Apple Macintosh

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Macintosh, also known as Mac for short, is a family of personal computers manufactured by Apple Computer, Inc. of Cupertino, California, USA.

The Macintosh was named after the McIntosh, a variety of apple fruit favored by Jef Raskin. The original 128k Macintosh was launched in January 1984 with a famous Super Bowl commercial. It was the first marketed personal computer to popularize the graphical user interface (GUI), a revolutionary event in computing, as the Macintosh came out in a time when most computers used operating systems (OS) with a command line interface.



The operating system, originally called the System Software or "System", officially became known as the Macintosh Operating System (Mac OS) as of version 7.6 (although strictly speaking, version 7.5.1, being the first to display the Mac OS logo, is the first version of the Mac OS under that name). In March 2001, Apple introduced a modern and more secure Unix-based successor (AKA Darwin, a modern OS based on Mach 3.0 and 4.4 BSD), named Mac OS X (the "X" is a Roman numeral 10). The latest version of Mac OS is Mac OS X v10.4, which was released on April 29, 2005. The next version, Mac OS X 10.5, codenamed "Leopard", is scheduled to be released at the end of 2006.

From its inception, the Macintosh has introduced or popularized a number of innovations adopted later by other PCs and operating systems.

Innovations introduced or popularized with the original Macintosh:

  • A graphical user interface (GUI) consisting of icons, a desktop, etc. This metaphor is sometimes called the WIMP model for Windows, Icons, Menus, Pointer.
  • The use of a mouse or other pointing device in personal computing.
  • The "double click" and "click-and-drag" behaviors to perform actions with a pointing device.
  • WYSIWYG ("what you see is what you get") text and graphics editing.
  • Long file names, with whitespace and no file extension.
  • The 3.5" hard-shelled floppy disk as a standard feature.
  • Audio as a standard feature, including a built-in audio-quality speaker.
  • Aesthetic and ergonomic industrial "All in One" design that reduced clutter.
  • Separation of a program's code from its resources to allow localization, etc.
  • Networking built-in.

Innovations introduced or popularized with later Macintosh models or software:

  • The PostScript laser printer
  • Desktop publishing
  • User programmability through HyperCard, AppleScript and Automator (Introduced in Mac OS X 10.4 Tiger)
  • The SCSI interface (Mac Plus, 1986)
  • Audio input/output as a standard feature (Mac IIsi & Mac LC, 1990)
  • A CD-ROM drive as a standard feature (IIvx, 1992)
  • A single desktop environment that can span multiple monitors
  • Ethernet support as standard feature (Quadra 700 & 900, 1991)
  • First laptop with keyboard behind a palmrest (PowerBook 100 series, 1991)
  • First laptop with built-in pointing device (PowerBook 100 series, 1991), a trackball
  • A modern RISC-based architecture in the form of the PowerPC processor, developed jointly by Apple, IBM and Motorola (Power Macintosh 6100, 1994)
  • FireWire, also known as IEEE 1394, an Apple-developed standard also promoted by Sony under the name iLink (Blue and White G3, 1999)
  • The abandonment of the floppy disk (original iMac, 1998)
  • The first notable coloration of computer hardware, rebelling against the standard beige and gray shades that computers had used (including previous Macs), (original iMac, 1998)
  • The first commercially available computer to rely primarily on USB for peripheral connection (original iMac, 1998)
  • The first affordable DVD-R drive ("SuperDrive", Power Mac G4, 2001)
  • Flat-panel displays as a standard feature on a desktop (Twentieth Anniversary Macintosh, 1997)
  • First notebook computers with built-in pointing devices and rear-mounted keyboards (PowerBook 100 series, 1991)
  • First notebook computer with dock/port replicator (PowerBook Duo, 1992)
  • IEEE 802.11b and IEEE 802.11g wireless networking, branded AirPort and AirPort Extreme (also monikered as Wi-Fi), by Apple (original iBook, 1999, PowerBook G4, 2003, respectively)
  • First wireless base station to have audio delivered to a stereo system or entertainment center using Wi-Fi (AirPort Express Base Station, 2004)
  • First full-size notebook computer with widescreen display (PowerBook G4, 2001)
  • First notebook computer with a 17-inch display (PowerBook G4, 2003)
  • First notebook computer to have backlit optic fiber keyboard. Built-in light sensors automatically adjust keyboard illumination and display brightness based on available ambient light. (PowerBook G4, 2003)
  • First 30-inch Display (June 2004)
  • First notebook computer to support the dual-link DVI standard required to run the 30" display (PowerBook G4, 2005)
  • First true touchpad as a pointing device on a notebook (PowerBook 500, 1994)
  • First notebook with built-in Ethernet support (PowerBook 500, 1994)


