The history of Apple computer

On April 1, 1976, the Apple computer was born. Steven Wozniak, a high school drop-out who worked for Hewlett-Packard, dabbled in computer-design and created what would become the Apple I. His high school buddy Steven Jobs, also a drop-out, worked for Atari and convinced him that the two should form a company to market the new computer, which eventually took off in 1977 with the Apple II. By 1980, the Apple III was released and their company employed several thousand workers.

So begins the rocky, but enormously successful, story of the most revolutionary computer in history. The early Mac’s user-friendly interface, with such features as the trash can, windows, drag-and-drop file moveability, and plug-in-and-play compatibility, predated by far the efforts of those developing the PC. Bill Gates’ admonitions to his R&D people to “Make it like the Mac!”* can only be construed as the highest compliment. Even today’s Mac G4, with its velocity engine and 128-bit-wide architecture, smokes the fastest PC, as proven in side-by-side tests performing complex processing operations in Photoshop with enormous files. In addition, the Mac has been determined to be a more productive and economical platform in all aspects of the computing world.**

* Barbarians Led by Bill Gates, by Jennifer Edstrom and Marlin Eller; Henry Holt and Company, Inc., New York, NY 1998.

** Norris and Wong is a San Francisco based technology consulting firm specializing in personal computer productivity enhancement. They develop custom applications on both Macs and PCs for an exclusive clientele. Their very detailed study compared Macs and Windows in regards to: 1) Adding and removing applications, 2) Reorganizing the desktop for convenience, 3) Hard disk space management, 4) Adding and upgrading hardware components, 5) Backing up files, 6) Troubleshooting system conflicts and other problems, and 7) Recovery from system failures. In Every Case, the Macintosh had MAJOR advantages. They conclude “These differences will translate into significant FINANCIAL SAVINGS and PRODUCTIVITY benefits for Macintosh users.”

This article by no means attempts to relate the lengthy history of Apple’s development. What you will find here are computer models that have been some of the more revolutionary highlights of Apple’s output.

1976 • Apple IBased on the MOStek 6502 chip, the Apple I included only the circuit board. A tape-interface was sold separately, but you had to build the case. Initial cost: $666.66.

1983 • LisaThe first personal computer to use a GUI (Graphical User Interface). It contained a Motorola 68000 Processor running at 5 Mhz, 1 MB of RAM, two 5.25″ 871k floppy drives, an external 5 MB hard drive, and a built-in 12″ 720 x 360 monochrome monitor. Initial cost: $9,995.

1983 • Apple //eOne of the most successful Apple computers ever. It used the 65C02 processor, running at 1.02 Mhz, and came with 64K of RAM, 32K ROM, BASIC (an assembly language interface), and several other hard-coded options. Initial cost: $1,395.

1984 • Mac 128kThe first affordable computer to include a GUI, and using the new 8 MHz Motorola 68000 chip. It came in a small beige case with a built-in black and white monitor, a keyboard, mouse, and a floppy drive that took 400k 3.5″ disks—the first personal computer to do so. Initial cost: $2,495.

1989 • PortableApple’s first attempt at a more easily portable Macintosh. It had a bay for a 3.5″ half-height drive, and could support up to two Super Drives. Its active matrix screen (later backlit) made it incredibly expensive. Initial cost: $6,500.

1993 • Color ClassicIdentical to the Classic II, except for a color screen, a larger ROM, and a restyled case. Also released as the Performa 250. Initial cost: $1,390.

1997 • Power Mac 9600The 9600 was built to make its insides more easily accessable. It ran on 233, 200, or dual 200 Mhz 604e’s. Initial cost: $4,700 for the dual 200Mhz configuration, $4,200 for the single 233Mhz, and $3,700 for the single 200 Mhz.

1998 • Power Book G3The G3 Series was available with a variety of built-to-order options including a 233, 250, or 292 Mhz PPC750 processor and either a 12″ passive-matrix screen, a 13.3″ TFT Active Matrix screen, or an incredible 14.1″ TFT Active Matrix Screen. All models included two RAM slots which used industry standard RAM modules (the same used in most IBM Thinkpads), hardware 2D and 3D Graphics acceleration, a VGA port, 4Mbps IrDA, 2 PC-card slots (CardBus compliant—a powerbook first), and the 13.3″ and 14.1″ models included an S-Video output. The G3 Series had two drive bays, either of which could hold a battery or a wide array of 3.5″ expansion devices, such as floppy or zip modules. The right drive bay could also accommodate larger 5.25″ devices. Initial cost: $2,299 for 233 Mhz with no floppy drive and a 12″ screen, and $7,000, fully loaded.

1999 • G4Based on the Unified Motherboard Architecture, the G4 AGP used the MPC 7400 chip, AGP-based graphics, AirPort compatibility, a faster memory bus, DVD-ROM or RAM standard, an internal FireWire port, 2 separate USB buses for a combined 24 Mbs, a 2X (133 Mhz) AGP slot, and up to 1.5 GB of RAM. The G4 AGP also introduced the new professional color, “graphite.” Initial cost: $2499 for the 450 Mhz with a 20GB hard drive and 128 MB of RAM, and $3499 for the 500 Mhz configuration with a 27 GB hard drive and 256 MB of RAM (both included internal Zip drives).

2000 • G4 CubeHoused in an 8x8x8 cube, the G4 Cube combined elegance and power, trading expandability for its diminutive size. There were no PCI slots, and while the Graphics was fit into an 2x AGP slot, there wasn’t room for full-length AGP cards. It contained three RAM slots, an AirPort slot, two USB and FireWire ports, a 450Mhz G4 processor, a 20 GB hard drive, a 56k modem, 64 MB of RAM, Apple’s Pro Mouse, and came with an external USB amplifier and a set of Harman Kardon speakers. Initial cost: $1799, and $2299 for the 500 Mhz G4 with a 30 GB hard drive and 128 MB of RAM.

