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  1. #1
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    How Much Would an iPhone Have Cost in 1991?

    I will post the article tomorrow afternoon. But for some winter speculation, what would memory, and processing etc. have cost back in good old 1991. Obviously there is no right or wrong answer, just opinions, same as the article's author, but I enjoyed thinking on it and thought I'd share it.

    MM

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    Re: How Much Would an iPhone Have Cost in 1991?

    Considering in 1990 I spent $2K for a 486 computer that had a fraction of the computing power as my iPhone has so I will say $3,500. I paid $1,200 each for the first Nextel phones in 1992.

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    Re: How Much Would an iPhone Have Cost in 1991?

    For the amount of memory & processing in today's iPhone I'll go with $200k.

    I tried to do some quick math in my head remembering what we were paying for memory modules that went into Mac SE 30 computers. One reason doing the math in my head was so hard is that we were buying memory by the "k". Today we reference memory by the "gig".
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    Re: How Much Would an iPhone Have Cost in 1991?

    I'd say around $5,000,000 comparing it with a super computer like a Cray C90 which would be about the closest thing to any smart phone on the market today. A coke was only about .25, Hershey chocolate bar .10, gallon of milk $1.00
    Last edited by Bob & Sue; 02-08-2014 at 10:48 AM.
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    Re: How Much Would an iPhone Have Cost in 1991?

    I'm going to step out on a limb and guess about 3.5 million....amazing how far we have come in the last twenty years. Looking at early 90's vintage Sea Rays, the interior designs seem so antiquated, as are the electronics. Makes you wonder what the next 20 years will bring, assuming we don't regress, which is very possible.
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  6. #6
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    Re: How Much Would an iPhone Have Cost in 1991?

    But the technology would have had to of been there already. Think about a cell phone that is supposed to be marketed to the public. I stay with my $3,500.

  7. #7
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    Re: How Much Would an iPhone Have Cost in 1991?

    Here is the article.

    "Amazing! Today's iPhones have the same capabilities (and more!) than 13 distinct electronics gadgets, worth more than $3,000, found in a 1991 Radio Shack ad. Buffalo writer Steve Cichon was the first to dig up the old ad and make the point about the seemingly miraculous pace of digital advance, noting that an iPhone incorporates the features of the computer, CD player, phone, "phone answerer," and video camera, among other items in the ad, all at a lower price. The Washington Post‘s tech blog The Switch picked up the analysis, and lots of people then ran with it on Twitter. Yet the comparison was, unintentionally, a huge dis to the digital economy. It massively underestimates the true pace of innovation and, despite its humor and good intentions, actually exposes a shortcoming that plagues much economic and policy analysis.

    To see why, let's do a very rough, back-of-the-envelope estimate of what an iPhone would have cost in 1991.

    In 1991, a gigabyte of hard disk storage cost around $10,000, perhaps a touch less. (Today, it costs around four cents ($0.04).) Back in 1991, a gigabyte of flash memory, which is what the iPhone uses, would have cost something like $45,000, or more. (Today, it's around 55 cents ($0.55).)

    The mid-level iPhone 5S has 32 GB of flash memory. Thirty-two GB, multiplied by $45,000, equals $1.44 million.

    The iPhone 5S uses Apple's latest A7 processor, a powerful CPU, with an integrated GPU (graphics processing unit), that totals around 1 billion transistors, and runs at a clock speed of 1.3 GHz, producing something like 20,500 MIPS (millions of instructions per second). In 1991, one of Intel's top microprocessors, the 80486SX, often used in Dell desktop computers, had 1.185 million transistors and ran at 20 MHz, yielding around 16.5 MIPS. (The Tandy computer in the Radio Shack ad used a processor not nearly as powerful.) A PC using the 80486SX processor at the time might have cost $3,000. The Apple A7, by the very rough measure of MIPS, which probably underestimates the true improvement, outpaces that leading edge desktop PC processor by a factor of 1,242. In 1991, the price per MIPS was something like $30.



    So 20,500 MIPS in 1991 would have cost around $620,000.

    But there's more. The 5S also contains the high-resolution display, the touchscreen, Apple's own M7 motion processing chip, Qualcomm's LTE broadband modem and its multimode, multiband broadband transceiver, a Broadcom Wi-Fi processor, the Sony 8 megapixel iSight (video) camera, the fingerprint sensor, power amplifiers, and a host of other chips and motion-sensing MEMS devices, like the gyroscope and accelerometer.

    In 1991, a mobile phone used the AMPS analog wireless network to deliver kilobit voice connections. A 1.44 megabit T1 line from the telephone company cost around $1,000 per month. Today's LTE mobile network is delivering speeds in the 15 Mbps range. Wi-Fi delivers speeds up to 100 Mbps (limited, of course, by its wired connection). Safe to say, the iPhone's communication capacity is at least 10,000 times that of a 1991 mobile phone. Almost the entire cost of a phone back then was dedicated to merely communicating. Say the 1991 cost of mobile communication (only at the device/component level, not considering the network infrastructure or monthly service) was something like $100 per kilobit per second.

    Fifteen thousand Kbps (15 Mbps), multiplied by $100, is $1.5 million.

    Considering only memory, processing, and broadband communications power, duplicating the iPhone back in 1991 would have (very roughly) cost: $1.44 million + $620,000 + $1.5 million = $3.56 million.

    This doesn't even account for the MEMS motion detectors, the camera, the iOS operating system, the brilliant display, or the endless worlds of the Internet and apps to which the iPhone connects us.

    This account also ignores the crucial fact that no matter how much money one spent, it would have been impossible in 1991 to pack that much technological power into a form factor the size of the iPhone, or even a refrigerator.

    Tim Lee at The Switch noted the imprecision of the original analysis and correctly asked how typical analyses of inflation can hope to account for such radical price drops. (Harvard economist Larry Summers recently picked up on this point as well.)

    But the fact that so many were so impressed by an assertion that an iPhone possesses the capabilities of $3,000 worth of 1991 electronics products - when the actual figure exceeds $3 million - reveals how fundamentally difficult it is to think in exponential terms."

    http://www.realcleartechnology.com/a..._1991_970.html

  8. #8
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    Re: How Much Would an iPhone Have Cost in 1991?

    Thanks Mike. Pretty cool article. I find it a little misleading though, don't you?
    It claims a gig of hard drive space cost $.04 today. And a gig of flash memory for $.55. Not really the case.
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  9. #9
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    Re: How Much Would an iPhone Have Cost in 1991?

    Quote Originally Posted by mwph View Post
    Thanks Mike. Pretty cool article. I find it a little misleading though, don't you?
    It claims a gig of hard drive space cost $.04 today. And a gig of flash memory for $.55. Not really the case.
    I saw this one that is about 5 years old and it was 7 cents in 2009.

    http://www.everyjoe.com/2009/09/29/t...-1980-to-2009/

    I just looked a 3T drive from Dell for $129.99 and that equals $0.0423 per gig. Crazy isn't it?

    MM

  10. #10
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    Re: How Much Would an iPhone Have Cost in 1991?

    It wouldn't have been possible to make an iPhone back in 91 with the same processing power and memory in the same form factor as it is today
    Last edited by Westie; 02-08-2014 at 10:07 PM.
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