The Macintosh project started in early 1979 with Jef Raskin, who envisioned an easy-to-use, low-cost computer for the average consumer. His ideas were collected into "The Book of Macintosh". Notable is Raskin's insistence on using meta-keys, rather than a mouse, to act as a pointing device.

Raskin, in September 1979, was given permission to start hiring for the project and was, in particular, looking for an engineer that could put together a prototype. Bill Atkinson, a member of the Lisa team, introduced him to Burrell Smith, a service technician who had been hired earlier that year. Smith had already impressed Atkinson with his ingenious solution to a memory overflow problem. Reportedly, Atkinson told Raskin, "Jef, this is Burrell. He's the guy who's going to design your Macintosh for you." [1] (

Smith's first Macintosh board design was to Raskin's specifications; it had a 64K memory, used the slow Motorola 6809E microprocessor, and had a 256 by 256 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 if he could incorporate the Lisa's Motorola 68000 microprocessor into the Macintosh while still keeping the cost down. By December 1980 Smith had succeeded in inventing a board design that not only utilized the 68000, but speeded it up from 5 MHz to 8 MHz; it also had a 384 by 256 bitmap display. Smith's design used fewer RAM chips than the Lisa and consequently was much cheaper. [2] (

The innovative design caught the attention of Steve Jobs. Realizing that the Macintosh was more marketable than the Lisa, he began focusing his attentions on the project and its members. In January 1981 he completely took over the project, forcing Raskin to take a leave of absence.

Jobs and a number of Apple engineers visited Xerox PARC in December 1979, three months after the Lisa and Macintosh projects had begun. After hearing about the pioneering GUI technology being developed at Xerox PARC from former Xerox employees such as Jef Raskin, Steve Jobs negotiated a visit to see the Xerox Alto computer and Smalltalk development tools in exchange for Apple stock options. There is debate over the degree of impact that this visit had on Apple's products -- Apple's GUIs ended up working and looking differently from the PARC GUIs, and GUIs had been an active area of computing research since the late 1960s -- but it is clear that the Xerox visits were extremely influential on the development of the Lisa and Macintosh. See History of the GUI.

Jobs made another key move in 1981 when he combed the world for a design company for Apple products. He struck a multi-million dollar deal with Hartmut Esslinger of frogdesign (now simply frog). Esslinger developed the Snow White design language for Apple products. Every Snow White product has lines running over part of its surface, making the product appear smaller than it really is. Esslinger's first Apple product design was the Mac SE. The Snow White language appeared consistently on Apple's computers, monitors, numerous peripheral devices, and even on the plugs of cables. After an internal power struggle with new CEO John Sculley in the 1980s, Jobs resigned from Apple and went on to found NeXT Inc., and Esslinger followed Jobs to develop the design language for NeXT products.

The Macintosh's predecessor, the Lisa computer, was introduced in January 1983 for a price of $9,995.00 with many of the GUI-related innovations later seen on the Macintosh. It was aimed at business customers but was too much of a hard sell at the time; it was not a success for Apple, and the line was discontinued in 1986.

The Macintosh was hinted at on January 22, 1984, with a famous Super Bowl commercial featuring a female athlete throwing a hammer through a giant TV screen image of a dictator ("Big Brother", alluding to the tyrant character of the novel Nineteen Eighty-Four, and to the dominant computer maker at that time: IBM, colloquially known in the industry as "Big Blue"). The Macintosh was officially introduced and went on sale on January 24, 1984, for a price of $2,495.00.

Like the Lisa, it was powered by a Motorola 68000 processor, running at 8 megahertz, faster than the Lisa's 5 MHz. The Mac was designed to be self-contained, and had far more programming code in ROM than other computers; it had a non-expandable 128 kilobytes of RAM. The computer shipped with two useful programs designed to show off its interface, MacWrite and MacPaint.

