I have to admit that the Apple fan that I am, I am a recent switcher. The first time I started to use a G4 eMac as a personal computer was at work early 2005. But having left the corporate grind for a mobile/telecommute/freelance writer’s life left me without a Mac for a few months until I got my own used PowerBook just a few months ago.
I’ve had many dealings with Apple computers in the past, though (and with their owners, of course). And each encounter was a marvel to the senses. I’ve always been fascinated by these lovely computers, from the way the hardware seems to be like functional sculptures, to the way the Mac OS seems to read my mind and just do the things I want it to do.
So to make up for lost time (that is, the time I wasn’t on a Mac) and considering I’m relatively too young to know about the Mac since its birth (I was still in preschool during the Macintosh’s launch in 1984), I have to read up on my Mac history. Among the resources I often refer to is LowEndMac, which has a series of articles that covers the highlights of each year since the Mac’s introduction.
On January 24, 1984, Apple announced the Macintosh to their Board of Directors and to the world. And the computer world has never been the same.
A year earlier, Apple had unveiled the $10,000 Lisa, the first business computer with a graphical user interface and a mouse. The Lisa never caught on, but Apple was enamored of the concept.
It was an era of conformity. Although you could still buy an Apple II, TRS-80, Commodore, or CP/M computer, MS-DOS was the de facto standard.
Apple made a bold move, thinking different long before it became an ad slogan. And the rest, as they say, is history, a history Low End Mac examines in a series of articles, each covering one year in the life of the Macintosh.
The articles highlight the innovations (or lack thereof) introduced each year. These also give some personal perspectives on the hot issues during those times, including those that pertained how developments affected Apple as a company.
Here are some notable highlights I’d like to cover in brief.
- The Macintosh is introduced. What made it different from the rest of the (mostly IBM-compatible) personal computers that time: a 3.5″ floppy disk drive instead of 5.25″, a mouse, and most of all a GUI!
- Steve Jobs and Steve Wozniak leave Apple this year. Macintosh XL is released–it was basically a rebranded Lisa 2. No innovation here!
- Macintosh Plus is introduced. New UI features: arrow keys and a numeric keypad (which we take for granted today!). And SCSI becomes the hot new thing. The HFS file system is also introduced, and this allowed for hierarchical directory structures on the Mac’s file system.
- Color comes to the Mac world with the Mac II, which supported 256 colors.
- First Apple CD-ROM ships, making the company one of the first to adopt this technology. Mac IIx and Mac SE introduced; these could read DOS 3.5″ diskettes (another feature we take for granted nowadays).
- Apple introduces the Mac Portable. It was BIG–at 16 pounds!–but it was an amazing piece of hardware in its time.
- The “wicked fast” Mac IIfx is introduced, and it featured an accelerated graphics card, and other innovations that reduced CPU load, resulting in faster performance. Low-cost, consumer-oriented Macs also debuted, which were the Classic, the LC and the IIsi.
- Apple begins to dominate the laptop market with the introduction of the PowerBook 100 series, which, at 7 pounds, iss less than half the weight of the Mac Portable. System 7 is also introduced, which brings in a lot of innovations software-wise.
- Low-cost, but low-performing Performa line is introduced. Lighter PowerBook Duo (5 pounds!) series is also introduced (these were dockable, though, to retain expandability and functionality when needed).
- Apple overwhelms the Mac community this year with several model releases in a span of a few months. Notable are the Color Classic and the audio-visual oriented Centris 660av and Quadra 840av. The PowerBook also begins to sport color screens! And the MacTV is introduced–a limited production model that combined the Mac with a TV tuner.
- Dual-platform Quadra 610 could run DOS and Windows! This year marks the beginning of the end for the Motorola 68000 platform as Apple started shifting to the PowerPC architecture, with the PowerMac and a new line of PowerBooks (the 500 series). Apple also starts to use IDE as an alternative to SCSI.
- First licensed Mac clone is introduced by Power Computing. Apple adopts PCI. PowerBook 5300 introduced, but initial releases were recalled due to combustible batteries (sound familiar?).
- Apple discontinues last Motorola 68000-based Mac. Apple purchases NeXT, which brought Steve Jobs back to the company he co-founded.
- Apple posts big losses this year. Mac OS 8 is released. Apple ends the clone licensing program. The G3 is introduced.
- iMac ais introduced, which makes Apple known to the world as a cool company.
- iBook is introduced in multiple colors. Blue Power Mac G3 is the first “tower” Mac. Power Mac G4 is introduced. iBook iss introduced. Later in the year, an upgraded iMac is introduced. Whoa.
- Power Mac G4 Cube and Dual G4 Power Mac are introduced. The iMac gets an upgrade. OS X preview is released.
- Lots of new things: Titanium PowerBooks, iTunes 1.0, white “chicklet” iBooks, the iPod! OS X also starts shipping this year.
- Flat-panel iMacs introduced. iPhoto debuts. iPod became Windows-compatible and adopted the touch-sensitive clickwheel.
- USB connection for the iPod became available. iTunes Music Store opened.
- iPod mini introduced. Flat-screen iMacs with the entire processing unit behind the screen in the flat-panel housing were also introduced.
- Mac Mini was introduced. Mac Os X Tiger was released. Mighty Mouse debuted. iPod Shuffle and Nano also introduced. The most shocking news: Apple was moving to the Intel x86 platform!
What has Apple given us this 2006? I’d say a lot. From the release of Intel-powered Macs like the MacBooks and MacBook Pros, to the MBP Core 2 Duo upgrade, and even the official support for Windows in Intel-Powered Macs, among others, I can say 2006 is a very good year for Apple.