy drives and a 20 MB Hard Drive: $2,995. Apple ImageWriter printer: $495.
    sternerp
  • I started with an Apple //e, then moved to a IIvx.

    We started with a really nice Apple //e. We had a color CRT, 128K memory expansion, 80 column card, BASIC co-processor, 2 serial cards (800 baud modem and color dot-matrix printer), and joystick/mouse port (with a mouse!). The only thing we didn't have, which I regretted, was a MIDI sound card. Man, I wanted to listen to the music on Ultima III. :) We payed about $4,000 for the whole thing. $1,500 for the Apple ][, about $1,000 for 128K RAM, and $1,500 for the rest of the equipment.

    My frist Mac was Macintosh IIvx for $2,500. An unfortunate purchase as the IIfx came out about a month later that was faster and cheaper. Such are computers. :P

    However, the best Macintosh I ever bought was a PowerMacintosh 8600/300 for $2,600 with the 17" monitor. I [i]still[/i] have it and managed to hack on OS X 10.3. What a monster! And that was the lowend one. The 9600 version came with 6 PCI slots, 12 RAM slots for up to 1.5GBs of memory, 350MHz processor or dual 200MHz processor with 1MB L2 cache (upgraded L2 cache slot on the mobo for 2MB total,) 24x CD-ROM, Zip Driver, floppy, onboard SCSI and ethernet, 4 external drive bays, and 3 internal mounting bays.

    This was in 1997 towards the end of their slump where Apple was pushing out as much technology as they could. I still think that the 8600 & 9600 were best damn computers Apple ever made. My 8600 is still running like a champ with 768MBs of RAM and shoehorned OS X 10.3.
    olePigeon
  • Performa 405

    1 meg of ram, 80 meg hard drive, 14inch color display, 1.2kps modem - $1,400.
    DarthRidiculous
  • Drexel guy here, my first Mac

    Believe it or not, I was stuck with a Franklin Ace 500 (Apple II clone) until I went to Drexel University (go Dragons!) in fall 1993.

    I got a 25 MHz Centris 650 for about $3500. That machine hosted my first website on October 1994 running MacHTTP. That was the machine I tried out the 0.90 beta of Netscape later that month. Good times. :-)
    DanShockley
    • 1st MAC

      Bought a MAC Plus, 1meg memory, 20mb external HDD and Image Writer II for $2500 in 1985. Great little machine.
      ttdslider
    • I still have my first

      Mac, an old LC475 with a 25MHz 68LC040 processor. That machine nver failed me. I was too young to buy my own machine before then.

      And well now, I have more machines than I care to admit, although I have sold some of them here recently.
      Stuka
  • I paid $ 1,299 for my first Mac...

    an iMac Rev A 133Mhz with 640MB of Ram and a 4GB harddrive. My second Mac was an iMac Rev D 266Mhz with 1GB of Ram and 6GB harddrive - same price. My most recent Mac is the Dual 2.0Ghz G5 with 8GB Ram and a 340GB harddrive - I paid nothing because it was a gift (whoopie!).

    And all of that money was taken away from PC manufacturers because they only sell systems with Windows. I don't let Microsoft get a penny of my money anymore! That company and it's leaders are so arrogant and corrupt! It would be like giving money to a cop-killer!
    nomorems
    • You consider Jobs & Apple to NOT be arrogant???

      Jobs makes Gates seem like Mother Theresa by comparison!
      I think of Steve Jobs as a cheap carnival pitchman. Well, maybe not so cheap.
      mustangj369
      • I wouldn't consider Jobs to be arrogant compared to

        Ballmer, Gates or any of those guys. Jobs has never seen the
        need to spy on users, strongarm customers or any of those
        types of actions. That's arrogant! Jobs gets a little out of touch
        with customers sometimes and it costs Apple big. Apple
        customers expect a lot more than Windows customers and they
        get more. If you don't like Apple, that's fine, but Apple has the
        most loyal customer base of any computer manufacturer. Also,
        Apple's customer satisfaction is higher than any computer
        company and their customer service is something like 20%
        higher rated than any other PC manufacturer. Talk about
        arrogant, Michael Dell is about the most arrogant CEO I've ever
        seen outside of oil related businesses. Still, I think arrogance is a
        common personality trait of billionaires, especially self made
        billionaires. A self made billionaire is something neither you nor
        I will ever be.
        MacGeek2121
  • You haven't come anywhere as far as percent difference is concerned

    "With MacBooks started at only US$1,100 and iMacs at US$1,300"

    Well perfectly good dual-core PC laptops can be had for $650 with the same kind of CPU and graphics. Sure you need a coupon, but a Google search of Dell coupons would yield a ton of results. So in reality, Macs have come down but so have PCs. The problem is that Macs are still double the price.
    georgeou
    • Not really George

      If you go base price per not only hardware but software configurations, the Mac can and does win hands down in several cases, in others it's a tie and in the really extreme cases Mac will lose. But if you go head to head with no discount coupons (that I have seen several people post they never new about let alone find) Macs are cheaper in many cases.
      Linux Advocate
      • Macs software is complete

        Macs come with a complete software bundle. No trials or shareware. No need to pay for anti-virus. If you need other software it is often free or costs much less than PC programs. PC software is for making large companys rich. Mac software gives more value and a much better user experience
        cuberantcamper
    • Key words: "perfectly good"

      There you go again George, making unfair comparisons. As usual, you put an inferior machine, lacking in both hardware and software, up against a much better equipped machine, declare them equivalent and tout the price of the weaker machine.

      As always, if you have meager needs, by all means, by a meager machine. But don't pretend it's as good as a better one.
      tic swayback
    • Hooray for oversymplification

      what do they pay ou for? seriously? is it to consistently make oversymplified and partisan coments at every oportunity?
      one word: quality. if you buy a mac, you buy a package. you know you're getting a product who's build quality, presentation, and overal seamless integration will leave a low end dell of similar price in the dust.(coupons don't count, the average buyer won't have them) i'm not a huge mac fan, but i'm consistently reading theis outright drivel from you, and i for one am sick of it.
      giskard
    • Let's ask a real expert

      http://ptech.wsj.com/archive/ptech-20060608.html

      "Perhaps the most surprising thing about the MacBook is its price. Despite Apple's reputation for charging more, the MacBook is actually less expensive than its closest major Windows competitor. That would be the Sony Vaio VGN-SZ240, which also has a 13.3-inch screen with the same resolution, includes a built-in camera, and is available with the same processor and the same memory and hard-disk capacity as the MacBook.

      When configured to match the major specs of the base model of the MacBook, the Sony costs $1,629, over 60% more than the MacBook's $1,099 base price."
      tic swayback