Mac in time: 30 years of Apple's legendary PC

Apple Mac
The first Apple Macintosh from 1984 - and the latest iMac

Today marks the 30th anniversary of the original Apple Macintosh − the computer that kick-started the PC revolution as we've known it.

Here's a potted history of Apple's ever-evolving machine − the first mass-market personal computer to offer a graphical user interface.

1984 − All-in-one beginnings

On January 24, 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 - including elements from legendary Palo Alto research company Xerox Parc - that can be controlled with a mouse. The first Mac even packs in two then-revolutionary applications: MacPaint and the MacWrite word processor.

Apple Mac

The original Mac

It retails for $2,495, is about 14 inches tall and weighed 16.5 pounds (around 7.5Kg), but when placed in its optional carrying case, the system weighs about 22 pounds (around 10kg).

The Mac launches with that famous US$1.5 million Super Bowl ad by Ridley Scott − itself known as 1984.

1985 − Office hits the Mac

It's a common myth that Microsoft is an enemy of the Mac. It's not so − it was one of its first major partners, a year after the Mac launched. Microsoft delivers two exclusive apps (that you might have heard of) called Word and Excel. At this time, Microsoft also bought 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-start the desktop publishing revolution that Macs were so famous for. By the end of 1985, co-founders Steve Jobs and Steve Wozniak have both left Apple, while Microsoft has unleashed Windows 1.0 − a move that proves to be a key milestone in the evolution of the personal computer.

1986 − SCSI is key

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 and includes such enhancements as the ability to nest folders inside one another.

1987 − Business is targeted

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 be specced with up to 128MB of RAM. Mac OS, meanwhile, has reached the lofty heights of version 5.1 and enables background printing.

1988 − CD-ROM points the way

Next Apple introduces the System 6.0-powered Macintosh IIx: one of the first personal computers to sport a CD-ROM drive. At the same time, 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 a 17-inch monitor as standard. Steve Jobs is already taking the foward-looking approach to future technologies that we'll see with later Macs.

1989 − The first Mac laptop

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 speediest Mac made to date.

Apple also introduces its first laptop − the 7.25kg Mac Portable in September. It cost cost $6,500. At NeXT, Steve Jobs reveals NeXTstep: a new Unix-based OS that has a big bearing on the future direction of latter-day Macs.

1990 − Mass market computing

Apple introduces its fastest computer yet − the 40MHz Macintosh IIfx. It's designed to combat the perception that PCs running DOS are much faster than their GUI-wielding Mac rivals. Microsoft Windows 3.0 makes its debut in the same year at a time when Apple has 20% of the total computing market.