2001 • Titanium G4 PowerbookBased on a new low-power G4 chip, the PPC 7410, the PowerBook G4 sported a stylish new Titanium enclosure, which was only 1″ thick (.7″ thinner than its predecessor, the PowerBook G3 with FireWire). The PB G4 had a fixed, 6x slot-load DVD-ROM drive instead of a removable drive bay, a single battery bay, a wide-aspect 15.2″ screen with a native resolution of 1152×768. Initial cost: $2,599 for the 400 Mhz model w/128 MB of RAM and a 10GB hard drive, and $3,499 for the 500 Mhz model w/256 MB of RAM and a 20GB hard drive.

2002 • Flat-panel iMacUsing a 15- or 17-inch LCD screen, G4 processor, and the CD-RW/DVD-R Super Drive, the iMac’s Flat Panel screen easily rotates and changes angles. The 10.6″ semi-spherical base houses the rest of the computer. Initial cost: $1299 for a 700Mhz G4 Processor, 128 MB of RAM, a 40 GB ATA-66 hard drive with CD-RW; $1499 for the 700 Mhz model, with 256 MB of RAM, a 40 GB hard drive, and a CD-RW/DVD-ROM Combo Drive; and $1799 for the 800 Mhz model, with 256 MB of RAM, a 60 GB hard drive, and the CD-RW/DVD-R SuperDrive. Gateway is already copying this model.

UPDATES:2003 • G5The PowerMac G5 was Apple’s long-awaited fifth generation PowerPC-based machine. In an important move, Apple decided to break with Motorola, and used an IBM-designed processor. Motorola had been chronically delayed for both processor design and shipment, and was at least a year away from its fifth-generation PowerPC CPU. Apple and IBM had worked closely together for nearly a year of the PowerPC 970 Processor (publicly referred to as the G5), and the 64-bit PowerMac G5 represented a huge leap forward in both processor and machine design. Housed in an innovative new Aluminum enclosure, the PowerMac G5 was the first 64-bit consumer-level desktop computer ever sold. It featured either a single 1.6 or 1.8 Ghz processor, or dual 2.0 Ghz processors. It included a variety of motherboard enhancements, including PCI-X slots, and 8X AGP slot, a Serial-ATA bus, and up to 8 GB of RAM. Most impressive of all was the front-side bus speed, which was increased to half of the processor speed-up to 1.0 Ghz. This represented a more than six-fold improvement over the previous PowerMac G4 model.

2004 • Xserve G5The Xserve G5 brought the architectural improvements of the PowerMac G5 to the Xserve line. In addition to adding single or dual 2.0 GHz PowerPC 970FX processors, the Xserve G5 included dramatically faster data and memory buses, more and faster RAM, FireWire 800 and USB 2.0, Serial ATA and PCI-X support. Perhaps the most obvious change to the Xserve G5 was the incorporation of the PowerMac G5’s cooling system, which resulted in one less drive bay, removed for ventilation. The Xserve G5 was available in two configurations: a single 2.0 GHz processor model with 512 MB of RAM for $2,999 and a dual 2.0 GHz processor model with 1 GB of RAM for $3,999. A Cluster Node configuration of the Xserve G5 was also available. In January 2005, the high-end model was speed-bumped to dual 2.3 GHz processors, and the low-end model was upgraded to 1 GB of RAM. Both models now shipped with Combo CD-RW/DVD-ROM drives, with a SuperDrive available BTO.  The Xserve RAID also received an upgrade: it now had support for up to 14 250 GB drive modules, each on a separate ATA-100 bus, for a total of 3.5 terrabytes of possible storage.

2004 • iMac G5The iMac G5 brought G5 muscle to Apple’s consumer desktop line. Housed in a completely new enclosure reminiscent of Apple’s Cinema Display line, the iMac G5 was a marvel of miniaturization. The case was only two inches thick, yet housed a machine considerably faster and more advanced than its G4-based predecessor. In addition to a 64-bit G5 processor, the iMac G5 also included a much faster memory bus, better graphics for the low-end model, twice the hard drive space for the high-end model, and a new audio port which doubled as an optical digital audio output. The iMac G5 was initially available in three configurations: 17″ LCD/1.6 Mhz/80 GB hard drive/256 MB of RAM/Combo drive/$1299, 17″ LCD/1.8 Mhz/80 GB hard drive/256 MB of RAM/SuperDrive/$1499, and 20″ LCD/1.8 Mhz/160 GB hard drive/256 MB of RAM/SuperDrive/$1899.

2004 • Flat-panel iMacThe Mac mini represented Apple’s first real foray into the low-end consumer market, and Apple’s first monitor-less consumer Mac in more than six years. Based around the basic motherboard design of the eMac (USB 2.0), the Mac mini packed an impressive feature set into a very small package, just two inches tall and 6.5 inches wide and deep. The rectangular case was reminiscent of the failed G4 Cube, the mistakes of which Apple seemed determined not to repeat with the mini. The basic idea was simple: let current PC owners spend $500 to replace their PC, while continuing to use their existing monitor and USB peripherals.While Airport Extreme and Bluetooth were available as BTO options, they were not included in either stock configuration, nor were a keyboard or mouse. The mini also lacked a sound-input jack, a feature present in Apple’s entire lineup at the time. To keep the size small, Apple used a 2.5″ laptop hard drive, and included a single RAM slot.  The Mac mini shipped in two configurations. The low-end 1.25 GHz model, with a 40 GB hard drive, was $499, while the high-end 1.42 GHz model, with an 80 GB hard drive, was $599. Both models shipped with 256 MB of RAM.