Washington Apple Pi

A Community of Apple iPad, iPhone and Mac Users

The $18 million iMac: Why Your Old Mac is Too Expensive

© 2008 Lawrence I. Charters

Washington Apple Pi Journal, reprint information

I regularly hear from people who want to do cutting-edge computing, but don’t want to replace their old computer. They want to run the latest version of Photoshop, use the latest version of Safari, and make DVDs, but they “blew all their money” on a “top -of-the-line system” and can’t afford a new one. This sounds reasonable, until you ask them for details on their “top -of-the-line system.”

Million dollar iMac

Your investment in obsolete software and hardware shouldn’t be a barrier to replacing your computer. Yes, it may work “perfectly,” but unless you are prepared to exist in a pre-Internet world, it is best to simply leave it behind. And while you are at it, give some thought to abandoning your pre-HDTV, too. (Photo by Lawrence I. Charters)

The most extreme example: a Pi member I won’t identify, who spent $15,000 on a system, and refuses to get a new one. The system “works just fine,” and if I would just help them “tweak it a bit,” everything would be “even better.”

And what is this system? In 1987, this Pi member purchased a Mac II. Let us detail the costs:

The member also had a still -working ImageWriter II dot matrix printer, and a non-functional LaserWriter, but we’ll ignore these. If you total up all the elements, it comes to $15,250. Everything is still working after 20 years, though the owner admits that bits and pieces have been repaired or replaced.

Let’s examine these prices on a cost-per-component basis. The Mac II had an 8 Mhz, 16-bit CPU, which gives us a cost of $487.50 per megahertz per 16 bits. The 40 megabyte drive has a cost of $25 per megabyte. Removable storage is $625 per megabyte. Memory is $1,000 per megabyte. Lumping the video card and the monitor together, you get a cost of $4882.81 per megapixel for 8-bit color.

Let’s compare this to a middle -of -the -road 2008 iMac:

Now, let us examine the iMac again, assuming the cost per component was the same as it was for the Mac II in 1987:

Add it all up and a 2008 middle -of -the -road iMac is worth $18,018,689.83. If you want to be cruel and convert that to 1987 dollars, the iMac doubles in value.

Or you could look at it another way: if you can buy an $18 million iMac today for $1499, the real value of the $15,000 1987 Mac II is less than $0.12. It is not just time to upgrade ; it is way, way past time to upgrade.

Yes, we know that Macs are wonderful, and one of the things that makes them wonderful is that they continue to function for a very long time. But there comes a point when even the most durable machine is best kept as a memory rather than as a working device.