Price comparisons across decades

[Moving this branch of the discussion out to clean up the Vision Pro comments, and because it devolved pretty quickly into personal comments, closing it. -Adam]

I have a perfectly good horse, why would I need this “Ford” thing?

PS: My first Mac was nearly $5000 – which is over $13,000 in today’s dollars – so the anxiety of pricing is seriously misplaced.


For you, perhaps. In my experience, Apple has never made a sounder move than enabling people of modest means to acquire MacBook Airs. Any way you look at it, the announced list price of the apple Vision Pro is very high and easily considered elitist.

Not saying that the system isn’t great or doesn’t have a bright future. Very sound cases have been made in these pages for uses for impaired users and long haul commuters or travelers, for example (I could have used these when traveling to Japan 3 times a month!). But they ain’t for me–they’ll have to pry my M2 MBP out of my cold dead fingers…

And my first Mac cost $2499 in April 1984, and I was soon to spend another $999 to upgrade it to 512k “fat Mac” status. The reader can look up those amounts in 2023 bucks if they care.

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That’s true in another way – there’s an underlying moral assumption to this that every consumer product should be affordable for everybody. I’m not sure that’s true – do we argue similarly about expensive cars? Restaurants? (we do about houses, I think).

If people don’t see a use for it for themselves, why the worry that it’s too expensive?

(Also, historically, innovations have tended to arrive at a very expensive level first and then get democratized in price, cell phones being a classic example)


Which reminds me of the old joke quoted by Woody Allen: Boy, the food at this place is really terrible; and such small portions!"

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But the MacBook Air was far from the first generation Mac. And when it was first released, it was not the least-cost option either. Lots of people said it was overpriced and underfeatured. And the first-generation Air absolutely was, compared to its contemporary models.

Just like the first-generation of any high-end product, from Apple or otherwise. The first Macs were very expensive (as pointed out), so much so that many within Apple thought it would never sell.

The first iPhone was also very expensive compared to other smartphones (and many in the press said it would never become popular as a result). In that case, however, the competition all raised their price on smartphones and we’ve all been paying those higher prices ever since.

You could say the same thing about iPads and the Watch. All very expensive at launch, but less expensive models shipped later on.

I’m certain the AVP will follow a similar pattern if the customer base actually wants it.

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Irrelevant. Has nothing to do with the point I was making. And as far as the other cases you cite (that were “first generation”), again, irrelevant. How many “first generation” pieces of hardware has Apple introduced that cost 3500 bucks? Not a lot, eh?

You’re joking, right? Go back in history and look at Apple products in equivalent 2023 dollars.

But you speak of “expensive” and “elitist” as if those are bad things. Go tell that to Tesla, Bentley, Dyson, and a long list of other companies. I understand you don’t like it, but there’s nothing wrong with being at the high-end of the market. And, in fact, there are plenty of advantages.

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You’re the one who must be joking. “Bentley”?? Are you kidding? And “Dyson”? You mean the vacuum cleaners? And giving any money at all to Musk is beneath comment.

And go read what was posted: “could be considered” is hardly the call to revolution you seem to perceive. You don’t understand at all what I “don’t like”, and you should not make those assumptions–you have no idea. Resurrecting the past in terms of “equivalent 2023 dollars” has NOTHING to do with what I was talking about, nor does your presumptions about what I think about “high end.”

Ok, I’ll bite.

When comparing prices decades apart from one another why isn’t it appropriate to adjust them all to a single unit of purchasing power?


Because “decades apart” in “purchasing power” does not necessarily translate well in direct comparison: the 1984 Macintosh computer (128k RAM and Motorola chip for $2499) does not compare well with today’s MBA (M-1 or M-2), no matter how you value the dollar. If you know of a metric that makes a valid comparison, I’d love to hear it.