30-year showdown: IBM PC vs. Apple iPhone

While marking GCN’s 30th year, we’re taking a look at how far computing has progressed in three decades. It’s no secret that PCs have advanced greatly in the intervening years, but how does an IBM PC stack up against an iPhone?

State of the art in personal computing



Apple iPhone 5Apple iPhone 5

Year of manufacture 1981 2012
Cost $2,000 with monitor and two drives $199 for 16G model
Processor  Intel 8088 processor Apple A6 dual core
Performance  4.77 MHz 1.3 GHz
Memory 256 kilobytes 1G LPDDR2 DRAM
Storage One or two floppy drives using 360 kilobyte double-density disks 16, 32 or 64G Flash memory
Operating System IBM BASIC / PC-DOS 1.0 iOS 6.1.3
Graphics Display Either an 11.5-inch monochrome 5151 CRT or a color model (with a CGA card) that had a 640-by-200 resolution and could display 16 colors 4-inch 1,136 by 640 LCD at a 16:9 aspect ratio that is capable of showing millions of colors
Connectivity Most had none, but a 14.4 kilobits/sec modem and eventually a 56k model could be added EDGE networks in the 850, 900, 1,800, 1,900 MHz band, most cellular networks, Bluetooth 2.1 and all Wi-Fi bands (802.11 a/b/g/n)

About the Author

John Breeden II is a freelance technology writer for GCN.

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Reader Comments

Thu, Jun 20, 2013

You should also have included an Apples to Apples comparison, based on the Apple II and its ilk. After all, there were PCs before the IBM PC. I think the Altair and others came in about 1973. I remember the first computer I used in college circa 1969, a small IBM mainframe the System/360 Model 25: 48K (Kilobytes) of core memory max (we started with 32K) and two hard drive units, each about the size of a washing machine and each holding about 7.25 MB (Megabytes, not Gigabytes). And it could still do useful work!

Fri, May 31, 2013

Need to check ACTUAL pricing, one cannot purchase an unsubsidized iPhone for $199...

Thu, May 30, 2013

A more interesting comparison would be between a smartphone and one of the earliest supercomputers. Also, make sure you include a directly comparable statistic, such as FLOPS. It still amazes me that we can have what used to be a full room's worth of computer in the palm of our hands, all at a fraction of the cost.

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