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Macintosh 128k transparency

The first Macintosh, the Macintosh 128K.

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iMac and MacBook Air running Mac OS X Mavericks


A 2011 Intel iMac running Mac OS X Lion.

2013 mac pro

2013 Mac Pro

The Mac, or Macintosh, is a series of several lines of personal computers designed, developed, and marketed by Apple Inc. The first Macintosh was introduced by Apple's then-chairman Steve Jobs on January 24, 1984; it was the first commercially successful personal computer to feature a mouse and a graphical user interface rather than a command-line interface. The company continued to have success through the second half of the 1980s, primarily because the sales of the Apple II series remained strong even after the introduction of the Macintosh. Those early successes began to dissipate in the early to mid 1990s as the personal computer market shifted toward the "Wintel" platform: IBM PC compatible machines running MS-DOS and Microsoft Windows. By 1996, Apple was struggling, with a large number of models being produced simultaneously, including third party licensed models, and required a cash infusion from Microsoft to continue operating.

In 1998, Apple consolidated its multiple consumer-level desktop models into the iMac all-in-one line. This proved to be a sales success and saw the Macintosh brand revitalized. Current Mac systems are mainly targeted at the home, education, and creative professional markets. These include the descendants of the original iMac and the entry-level Mac mini desktop models, the Mac Pro tower graphics workstation, the MacBook, MacBook Air and MacBook Pro laptops. The Xserve rackmount server platform was discontinued January 31, 2011.

Production of the Mac is based on a vertical integration model in that Apple facilitates all aspects of its hardware and creates its own operating system that is pre-installed on all Mac computers. This is in contrast to most IBM PC compatibles, where multiple sellers create and integrate hardware intended to run another company's operating software. Apple exclusively produces Mac hardware, choosing internal systems, designs, and prices. Apple does use third party components, however, such as graphics subsystems from nVidia and ATi. Current Mac CPUs use Intel's X86-64 architecture; the earliest models (1984–1994) used Motorola's 68k architecture and models from 1994–2006 used the AIM alliance's PowerPC. Apple also develops the operating system for the Mac, currently OS X. The modern Mac, like other personal computers, is capable of running alternative operating systems such as Linux, FreeBSD, and, in the case of Intel-based Macs, Microsoft Windows. However, Apple does not license Mac OS X for use on non-Apple computers.


1979 to 1984: Development

The Macintosh project started in the late 1970s with Jef Raskin, an Apple employee, who envisioned an easy-to-use, low-cost computer for the average consumer. He wanted to name the computer after his favorite type of apple, the McIntosh,[1] but the name had to be changed for legal reasons as it was too close, phonetically, to that of the McIntosh audio equipment manufacturer. Steve Jobs requested a release of the name so that Apple could use it, but was denied, forcing Apple to eventually buy the rights to use the name.[2] Raskin was authorized to start hiring for the project in September 1979,[3] and he began to look for an engineer who could put together a prototype. Bill Atkinson, a member of Apple's Lisa team (which was developing a similar system aimed at business users), introduced him to Burrell Smith, a service technician who had been hired earlier that year. Over the years, Raskin assembled a large development team that designed and built the original Macintosh hardware and software; besides Raskin, Atkinson and Smith, the team included George Crow,[4] Chris Espinosa, Joanna Hoffman, Bruce Horn, Susan Kare, Andy Hertzfeld, Guy Kawasaki, Daniel Kottke,[5] and Jerry Manock.[6][7]

Smith's first Macintosh board was built to Raskin's design specifications: it had 64 kilobytes (kB) of RAM, used the Motorola 6809E microprocessor, and was capable of supporting a 256×256 pixel black-and-white bitmap display. Bud Tribble, a Macintosh programmer, was interested in running the Lisa's graphical programs on the Macintosh, and asked Smith whether he could incorporate the Lisa's Motorola 68000 microprocessor into the Mac while still keeping the production cost down. By December 1980, Smith had succeeded in designing a board that not only used the 68000, but increased its speed from 5 MHz to 8 MHz; this board also had the capacity to support a 384×256 pixel display. Smith's design used fewer RAM chips than the Lisa, which made production of the board significantly more cost-efficient. The final Mac design was self-contained and had the complete QuickDraw picture language and interpreter in 64 kB of read-only memory – far more than most other computers; it had 128 kB of RAM, in the form of sixteen 64 kilobit (kb) RAM chips soldered to the logicboard. Though there were no memory slots, its RAM was expandable to 512 kB by means of soldering sixteen IC sockets to accept 256 kb RAM chips in place of the factory-installed chips. The final product's screen was a 9-inch, 512x342 pixel monochrome display, exceeding the prototypes.[8]

Apple Macintosh Desktop

The original 1984 Mac OS desktop featured a radically new graphical user interface. Users communicated with the computer not through abstract textual commands but rather using a metaphorical desktop that included icons of real life items with which the user was already familiar.