Although the Mac garnered an immediate enthusiastic following, it was too radical for some. Because the machine was entirely designed around the GUI, existing text-mode and command-driven programs had to be redesigned and rewritten, a challenging undertaking that many software developers shied away from, which initially led to a lack of software for the new system. Many users, accustomed to the arcane world of command lines, labeled the Mac a "toy computer," an image that put off many potential users.

In 1985, the combination of the Mac and its GUI with Aldus Pagemaker and Apple's LaserWriter printer enabled a low-cost solution for designing and previewing printed material, an activity that came to be known as desktop publishing. Interest in the Mac exploded, and it is only recently that it has started to lose its dominance as the standard platform for publishing and printing houses with the introduction of newer DTP software for Windows before Mac OS X (Adobe's InDesign - 2003).

The limitations of the first Mac soon became clear. It had very little memory, even compared to other personal computers in 1984, and could not be expanded easily; it lacked a hard drive or any means to attach one easily. Although by 1985 the Mac's base memory had increased to 512 kb, and it was possible, albeit inconvenient, to expand the memory of a 128 kb Mac, Apple realized that the Mac needed to be improved.

The result was the Macintosh Plus, released in 1986. It offered one megabyte of RAM, expandable to four, and a then-revolutionary SCSI interface, allowing up to seven peripherals, such as hard drives and scanners, to be attached to the machine. Its floppy drive was increased to 800 kilobyte capacity. The Plus was an immediate success and remained in production for four years.

Other issues remained, particularly low processor speed and limited graphics ability, which had hobbled the Mac's ability to make inroads into the business computing market. Updated Motorola CPUs made a faster machine possible. In 1987, Apple introduced the Macintosh II, which utilized a 16-MHz Motorola 68020 processor. It had an open architecture with several expansion slots and it, along with the updated system software, supported color graphics.

Along with the Mac II, the Macintosh SE was released, the first compact Mac with an expansion slot; although another 8-MHz 68000 machine it shared some of the II's aesthetics, such as its new ergonomic mouse and keyboard. Later SEs had a 1.44-megabyte floppy disk drive.

With the Motorola 68030 processor came the Macintosh IIx in 1988, essentially an updated II with the new chip, which also ran at 16 MHz but sported some internal improvements including an onboard memory management unit. It was followed 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 in 1989, which did not use the -x designation for obvious reasons. At the same time the fastest Mac yet, the Macintosh IIci, running at 25 MHz, was the first Mac to be "32-bit clean" and to support the architectural changes in the forthcoming, much-delayed Macintosh System 7. Apple also introduced the much-criticized Macintosh Portable in 1989, a 16-MHz 68000 machine with an active matrix display.

The following year, the 40-MHz Macintosh IIfx, costing as much as $13,000, was unveiled. Apart from its fast processor, it had significant internal architetural improvements including faster memory and two CMOS 6502 processors (which had been the CPU in the Apple II) controlling I/O operations.

In 1990 the Mac had gained widespread acceptance, but it was widely seen as too expensive, especially with the wide range of PC clones available. The release of Microsoft Windows 3.0 in May 1990 upped the ante; it was seen as the first version of windows to seriously challenge the Mac.

Apple's response was the brainchild of CEO John Sculley, a range of low-cost Macs, introduced in October 1990. The Macintosh Classic, essentially a cheaper SE, cost $999 in its US base version, the cheapest Mac yet. The 68020-powered Macintosh LC, around $1800, in a distinctive "pizza box" case, offered color graphics, and a low-cost 512׳84-pixel monitor was launched to accompany it. The Macintosh IIsi, essentially a 20-MHz IIci with only one expansion slot, cost $2500, and was a powerful machine for the price. It was the first Mac with a microphone input. All three machines sold very well, though Apple's profit margin was considerably lower than on earlier machines.

The following year saw the much-anticipated release of System 7, a 32-bit rewrite of the Macintosh operating system that improved its handling of color graphics, memory addressing, networking, and multitasking, and introduced virtual memory. Later that year, Apple introduced the Quadra 700 and 900 computers, the first Macs to employ the faster Motorola 68040 processor. They were joined by improved versions of the previous year's hits, the Macintosh Classic II and Macintosh LC II, powered by a 16-MHz 68030.

