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Apple's aluminium  Intel iMac
Apple's aluminium Intel iMac
Apple's MacBook Pro
Apple's MacBook Pro

The Macintosh, more generally refered to as a Mac for short, is a line of personal computers designed, developed, manufactured and marketed by Apple Computer.

The current Macintosh line includes: Apple's flagship desktop computer, the iMac, the Mac mini, the MacBook, the MacBook Pro, the Mac Pro and, enterprise-grade servers like the Xserve and Xserve RAID.

Macintosh computers are pre-installed with Mac OS X v10.5 'Leopard', the current release of Apple's Mac OS X operating system, a Unix-based system developed by Apple Computer that is only produced to run on Macintosh computers, or come installed with Mac OS X Server, a version of Mac OS X only intended for use on Apple's XServe systems.

The original Macintosh, the Macintosh 128K, was released on January 24, 1984 with the famous 1984 television commercial aired once at the Superbowl, with a series of other advertisements in an expensive, glitzy advertising campaign. The Macintosh is regarded as being the first personal computer to popularize the use of the graphical user interface at a time when most computers used an operating system with a command line interface.

Today, Apple differentiates their Macintosh computers from the competition through the use of innovative industrial design and with their unique operating system, the easy-to-use Mac OS X. To complement the Macintosh, Apple also has developed a series of digital media applications (collectively the iLife suite) and a range of software aimed at the creative professional market including Final Cut Pro, Shake, and Aperture.



1979 - 1984


The Macintosh project started in early 1979 with Jef Raskin, who envisioned an easy-to-use, low-cost computer for the average consumer. In September 1979, Raskin 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's first Macintosh board design was built to Raskin's specifications; it had 64K of RAM, used the Motorola 6809E microprocessor, and had a 256x256 B&W 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 production cost down. By December 1980 Smith had succeeded in inventing a board design that not only utilized the 68000, but made it faster from 5 MHz to 8 MHz; it also had a 384x256 bitmap display. Smith's design used fewer RAM chips than the Lisa and consequently was much cheaper. [1]

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 struck a multi-million dollar deal with industrial designer Hartmut Esslinger of frogdesign (now simply frog). Esslinger developed the Snow White design language for Apple products. 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 team that designed and built the original Macintosh hardware and software included Bill Atkinson, Chris Espinosa, Joanna Hoffman, George Crow, Burrell Smith, Jerry Manock, Jef Raskin and Andy Hertzfeld.


Apple's 1984 ad
Apple's 1984 ad

The Macintosh was hinted at on January 22, 1984, with a famous Super Bowl commercial (directed by Ridley Scott) 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 Mhz, 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.

1985 - 1989

In 1985, the combination of the Mac and its GUI with Aldus Pagemaker (Later Adobe 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.

Macintosh SE
Macintosh SE

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

1990 - 1998

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 until the Mac mini. The 68020-powered Macintosh LC, around $1800, in a distinctive "pizza box" case, offered color graphics, and a low-cost 512×384-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 16MHz 68030.

Powerbook 150
Powerbook 150

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 170. 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 640×400-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 Quadra 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. The last PowerBook Duo was dropped from the Apple product line in early-1997, possibly because of the difficulties switching to PowerPC processors.

In 1993 the Macintosh TV was introduced, it was Apple's first attempt at computer-television integration. It shared the external appearance of the Macintosh Performa 500 series, but in a black case. It was essentially a Performa 520 which could switch its built-in 14" Sony Trinitron CRT from being a computer display to a cable-ready television: it did not do windowed TV on the computer desktop, though it could capture still frames to PICT documents. It came with a small remote control that is also compatible with Sony televisions. Only 10,000 were made in the model's short time on the market, and they are now quite rare.

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-based Macs were sold in 1994. The Power Macintosh line proved to be incredibly successful, with over one million units sold by late-1994 three months before Apple's one-year goal. (In 2005, Apple announced that it would 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.


By 1995, Microsoft and Intel were turning up the heat on Apple by introducing Windows 95, and the Intel Pentium processor, both products significantly enhancing the multimedia capability of the PC, and quickly began to erode the Mac's market share. In response, 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.

1999 - 2005

The original iMac
The original iMac

In 1998, a year after Steve Jobs returned to the company, Apple introduced a new all-in-one Macintosh similar to the original Macintosh 128K in aspects of design, named the iMac. The iMac did not feature the usual ports such as ADB and SCSI, instead only including two Universal Serial Bus (USB) ports to set new industrial standards. The new iMac was not however a great leap in hardware but instead enjoyed great success because of great marketing and design. The iMac featured a translucent plastic case, originally Bondi blue and white, with many other colors later replacing Bondi blue. The iMac set new standards for computer design and furthermore popularized the use of USB. The iMac proved to be phenomenally successful, selling 800,000 units in 1998, making the company an annual profit of $309 million, making it Apple's first profitable year since Michael Spindler ran the company in 1995.

In the summer of 1999, Apple introduced the iBook, a new consumer level portable Macintosh that was designed to be similar in appearance to the iMac introduced a year earlier. Six weeks after the iBook's unveiling, more than 140,000 orders had been placed, by October the computer was as successful as the iMac.

In 2000, the Macintosh made a second fundamental change, this time in its operating system, by switching to the Mach and Berkeley Software Distribution (BSD) Unix-based Mac OS X, from the original Mac OS which was largely written in Pascal programming language|Pascal.