The design caught the attention of Steve Jobs, co-founder of Apple. Realizing that the Macintosh was more marketable than the Lisa, he began to focus his attention on the project. Raskin finally left the Macintosh project in 1981 over a personality conflict with Jobs, and team member Andy Hertzfeld said that the final Macintosh design is closer to Jobs' ideas than Raskin's.[3] After hearing of the pioneering GUI technology being developed at Xerox PARC, Jobs had negotiated a visit to see the Xerox Alto computer and Smalltalk development tools in exchange for Apple stock options. The Lisa and Macintosh user interfaces were influenced by technology seen at Xerox PARC and were combined with the Macintosh group's own ideas.[9] Jobs also commissioned industrial designer Hartmut Esslinger to work on the Macintosh line, resulting in the "Snow White" design language; although it came too late for the earliest Macs, it was implemented in most other mid- to late-1980s Apple computers.[10] However, Jobs' leadership at the Macintosh project did not last; after an internal power struggle with new CEO John Sculley, Jobs resigned from Apple in 1985,[11] went on to found NeXT, another computer company, and did not return until 1997 when Apple acquired NeXT.[12]

1984: Introduction

The Macintosh 128K was announced to the press in October 1983, followed by an 18-page brochure included with various magazines in December.[13] The Macintosh was introduced by the now famous US$1.5 million Ridley Scott television commercial, "1984". The commercial most notably aired during the third quarter of Super Bowl XVIII on January 22, 1984 and is now considered a "watershed event"[14] and a "masterpiece."[15] "1984" used an unnamed heroine to represent the coming of the Macintosh (indicated by a Picasso-style picture of Apple's Macintosh computer on her white tank top) as a means of saving humanity from the "conformity" of IBM's attempts to dominate the computer industry. The ad alludes to George Orwell's novel, Nineteen Eighty-Four, which described a dystopian future ruled by a televised "Big Brother."[16][17]


The Apple Macintosh Plus.

Two days after the 1984 ad aired, the Macintosh went on sale. It came bundled with two applications designed to show off its interface: MacWrite and MacPaint. It was first demonstrated by Steve Jobs in the first of his famous Mac Keynote speeches, and though the Mac garnered an immediate, enthusiastic following, some labeled it a mere "toy."[18] Because the operating system was designed largely around the GUI, existing text-mode and command-driven applications had to be redesigned and the programming code rewritten. This was a time-consuming task that many software developers chose not to undertake, and could be regarded as a reason for an initial lack of software for the new system. In April 1984 Microsoft's MultiPlan migrated over from MS-DOS, with Microsoft Word following in January 1985.[19] In 1985, Lotus Software introduced Lotus Jazz for the Macintosh platform after the success of Lotus 1-2-3 for the IBM PC, although it was largely a flop.[20] Apple introduced Macintosh Office the same year with the lemmings ad. Infamous for insulting its own potential customers, the ad was not successful.[21]

For a special post-election edition of Newsweek in November 1984, Apple spent more than US$2.5 million to buy all 39 of the advertising pages in the issue.[22] Apple also ran a "Test Drive a Macintosh" promotion, in which potential buyers with a credit card could take home a Macintosh for 24 hours and return it to a dealer afterwards. While 200,000 people participated, dealers disliked the promotion, the supply of computers was insufficient for demand, and many were returned in such a bad shape that they could no longer be sold. This marketing campaign caused CEO John Sculley to raise the price from US$1,995 to US$2,495 (adjusting for inflation, about $5,200 in 2010).[21][23]

1985 to 1989: Desktop publishing era


The Macintosh II, one of the first expandable Macintosh models.