At the same time, the first three models in Apple's enduring PowerBook range were introduced — the 16 MHz 68000-powered PowerBook 100, a miniaturized Macintosh Portable built by Sony; the 16 MHz 68030 PowerBook 140; and the 25-MHz 68030 PowerBook 140. They were the first portable computers with the keyboard behind a palmrest, and with a built-in pointing device (a trackball) below the keyboard. All three had a black-and-white 640״00-pixel display, passive matrix for the 100 and 140, and active matrix for the 170.

In 1992 Apple unveiled an ill-fated plan to sell consumer Macs through non-traditional dealers, the Macintosh Performa series. At Apple dealers, a lower-end version of the Performa series, the Macintosh Centris was brought out, only to be quickly renamed Quadra when buyers became confused by the range of Classics, LCs, IIs, Quadras, Performas, and Centris.

Also in 1992, the miniaturized, PowerBook Duo range was introduced, intended to be docked for desktop-like functionality while at the workplace.

By the early 1990s, it was thought by some that RISC-architecture CPUs would soon dramatically outpace the speed increases occurring over the same time in CISC CPUs such as the Macintosh's Motorola 68000 series and Intel's x86 series. The AIM alliance of Apple Computer, IBM, and Motorola was announced in 1991 to create a series of RISC CPUs called the PowerPC. Existing Macintosh software that had been written for the 68000 series CPUs -- including some large sections of the Mac OS -- were made to run with a software emulator. The first PowerPC Macs were sold in 1994. (In 2005, Apple announced that it woud move from PowerPC to the x86 series; the PowerPC will still be used in the Macintosh until 2007, although the architectural benefits and speed differences of RISC versus CISC remain controversial.)

Also in 1994, Apple released the second-generation PowerBook models, the PowerBook 500 series, powered by a version of the 68040. They were the first laptop computers to feature a trackpad.

In 1995, Apple started the Macintosh clone program in order to regain lost market share in the desktop computer market. This program was cancelled in August 1997 when negotiations between Apple and the clone makers to extend the licensing agreement broke down, and Apple bought back the licenses of Power Computing and other clone vendors.

In 1998, after Steve Jobs returned to the company, Apple introduced a brand new, eccentric product, coined the iMac. A rather strange computer for the time, it had no legacy ports (ADB, SCSI, Serial/GeoPort), only including two USB ports on the side of the machine. Also flowing against the grain of other computers was the new translucent case, which was of all things, blue. It is widely accepted that the introduction of the iMac is what fostered the wide use of USB peripherals that we see on modern computers. The iMac is still being made to this day, but the product has changed significantly from its original conception.

In 2000, the Macintosh made a second fundamental change, this time in its operating system, by switching to the Mach and BSD Unix-based Mac OS X, from the original Pascal based Mac OS.

Apple announced the Mac mini with a price of US$499 at Macworld Expo/San Francisco on January 11, 2005. This was the first Macintosh ever released for less than $500.

On June 6, 2005, Apple CEO Steve Jobs announced that the company would begin transitioning the Macintosh line from PowerPC to Intel microprocessors, with the transition expected to be complete by the end of 2007, and demonstrated a version of Mac OS X running on a computer powered by an Intel Pentium 4 CPU. It is unclear whether the Intel-based Apple computers will use a Phoenix BIOS (the standard PC BIOS), the Intel-created Extensible Firmware Interface, or another BIOS (the Open Firmware system that Apple has used in its PowerPC-based computers will NOT be used, according to a PowerPC-to-Intel developer transition document released by Apple). Intel-powered Macs will be able to run Macintosh software compiled for PowerPC processors using a dynamic translation system known as Rosetta. The reason for this switch was (according to Apple) due to problems with the power consumption of the IBM G5 processors, coupled with IBMs inability to deliver on the promised roadmap. Apple is expected to transition to Intel Pentium M processors in its Powerbook and iBook lines first, with the desktop lines following later towards the second half of 2007.

Some, particularly Apple loyalists, have branded this future Macintosh lineup as MacIntel (or Mactel), a reference to the Microsoft Windows-Intel colloquial Wintel. During and for a time after the transition, developers are encouraged to compile and distribute Universal Binaries (see also Fat binary), which will run on both PowerPC and Intel-based Macs.


(See also List of Macintosh models grouped by CPU)

See also


  • Guterl, Fred. "Design case history: Apple's Macintosh". IEEE Spectrum. December 1984. [3] (

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