There has been much handwaving over the $5,999 price tag on the 2019 Mac Pro. It’s often been criticized for being Apple’s expensive computer ever.
But it’s not. And it’s not even close, if you factor in inflation. Many of the early Macs cost much more than $6,000 in today’s dollars.
Original Apple Macintosh: $6,176
The computer that started it all, the very first Macintosh, had everything anyone in 1984 could want. Its revolutionary graphical user interface and WYSIWYG (What You See Is What You Get) word processor and drawing programs wowed users.
And all that didn’t come cheaply: $2,495. Convert to today’s money and it was $6,176. And you couldn’t even connect it to the Internet.
Macintosh SE: $8,830
In 1987, Apple released the first Mac with a hard drive — a whopping 20 megabytes. The Macintosh SE sold for $3,900, but take inflation into account and that’s $8,830.
By this time the desktop publishing revolution was taking off. People bought the Macintosh SE for essentially the same reason they get a Mac Pro today: to get work done.
A Mac SE was, in its time, a reasonably-priced computer for producing professional publications. Just as today’s Mac Pro is a reasonably-priced computer for producing professional video and audio. Of course, the Mac Pro costs less.
Macintosh IIfx: $17,650
By 1990, Mac was the choice of graphic designers, and they wanted more power. Apple’s response was the Macintosh IIfx. While its 40 MHz processor might seem laughable today, this computer was almost three times faster than its predecessor. It even had Apple’s first accelerated video card.
Cutting-edge computers don’t come cheap, and the base model Macintosh IIfx cost $8,969 before inflation. In today’s dollars that’s $17,650.
At a mere $6,000, the 2019 Mac Pro is starting to look cheap, isn’t it?
PowerBook 5300ce: $11,476
It’s not just in desktops where Apple’s prices leave the newest Mac in the dust. The PowerBook 5300ce was the MacBook Pro of its day. With a 10.4-inch 800-by-600-pixel active-matrix color LCD, this was the best laptop graphics professionals had for use on the road.
It sure wasn’t for college students, as it would set you back $6,800. In 1995. Today, that’s $11,476.
Twentieth Anniversary Macintosh: $12,017
In 1997, Apple brought out a “dream” computer to celebrate the day two decades earlier when Steve Jobs and Steve Wozniak founded the company. The Twentieth Anniversary Macintosh had a design that was simultaneously cutting edge and harked back to the original Macintosh.
And it cost $7,499. That’s not adjusted for inflation — that was the cost in 1997. That’s $1500 more than the 2019 Mac Pro. In today’s dollars, that’s the equivalent of $12,017.
Of course, the Twentieth Anniversary Macintosh wasn’t a big seller — it was never intended to be. It was a publicity stunt to commemorate a company anniversary.
2019 Mac Pro isn’t expensive for what it is
This isn’t an exhaustive list of every Apple computer that, after inflation, cost more than the 2019 Mac Pro. Essentially every Mac released in the first decade qualifies.
By and large, those early computers were created for graphics professionals who were accustomed to paying large sums for the best equipment.
The same goes for today’s Mac Pro. It’s a workstation for professional video and audio editing. Think of it as the Macintosh IIfx of 2019, except for less money.