Special Report

The Cost of a Computer the Year You Were Born

IBM PC 5150, 1981
Source: Wikimedia Commons

>Notable computer:
IBM Personal Computer 5150
>Price tag: $1,565
>Inflation adjusted price: $4,100

The PC 5150 was IBM’s most successful attempt at a personal computer at the time and was used as the basis for most computers that followed. The basic unit sold for $1,565, and the full model for $3,000.

Commodore 64, 1982
Source: Wikimedia Commons

>Notable computer:
Commodore 64
>Price tag: $595
>Inflation adjusted price: $1,462

It may surprise some to learn that the best selling personal computer in history is not an Apple or an IBM, but rather a Commodore. The now-defunct Commodore International, which had also built the VIC-20, introduced the 64 in 1982, which was widely loved for its gameplay capability and state of the art sound chip. The Commodore 64 sold roughly 20 million units during its run.

Apple Lisa, 1983
Source: Wikimedia Commons

>Notable computer:
Apple Lisa
>Price tag: $9,995
>Inflation adjusted price: $23,794

The Apple Lisa was one of the first commercially available personal computers with a graphical user interface. However, the Lisa’s high cost ultimately doomed its chances of success. The machine was inspired by the nearly decade old Xerox Alto, which also had a graphical user interface though was never made commercially available.

Macintosh, 1984
Source: Thinkstock

>Notable computer:
Apple Macintosh
>Price tag: $2,495
>Inflation adjusted price: $5,694

The Macintosh is considered to be the first commercially successful computer to have a graphical user interface. Users could navigate by clicking through images with a mouse as opposed to the text-based commands used in earlier computers. Apple’s TV ad evoked George Orwell’s dystopian novel 1984 and positioned Macintosh as a savior from the market dominance IBM had established by selling more than 2 million of its PCs.

Amiga 1000, 1985

>Notable computer:
Commodore Amiga 1000
>Price tag: $1,295
>Inflation adjusted price: $2,854

The Amiga 1000 was the world’s first multimedia computer. It could run multiple tasks at once, and its superior graphics, sound, and video capabilities made it a favorite amongst graphic designers. The Amiga 1000 launch party also attracted artists and included the likes of Andy Warhol, Debbie Harry, and musical group Blondie.

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