Special Report

The Cost of a Computer the Year You Were Born

Macintosh Powerbook, 1991

>Notable computer:
Apple Macintosh PowerBook
>Price tag: $2,299
>Inflation adjusted price: $4,020

Apple’s first attempt at a portable laptop computer in 1989 resulted in the Macintosh Portable, which at 16 pounds nearly weighed as much as the desktop that had preceded it. The PowerBook, however, weighed about 6 pounds and had all the processing power of the Portable. The PowerBook was also cheaper, and its keyboard position was considered an ergonomic innovation.

>Notable computer:
IBM ThinkPad
>Price tag: $2,375
>Inflation adjusted price: $4,014

The ThinkPad utilized the PenPoint Operating System. In addition to a traditional keyboard system, users could touch the screen with a stylus to operate their computers. The ThinkPad was named with former IBM President Thomas J. Watson, Sr. in mind, who coined the company’s motto “Think.”

The Newton MessagePad, 1993
Source: Wikimedia Commons

>Notable computer:
Apple Newton MessagePad
>Price tag: $700
>Inflation adjusted price: $1,149

The Apple Newton MessagePad was one of the first Personal Digital Assistants and a precursor to many of today’s smartphones. The device’s flawed handwriting recognition software, however, led to poor sales and ultimately the product’s discontinuation in 1998.

>Notable computer:
IBM ThinkPad 755CD
>Price tag: $7,599
>Inflation adjusted price: $12,210

The ThinkPad 755CD was the first laptop with a built-in CD-ROM drive. While notebook computers were still far less popular than desktops, the innovation was an important step to wide public adoption of laptop computing.

>Notable computer:
Gateway Solo 2000
>Price tag: $3,499
>Inflation adjusted price: $5,467

By 1995, many laptops were running on Intel Pentium processors, had built-in CD-ROM drives, operating Windows 95, and were gaining notoriety. The Gateway Solo 2000 was one such popular model.