Back in 1991, the consumer electronics industry was a lot different than it is today, and one thing that’s always fascinating is learning about how much certain electronics cost back in the day. A cassette tape walkman would easily set you back a couple hundred dollars, but what if the iPhone 5s existed back in 1991? How much would it cost you? At least $2.84 million.
The folks at TechPolicyDaily.com calculated a very rough estimate of how much the iPhone 5s would cost if it existed in 1991. Of course, if Apple actually did launch the iPhone 5s back in the early 90s, we’re pretty sure everyone would react the same way when neanderthals discovered fire, but bear with us.
Starting with the storage of the iPhone 5s, 16GB of flash storage alone would cost $720,000. A gigabyte of hard disk storage in 1991 cost about $10,000. However flash storage would’ve been way more expensive (just like it is today). With that said, a gigabyte of flash storage would cost around $45,000. Compare these numbers to today’s world: a gigabyte of hard disk storage can be had for a nickel, while a gigabyte of flash storage is a little more than $0.50.
Calculating the cost of the iPhone 5s’s A7 processor is a little more tricky, but using MIPS (millions of instructions per second), coming up with a cost is a bit more bearable. The A7 processor can produce around 20,500 MIPS. In 1991, one of Intel’s top microprocessors produced 16.5 MIPS, with a computer running the chip costing roughly $3,000. By determining the price per MIPS being $30, it’s safe to say that Apple’s A7 processor would have cost $620,000 in 1991.
As for the iPhone 5s’s communication radios, you’re looking at somewhere around $1.5 million for the LTE and WiFi capabilities, considering that the network infrastructure most likely cost around $100 per kilobit per second.
Just those three things alone adds up to $2.84 million, and that’s not even including the Retina display, the cameras, gyroscope or the accelerometer. Plus, no amount of money would’ve been able to build an iPhone 5s back in 1991 anyway; it would’ve been impossible with the current technology back then. Sure, it might have been possible to pack all that technology into a large server building, but definitely not into a space the size of a bar of soap.
However, seeing as how we can now buy an iPhone 5s for just a few hundred dollars should tell you that technology has come a very long way in a matter of 20 or so years.