In 1985, the combination of the Mac, Apple's LaserWriter printer, and Mac-specific software like Boston Software's MacPublisher and Aldus PageMaker enabled users to design, preview, and print page layouts complete with text and graphics—an activity to become known as desktop publishing. Initially, desktop publishing was unique to the Macintosh, but eventually became available for other platforms as well. Later, applications such as Macromedia FreeHand, QuarkXPress, Adobe Photoshop, and Adobe Illustrator strengthened the Mac's position as a graphics computer and helped to expand the emerging desktop publishing market. The limitations of the first Mac soon became clear: it had very little memory, even compared with other personal computers in 1984, and could not be expanded easily; and it lacked a hard disk drive or the means to attach one easily. Many small companies sprang up to address the memory issue, by upgrading the 128k Mac to 512 kB, by removing the computer's 16 memory chips and replacing them with larger-capacity chips, a tedious operation that was not always successful. In October 1985, Apple increased the Mac's memory to 512 kB, and offered an upgrade for 128k Macs that involved replacing the logic board. In an attempt to improve connectivity, Apple released the Macintosh Plus on January 10, 1986 for US$2,600. It offered one megabyte of RAM, easily expandable to four by the use of socketed RAM boards, and a SCSI parallel interface, allowing up to seven peripherals—such as hard drives and scanners—to be attached to the machine. Its floppy drive was increased to an 800 kB capacity. The Mac Plus was an immediate success and remained in production, unchanged, until October 15, 1990; on sale for just over four years and ten months, it was the longest-lived Macintosh in Apple's history.

The Macintosh II, one of the first expandable Macintosh models. Updated Motorola CPUs made a faster machine possible, and in 1987 Apple took advantage of the new Motorola technology and introduced the Macintosh II, which used a 16 MHz Motorola 68020 processor. The primary improvement in the Macintosh II was Color QuickDraw in ROM, a color version of the graphics language which was the heart of the machine. Among the many innovations in Color QuickDraw were an ability to handle any display size, any color depth, and multiple monitors. The Macintosh II marked the start of a new direction for the Macintosh, as now for the first time it had an open architecture with several NuBus expansion slots, support for color graphics and external monitors, and a modular design similar to that of the IBM PC. It had an internal hard drive and a power supply with a fan, which was initially fairly loud. One third-party developer sold a device to regulate fan speed based on a heat sensor, but it voided the warranty. Later Macintosh computers had quieter power supplies and hard drives. In September 1986, Apple introduced the Macintosh Programmer's Workshop, or MPW that allowed software developers to create software for Macintosh on Macintosh, rather than cross compiling from a Lisa. In August 1987, Apple unveiled HyperCard, and introduced MultiFinder, which added cooperative multitasking to the Macintosh. Apple began bundling both with every Macintosh. The Macintosh SE was released at the same time as the Macintosh II, as the first compact Mac with a 20 MB internal hard drive and one expansion slot. The SE's expansion slot was located inside the case along with the CRT, potentially exposing an upgrader to high voltage. For this reason Apple recommended users bring their SE to an authorized Apple dealer to have upgrades performed. The SE also updated Jerry Manock and Terry Oyama's original design and shared the Macintosh II's Snow White design language, as well as the new Apple Desktop Bus (ADB) mouse and keyboard that had first appeared on the Apple IIGS some months earlier. In 1987, Apple spun off its software business as Claris. It was given the code and rights to several applications that had been written within Apple, notably MacWrite, MacPaint, and MacProject. In the late 1980s, Claris released a number of revamped software titles; the result was the "Pro" series, including MacDraw Pro, MacWrite Pro, and FileMaker Pro. To provide a complete office suite, Claris purchased the rights to the Informix Wingz spreadsheet on the Mac, renaming it Claris Resolve, and added the new presentation software Claris Impact. By the early 1990s, Claris applications were shipping with the majority of consumer-level Macintoshes and were extremely popular. In 1991, Claris released ClarisWorks, which soon became their second best-selling application. When Claris was reincorporated back into Apple in 1998, ClarisWorks was renamed AppleWorks beginning with version 5.0.

The Macintosh Portable was Apple's first battery-powered Macintosh. It was available from 1989 to 1991 and could run System 6 and System 7. In 1988, Apple sued Microsoft and Hewlett-Packard on the grounds that they infringed Apple's copyrighted GUI, citing (among other things) the use of rectangular, overlapping, and resizable windows. After four years, the case was decided against Apple, as were later appeals. Apple's actions were criticized by some in the software community, including the Free Software Foundation (FSF), who felt Apple was trying to monopolize on GUIs in general, and boycotted GNU software for the Macintosh platform for seven years. With the new Motorola 68030 processor came the Macintosh IIx in 1988, which had benefited from internal improvements, including an on-board MMU. It was followed in 1989 by a more compact version with fewer slots (the Macintosh IIcx) and a version of the Mac SE powered by the 16 MHz 68030, the Macintosh SE/30. Later that year, the Macintosh IIci, running at 25 MHz, was the first Mac to be "32-bit clean," allowing it to natively support more than 8 MB of RAM, unlike its predecessors, which had "32-bit dirty" ROMs (8 of the 32 bits available for addressing were used for OS-level flags). System 7 was the first Macintosh operating system to support 32-bit addressing. Apple also introduced the Macintosh Portable, a 16 MHz 68000 machine with an active matrix flat panel display that was backlit on some models. The following year the Macintosh IIfx, starting at US$9,900, was unveiled. Apart from its fast 40 MHz 68030 processor, it had significant internal architectural improvements, including faster memory and two Apple II CPUs dedicated to I/O processing.

