iMac 1998 vs. iMac 2011

Technology is improving at an exponential rate. It really is insane.

Back in 1998, Steve Jobs announced the new iMac. The internet was just starting to explode. The iMac was the first desktop computer for the home to really take advantage of the internet, and allow regular people to create multimedia.

In this video, Steve waxes poetic about the incredible specs of the machine. Apple had found that the biggest screen people wanted was 15″. 32mb of RAM was overkill. 4gb of hard disk was a cavernous amount of storage space.

Below is a table I created comparing the 1998 baseline iMac with the 2011 version. Note the crazy percentages and remember that not all processors, RAM, displays, hard disks, etc. are created equal, so the increase in speed and efficiency is even greater than these percentages.

iMac 1998iMac 2011% Increase
Display 15″ 21.5″ 43%
Resolution 1024×768 1920×1080 163%
Processor* G3 @ 0.233ghz i5 @ 2.5ghz 973%
Cache 0.5mb L2 6mb L3 1100%
RAM 0.032gb 4gb 12,400%
Hard Drive 4gb 1,000gb 24,900%
Graphics Memory 2mb 512mb 25,500%
Weight 40lbs 20.5lbs -48.8%
Price $1299 $1199 -7.7%

* Let’s also remember that a single core G3 processor is not even in the same ballpark as a dual- or quad-core i5 or i7 processor.

Here’s a comparison between my 2011 iMac and the maxed out version of the 1998 model:

iMac 1998 My iMac % Increase
Display 15″ 27″ 80%
Resolution 1024×768 2560×1440 369%
Processor G3 @ 233mhz i7 @ 3.4ghz 1359%
Cache 0.5mb L2 8mb L3 1500%
RAM 128mb 12gb 9275%
Hard Drive 4gb 1,000gb 24,900%
Graphics Memory 6mb 1gb 16567%
Weight 40lbs 30.5lbs -23.75%

I could not find the upgrade costs for the 1998 model, but I do remember RAM being incredibly, ridiculously expensive, so I would go out on a limb and say the maxed out 1998 iMac would have been around the same price as the 27″ iMac.


Though we of course expect each iteration of a product to be better than the last, I don’t think many people could have predicted the rate of growth in the technology sector. Even in 1998 it was difficult to say just what would be around the corner.

The advent of touch screen technology, the miniaturization of processors, flash memory, new battery technology, unibody construction, the incredible rate of growth in internet speed, the need for more efficient and green tech, etc. – all of these things have helped shaped the products we use each and every day.

Where are we going next? All touch screen? All flash memory? Will 100mbps internet soon be passé?

One thing is for certain – if Steve Jobs and Apple have anything to do with, we will see smaller, thinner, faster products running on SSDs become the norm, and OS X and iOS will become even more intertwined. The iPad and the new MacBook Air are signs of things to come.

Then again, with this exponential growth, who can reliably predict anything?


About Matt

My name is Matt. I live in Nova Scotia, Canada. I am an educator, a photographer, and a lover of all things technology. Check out the About page for more information.

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