A site called VoucherCodes recently tried to figure out if the $499 entry-level iPad really is as good a deal as many have claimed. They analyzed the cost of several of Apple's products, adjusted for inflation, and some of the results are pretty astonishing.
The first Apple computer ever created, the Apple I, cost $666.66 in 1976. Adjusted to 2010 dollars, that Apple I would cost $2,540, which isn't too bad. But the Apple Lisa, Apple's first stab at creating a computer with a Graphical User Interface, cost $9,995 in 1983, or a staggering $21,745 in today's dollars. Sure, the GUI was a cool bit of innovation, over $20,000 for a personal computer?
Comparing the iPad to previous Apple portables is even more interesting. Apple's first portable computer cost $6,500 in 1989 -- which would be almost $11,400 today -- while the $699 Newton from 1993 would cost nearly $1,050 in today's dollars. Most intriguing of all is that the first iPod, released for $399 in 2001, cost $488 in today's dollars. That's just $11 under the cost of the iPad, a device that has far more storage, processing power, and access to more features than the first iPod could even dream of only nine and a half years ago. Apple's handhelds are cheaper than ever, even when you bring inflation into the mix.
Within my lifetime alone, computers have gone from luxury items and objects of curiosity, something people would have to save several months of paychecks in order to buy, to something people buy on a whim, for a week's pay, and carry around with them in their pockets. It's not surprising that the cost of computers has come down over time, but when charts like the one at VoucherCodes drive home just how much prices have dropped in terms of the real value of the US dollar, it's pretty amazing.