1990 to 1998: Growth and decline

Microsoft Windows 3.0, which began to approach the Macintosh operating system in both performance and feature set, was released in May 1990 and was a less expensive alternative to the Macintosh platform. Apple's response was to introduce a range of relatively inexpensive Macs in October 1990. The Macintosh Classic, essentially a less expensive version of the Macintosh Plus, was the least expensive Mac until early 2001.[24] The 68020-powered Macintosh LC, in its distinctive "pizza box" case, offered color graphics and was accompanied by a new, low-cost 512 × 384 pixel monitor. The Macintosh IIsi was essentially a 20MHz IIci with only one expansion slot. All three machines sold well,[25] although Apple's profit margin was considerably lower than on earlier machines.

Apple improved Macintosh computers by introducing models equipped with newly available processors from the 68k lineup. The Macintosh Classic II and Macintosh LC II, which used a 16MHz 68030 CPU, were joined in 1991 by the Macintosh Quadra 700 and 900, the first Macs to employ the faster Motorola 68040 processor. In 1994, Apple abandoned Motorola CPUs for the RISC PowerPC architecture developed by the AIM alliance of Apple Computer, IBM, and Motorola.[26] The Power Macintosh line, the first to use the new chips, proved to be highly successful, with over a million PowerPC units sold in nine months.[27]

Apple replaced the Macintosh Portable in 1991 with the first of the PowerBook line: the PowerBook 100, a miniaturized Portable; the 16 MHz 68030 PowerBook 140; and the 25 MHz 68030 PowerBook 170.[28] They were the first portable computers with the keyboard behind a palm rest, and with a built-in pointing device (a trackball) in front of the keyboard.[29] The 1993 PowerBook 165c was Apple's first portable computer to feature a color screen, displaying 256 colors with 640 x 400 pixel resolution. The second-generation of PowerBooks, the 68040-equipped 500 series, introduced the trackpad, integrated stereo speakers and built-in Ethernet to the laptop form factor in 1994.

As for Mac OS, System 7 was a 32-bit rewrite from Pascal to C++ that introduced virtual memory, and improved the handling of color graphics, memory addressing, networking, and co-operative multitasking. Also during this time, the Macintosh began to shed the "Snow White" design language, along with the expensive consulting fees they were paying to Frogdesign, in favor of bringing the work in-house by establishing the Apple Industrial Design Group. They became responsible for to crafting a new look to go with the new operating system and all other Apple products.

Despite these technical and commercial successes, Microsoft and Intel began to rapidly lower Apple's market share with the Windows 95 operating system and Pentium processors respectively. These significantly enhanced the multimedia capability and performance of IBM PC compatible computers, and brought Windows still closer to the Mac GUI. Furthermore, Apple had created too many similar models that confused potential buyers. At one point Apple's product lineup was subdivided into Classic, LC, II, Quadra, Performa, and Macintosh Centris models, with essentially the same computer being sold under a number of different names.[30] These models competed against the Macintosh clones, hardware manufactured by third-parties that ran Apple's System 7. This succeeded in increasing the Macintosh's market share somewhat and provided cheaper hardware for consumers, but hurt Apple financially as existing Apple customers began to buy cheaper clones while Apple shouldered the burden of developing the platform.

When Steve Jobs returned to Apple in 1997, he ordered that the OS that had been previewed as version 7.7 be branded Mac OS 8 (in place of the never-to-appear Copland OS). Since Apple had licensed only System 7 to third-parties, this move effectively ended the clone line. The decision caused significant financial losses for companies like Motorola, who produced the StarMax, Umax, who produced the SuperMac,[31] and Power Computing Corporation, who offered several lines Mac clones, including PowerWave, PowerTower, and PowerTower Pro.[32] These companies had invested substantial resources in creating their own Mac-compatible hardware.[33] Apple bought out Power Computing's license, but allowed Umax to continue selling Mac clones until their license expired, as they had a sizeable presence in the lower-end segment that Apple did not.


  1. Raskin, Jef (1996). Recollections of the Macintosh project. Articles from Jef Raskin about the history of the Macintosh.. Retrieved on November 27, 2008.
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  33. Knight, Dan (August 30, 2007). 1997: Apple Squeezes Mac Clones Out of the Market. Low End Mac. Retrieved on December 24, 2007.

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