Tomorrow marks the 25th Anniversary of the original Apple Macintosh - the 68k computer that kick-started the PC revolution.
Here, TechRadar presents a potted history of Apple's perennial machine - the first to offer a graphical user interface, replacing the command line hassle techies had previously been used to.
The Mac was launched with that US$1.5 million ad by Ridley Scott known as 1984, which is where we pick up the story...
On January 25th, Apple CEO Steve Jobs reveals the first Mac to the world - an 8MHz 68k all-in-one with a 9-inch display, 3.5-inch floppy drive and 128k of RAM. Its biggest selling point is its graphic user interface (elements of which were 'borrowed' from Xerox Parc), that could be controlled with a mouse. It even packs in two then-revolutionary applications: MacPaint (a graphics program) and the MacWrite word processor.
Microsoft delivers two exclusive apps to the Mac called Word and Excel. It also buys up PowerPoint from a company called Forefront. In addition, 1985 sees the arrival of the first Apple laser printer and the Aldus PageMaker desktop publishing program - two developments that kick-started the desktop publishing revolution. By the end of 1985, co-founders Steve Jobs and Steve Wozniak had both left Apple, while Microsoft had unleashed Windows 1.0.
The Mac gets a major upgrade in the form of the Macintosh Plus. It now sports 1MB of RAM and SCSI: a new peripheral connection standard that enables devices such as printers and external hard drives to be daisy-chained together. The Mac operating system reaches version 3.0, enabling folders to be nested inside one another.
The Macintosh Plus makes way for two new Macs: The Macintosh SE offers a choice of two floppy drives or an internal hard disk, while the Macintosh II is aimed at business users. The Mac II has a 256-colour 13-inch display, a 16MHz processor and can hold up to 128MB of RAM. The Mac OS reaches version 5.1 and this enables background printing.
Apple introduces the Macintosh IIx: one of the first personal computers to sport a CD-ROM drive. The Mac OS reaches System 6.0 and Steve Jobs reveals the first fruits of his new computer company, NeXT. It's an all-in-one box called the NeXT Cube that ships with a magneto-optical drive (instead of a floppy) and has 17-inch monitor as standard.
Apple introduces three new Macs - the SE/30, Mac IIc and Mac IIci. Of these, the Mac IIci is the most interesting. It's a modular Mac with a separate colour monitor and a more compact desktop case, but ships with a 25MHz 68k processor - making it the fastest Mac made to date. Apple also introduces its first laptop - the 7.25kg Mac Portable. At NeXT, Steve Jobs reveals NeXTstep: a new Unix-based OS.
Apple introduces its fastest computer yet - the 40MHz Macintosh IIfx. It also includes AMD RISC-based graphics card that's 5-30 times faster than its predecessors for certain tasks. The upgrade is important, because it combats the perception that PCs running DOS are much faster than their GUI-wielding Mac rivals. Microsoft Windows 3.0 makes its debut. Apple now has 20 per cent of the total computing market.
Apple launches six new Macs, including two high-end Quadras - desktop tower PCs with new Motorola 68040 CPUs that are up to 2.5 times faster than their predecessors. Apple also introduces a new range of Mac portables called PowerBooks: the first laptops to have their keyboards at the back and the trackpad at the front. The Mac OS reaches System 7.0.
The wheels start to come off the Apple happy bus. Firstly, it ships a range of underpowered consumer Macs called Performas. Then Microsoft teams up with Intel to deliver better-performing x486 PCs running Windows 3.1 - the first 'true' version of the PC operating system we know today. Things are going better at NeXT, with version 3.0 of the NeXTstep OS transitioning from Motorola 68K to Intel CPUs. It's released the following year.
Apple introduces 19 new Macs split across six different ranges, encompassing the ColorClassic to the low-end LC, mid-range Centris and upmarket Quadra. In addition to Performas and PowerBooks, Apple announces that it's shipped its 10 millionth Mac, but competition's getting tougher and Microsoft says Windows is now being used by over 25 million people.
Apple starts the first of three major transitions that it will make during the Mac's 25 year history. It begins with the arrival of the first three Power Macs - machines that run on PowerPC RISC architecture. The PowerPC chips are much, much faster than the CISC-based chips that Apple has been using up until now. 1994 also sees the arrival of System 7.5.
Apple is hit with a double whammy: the arrival of Windows 95 and Intel's Pentium Pro CPU. Its PowerPC-equipped Macs are selling well, but the rest of its line-up underwhelms. Apple licenses its OS to belatedly compete with the Windows and Intel systems, but by September Steve Jobs is telling Fortune that he knows how to turn Apple's fortunes around and no-one at the company will listen.
In February, Steve Jobs shocks many by telling Fortune: "If I were running Apple, I would milk the Macintosh for all it's worth - and get busy on the next great thing. The PC wars are over. Done. Microsoft won a long time ago." Apple finally lays the old 68k processors to rest and begins work on System 8.0 - the next version of the Mac OS. By the end of the year Apple also acquires NeXT, its NeXTstep operating system and Steve Jobs is back in the fold.
Apple has too many product lines, too few customers and is haemorrhaging money. Jobs, now interim CEO, explains Apple's predicament to Time in October, saying: "Apple has some tremendous assets, but I believe without some attention, the company could, could, could... could, could die." Apple persuades Bill Gates to buy $150 million worth of shares in Apple. Jobs kills off the Mac clones. The Mac OS reaches System 8 and Apple starts work on Rhapsody, the precursor to Mac OS X. Year end sees Apple shipping Macs with PowerPC G3 chips that easily outperform their predecessors.
