In Pictures: 30 years of Apple’s Mac computer
Over the last three decades, the Mac has morphed and evolved into a dizzying array of form factors. While some models quickly came and went, others became iconic machines in their own right. So, in honor of the Mac's 30th birthday on 24 January, here is a look back at the more influential, significant, and notable Mac machines released over the last 30 years.
January 24, 2014 marks the 30th anniversary of the Mac. Largely introduced to the world via a Super Bowl commercial in 1984, the Mac fundamentally changed the way most people interacted with computers. Over the last three decades, the Mac has morphed and evolved into a dizzying array of form factors. While some models quickly came and went, others became iconic machines in their own right. So, in honor of the Mac's 30th birthday, here is a look back at the more influential, significant, and notable Mac machines released over the last 30 years.
Apple's first Mac, which would soon come to be called the Mac 128k, undeniably set off a revolution and is one of the most influential tech products ever released. Sporting a compact all-in-one design, the original Mac initially sold for $2,495 and brought a graphical user interface and mouse to the mainstream for the first time. It's no understatement to say that the original Apple Macintosh marked a watershed moment in tech history.
Behold, Apple's first portable Mac, though it was not quite a laptop. Released all the way back in 1989, it wasn't the sleekest of devices, nor was it the lightest, as it weighed in at a pretty hefty 18 pounds. Note that the notebook did not contain a trackpad, instead relying exclusively on an old-fashioned track ball for cursor control.
Power Mac G4 Cube
Perhaps inspired by the NeXT Cube, the Power Mac G4 Cube was a stylish piece of hardware design that won a lot of awards, but didn't exactly do so well in the marketplace. This was likely due to the product's pricing, which checked in at $1,800 upon release in 2000. The G4 Cube was discontinued just one year later on account of poor sales.
Bondi Blue iMac
The original iMac was Apple's first major product release following the return of Steve Jobs in 1997. Released in late 1998, the iMac was an all-in-one design that was as notable for the features it came with as those it left out, namely the absence of a floppy disk drive. Originally released in an eye-catching translucent blue, the original iMac was the first computer to rely solely on USB ports, and became an instant and iconic classic. This Mac also saw the introduction of Apple's "i" product branding scheme.
If you were looking for Apple-inspired speed back in the early 90s, the Macintosh IIfx was the machine for you. It wasn't exactly affordable, what with an introductory price of $9,900, but this machine was a beast I thankfully had the pleasure of using quite a lot at a friend’s house back in the day. Aside from being synonymous with power, the IIfx is notable for being the last Mac to incorporate Apple's "Snow White" industrial design theme.
The first iteration of Apple's iBook line was released in 1999 and is notable for being the first laptop to come with 802.11b Wi-Fi networking built in. That's quite a feat for a now ubiquitous feature that most everyone takes for granted. Also interesting about the iBook G3 is that the design aesthetic was very child-like, with colored plastic and even a handle for easy transport.
The Mac Plus was released in 1986 and had a rather long shelf life, four years to be exact. That's not too shabby for the third Mac model ever released. The Mac Plus is particularly notable for being the first Mac to include an SCSI port. It also represented a break from the past, as the Mac Plus did away with the phone-cord-esque keyboard connector. Recently, some folks have shown that a Mac Plus is still capable of browsing the modern web.
Largely considered Apple's first real laptop, the PowerBook 100 was released in October of 1991 and featured a novel design - a trackball centered in front of the keyboard! Weight wise, the machine measured in at just 5.1 pounds, making it far more portable than, say, the Macintosh Portable. It was also much more affordable. Spec-wise, the machine came with no internal floppy drive and featured a 9-inch display.
This Mac is notable for being the first Mac to sport a color display. Released in 1987, it sold for the oh-so-affordable price of $5,000, give or take. This Mac also represents the first model that didn't sport an all-in-one design.
Released in May of 1994, the Apple PowerBook 520 was the first laptop from any company to feature a trackpad instead of the tried-and-true trackball that, up until then, was a mainstay in laptop design. What's more, the PowerBook 520 was the first shipping laptop to come with built-in Ethernet connectivity. All in all, a forward-thinking machine.
20th Anniversary Mac
What better way to celebrate the 30th anniversary of the Mac than to pay homage to the 20th anniversary Mac? Released in 1997 (20 years after Apple was founded), the 20th anniversary Mac sported a unique vertical and svelte design and was priced at an astounding $7,500. Naturally, the machine didn't sell all that well, though if you look closely, you can see that the machine had brief cameos during the later seasons of the TV show Seinfeld.
Steve Jobs unveiled the MacBook Air at Macworld in 2008. With typical flair, Jobs pulled the Air out of an envelope that had been placed on stage earlier in the presentation. As the name implies, the MacBook Air was touted, at the time, as being the thinnest laptop ever created. It's also notable for being the first modern Apple laptop to completely do away with an optical drive. The MacBook Air is still alive and kicking and remains one of Apple's more popular Macs.
You might know the iMac G4 better as the sunflower Mac, or, perhaps more simply, the flat-panel iMac that looked like a desk lamp. Released in early 2002, the iMac G4 represented a marked departure from previous iterations of the iMac. This particular iMac also marked the first time Apple released a desktop computer with an adjustable screen you could tilt and turn just to your liking. The iMac G4 also ended the Mac's love affair with translucent color.
Apple's iMac G5 was a thing of beauty and really showcased Apple's engineering prowess. Gone was the bulky design of the original iMac and the sizable base of the iMac G4. In its place was an all-white sleek computer within a display. This iMac is notable for steering Apple's desktop design into a completely new direction, and also for being the last model of iMac to ship with a PowerPc chip.
Macintosh Performa lineup
I may get some criticism for this one, but I include the entirety of the Macintosh Performa line because, as Apple's family-oriented line, it was more affordable and thus more prevalent than most other Macs in the mid to late 90s. Over the course of four years, from 1992 through 1996, Apple released an astounding 26 different models of the Performa, from the Performa 200 to the Performa 6400. It may not have been the most powerful of machines, but seasoned Mac users likely used one quite often at one point in their lives.
Apple in August of 2007 completely re-designed the iMac and did away with the white polycarbonate of its predecessors. In its place was an amazingly sleek design comprised of aluminum, glass, and plastic on the backside. Apple also upped the screen size to 20 inches while also offering a 24-inch model. By and large, the Aluminum iMac of today looks remarkably similar to the original, which isn't a problem when a machine is this functional and aesthetically appealing. The most recent iMac upgrade saw the removal of the machine's optical drive.
Power Mac G5
This beast of a machine was released during the summer of 2003 and featured a striking industrial design that persisted even after the Apple lineup shifted away from PowerPc and toward Intel processors. This family of machines would eventually go on to be called the Mac Pro.
MacBook Pro with Retina Display
At WWDC 2012, Apple introduced the MacBook Pro with Retina display. At last, Apple brought its amazing display technology to its notebook lineup. Indeed, once one goes from a normal display to a Retina Display – whether it be on an iOS device or a laptop – it's hard to go back.
Back in the early 90s, I remember watching promotional videos touting the speed and next-gen power of the Mac Quadra. A venerable speed demon, the Quadra saw a number of different models over the years, and for many it will always evoke fond memories of absolute computing power.
Mac Pro 2013
"Can't innovate anymore, my ass!" Phil Schiller boldly exclaimed during the WWDC 2013 keynote as he introduced a long-awaited update to Apple's Mac Pro line. The new Mac Pro has a new, smaller form factor. But more importantly, it's a speed demon that should suit the needs of even the most demanding professionals. Released just this past December, the machine isn't cheap, with a base price of about $3,000.