Steve Jobs continues on wage war on Apple's inventory, killing off the Newton PDA. He focuses the company on a new product that takes Apple back to its origins: the iMac. Jobs' vision takes shape as an all-in-one system boasting a 233MHz PowerPC G3 processor, 32MB of RAM, a 4GB hard disk drive and a 15-inch display. It has no floppy disk drive or legacy sockets, but instead offers easy internet hookup and USB - a nascent peripherals connection from Intel. It's a smash hit with consumers worldwide.
The iMac gets faster and becomes available in more enticing colours. It's joined by the bondi blue Power Mac, which includes PowerPC processors running up to 450MHz. Apple also introduces a new range of G3 laptops, including the toilet seat-shaped iBook. The biggest surprise is the Power Mac G4 tower, which Apple calls the 'world's first desktop supercomputer'. Finally, Apple announces AirPort, the first 802.11b Wi-Fi router and launches Mac OS X Server - the world's first taste of a major leap in the Mac GUI.
Steve Jobs heralds the consumer version of Mac OS X, with the first betas appearing at the end of the year. Ultimately, it looks good, but lacks features and is too slow. Apple's existing Mac products - the iMac, iBook, Power Mac and PowerBook - get speed bumps and colour changes rather anything revolutionary. There's also the launch of the Power Mac G4 Cube - a headless Mac that harks back to Steve Jobs' days at NeXT. It's a flop.
Apple ships the consumer version of Mac OS X - its second major transition. Mac OS X 10.1 is chiefly remarkable for its Aqua colour scheme, use of translucency and missing features. Its still very slow and the 'spinning beach ball of death' quickly becomes a familiar phrase in a Mac user's vocabulary. Apple also reveals a totally new design for its laptops, with the PowerBook packing a 15-inch widescreen display and G4 CPU into a 1-inch-thick titanium case. The first iBooks make their debut, but the revamped iMac is a disaster: its patterned Blue Dalmation and Flower Power case designs keep buyers away. Finally, Apple releases a 5GB music player called the iPod. Microsoft launches Windows XP.
Apple launches a revamped version of the iMac with semi-spherical base and a flat panel display that 'floats' on a cantilevered chrome arm. It also launches new consumer iBooks, revamped G4 Power Macs and the eMac, which is aimed at schools. OS X 10.2 'Jaguar' also comes into the fray, offering 150 new features and a long-awaited speed boost.
Apple practically kills off Mac OS Classic and revamps its entire Mac line - iBooks, PowerBooks, Power Mac G4 towers, the iMac and the eMac. The Mac line also get a major speed boast with the arrival of the Power Mac G5 in June. It has two 64-bit PowerPC G5 processors from IBM running at 2.0GHz apiece. The iPod hits 40GB and is accompanied by the launch of the iTunes Store and the arrival of the iPod and iTunes on Windows.
The year is dominated by the iPod rather than the Mac, with Apple even touting the Mac as being 'from the creators of iPod'. The iMac gets a major revamp - the floating LCD and hemispherical base replaced by an all-in-one design that packs a computer behind a flat panel LCD. Apple is now in rude health, but it's PC marketshare falls to its lowest point - just 3 per cent worldwide. The UK's first Apple Store opens in Regent Street, London.
IBM delivers the first dual-core PowerPC G5 chips to Apple, enabling it to offer Power Mac G5s to its professional customers with two dual-core CPUs inside. However, IBM isn't able to deliver what Apple really needs - a fast, low-powered PowerPC G5 chip that can be used in Apple's ailing iBook and PowerBook line. In June 'hell freezes over' when Jobs announces that Apple is to undergo its third major transition - a major switch over to Intel processors. Mac OS X 10.5 'Tiger' is announced in April.
Every Mac Apple makes ditches the PowerPC chip in favour of Intel Core Duo processors, starting with the iMac, Mac Mini and MacBook Pro in January, and ending with the Mac Pro in August. By the end of the year the MacBook Pro had been revamped again, this time sporting Core 2 Duo processors.
Apple's year kicks of with a bang and they announce 8-core Mac Pros will be available as a buy-to-order option. Apple also adopts the Intel Santa Rosa chipset for the MacBook Pro in August and revamps the iMac so that it now sports an aluminium and glass enclosure with Intel Core 2 Duo CPUs. 2007 also sees the introduction of the iPhone, with banners at Macworld Expo in January declaring "The first 30 years were just the beginning", which refer to the company's history. Over at CES, Microsoft introduces Windows Vista, which is widely criticised. In October, the next version of the Mac OS X - 10.5 Leopard - goes on sale. It becomes Apple's biggest-selling OS X upgrade so far.
Apple's most successful year ever kicks off with the announcement that the Mac Pro is to offer 8-core processing as standard. It's joined by the iPhone 3G and the third-party App Store, plus faster iMacs, MacBooks and MacBook Pros. Apple also announces the MacBook Air - an ultra-light notebook with a multi-touch trackpad for carrying out gestures.
By the end of the year, the MacBook and MacBook Pro gets another revamp - this time with a new 'unibody' enclosure that sees the bottom cases milled from solid block of aluminium. Steve Jobs announces in June that the next version of Mac OS X - 10.6 Snow Leopard - will consolidate and enhance the existing user experience, chiefly by enabling all apps to harness the power of the multi-core processors used in all Macs.
Apple becomes the world's sixth largest computer maker.
Now read Steve Jobs is sick. Leave him alone
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