In recent years Apple has seen a significant boost in sales of Macintoshes largely due to the success of the iPod.

Apple announced the Mac mini with a price of US$499 at Macworld 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. 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 IBM's inability to deliver on the promised roadmap.

Some, particularly Apple loyalists, have branded this future Macintosh lineup as Mactel (or MacIntel), a reference to the Microsoft Windows-Intel colloquialism (Wintel). It has recently been reported [2] that Apple has trademarked the word "Mactel," indicating that it may be planning on using that name for some products. During and for a time after the transition, developers are encouraged to compile and distribute universal binaries, which will run on both PowerPC and Intel-based Macs.

On October 11, 2005 Apple released their fourth quarter results, reporting shipment of 1,236,000 Macintoshes, resulting in 48% growth in Macs over the year-ago quarter.

2006 - Present

At MacWorld 2006, Apple released their first Intel based Macs, the iMac and the MacBook Pro. The Mac Pro was the last Mac to be transitioned in August 2006. This meant that all Macs were transitioned over a year before their deadline of the end of 2007.



Mac OS X 10.6 retail box.
Mac OS X 10.6 retail box.

Operating System

The operating system, originally known as the System Software or more simply System, officially became known as the Mac OS (Macintosh Operating System), generally as of System 7.6. In March 2001, Apple introduced Mac OS X, a modern and more secure Unix-based successor (using Darwin, XNU and Mach as foundations), currently at version 10.7 (released in July 2011), codenamed Lion.

Mac OS X Kernel
Mac OS X architecture diagram
Mac OS X architecture diagram

The kernel used in Mac OS X is hybrid-based, using XNU in Darwin as the foundation. With the debut of Mac OS X, the kernel differed much from the Nanokernels and onolithic-based kernels used in the classic Mac OS. Many of the improvements included preemption, memory protection, enhanced performance, improved networking facilities, and support for both Macintosh based file systems (HFS and HFS+), and non-Macintosh based file systems (UFS).

Mac OS X is a preemptive multitasking environment, rather than a cooperative multitasking environment like the classic Mac OS was. The kernel provides enforcement of cooperation, scheduling processes to share processor time (preemption). This supports real-time behavior in applications that require it. In Mac OS X, processes do not normally share memory. Instead, the kernel assigns each process its own address space, controlling access to these address spaces. This control ensures that no application can inadvertently access or modify another application’s memory (protection). Size is not an issue; with the virtual memory system included in Mac OS X, each application has access to its own 4 GB address space.

Software History

Since its introduction the Macintosh has been criticized for the lack of software available for its operating system. In 1984, it was apparent that the IBM PC had a wider range of software available, because it used the most popular operating system of the time, MS-DOS. Apple struggled to encourage software developers to port software titles to the Macintosh, however Bill Gates at Microsoft realized that the GUI would become an industry-standard, and that his software would sell in large quantity if it was available for the Macintosh. In 1984 Microsoft Word and Microsoft MultiPlan were available, and were a large selling point for the Mac. However, it lacked games and business software. In 1985, Lotus introduced Lotus Jazz after the success of Lotus 1-2-3 for the IBM PC, however despite the hopes it was a large flop.

In 1987 Apple spun off their software business as Claris. They were given the code and rights to several programs that had been written within Apple, notably MacWrite, MacPaint and MacProject. In the late 1980s Claris released a number of revamped software titles, the result was the "Pro" series including MacPaint Pro, MacDraw Pro, MacWrite Pro and FileMaker Pro. In order to provide a complete office suite they also purchased the rights to the Informix WingZ spreadsheet on the Mac, re-branding it as Claris Resolve] and added the new presentation program Claris Impact. By the early 1990s Claris programs were shipping with the majority of consumer level Macintoshes, and were extremely popular. In 1991 Claris released ClarisWorks, which soon became their second best-selling program.


Main article: iLife

A major part of Apple's 'digital hub' concept is a suite of consumer level applications called 'iLife.' The first iLife application was iMovie, which was released in 1999 for use on the iMac DV. Next in line came iTunes, a digital jukebox designed to work with Apple's iPod digital music player, and on January 7th, 2002, Apple released iPhoto, an easy-to-use, consumer grade digital photo organizer. Finally, in 2004 marketed the aformentioned applications, as well as iDVD, and GarageBand into a $49 (American dollars) suite called iLife. Today, every Macintosh computer comes preinstalled with the iLife suite. The suite is intended to make the Mac extremely versatile out of the box by providing several consumer media applications. The most popular tool in the suite is iTunes, which is also available for Windows, and has spawned the most popular online music store, iTunes Music Store.

Main article: iWork

In 2005 Apple released iWork, a suite of applications including a word processing and layout application, Pages, and a presentation package, Keynote. iWork '08 added Numbers, Apple's new spreadsheet application.


Processor History

The original Macintosh, released in 1984, used a Motorola 68000 processor. Apple continued to use Motorola's 68k range of processors into the 1990s until the introduction of the PowerPC in 1994 with the Power Macintosh.

The original 68000 was a 16-bit processor, and in all desktop systems, ran at 8 MHz (the Macintosh Portable ran at 16 MHz.) Apple later released the Macintosh II featuring a 32-bit Motorola 68020 processor; but the Mac Toolbox ROMs only support 24-bit memory addressing. Machines with this limitation are referred to as '32-bit dirty'. The successor Macintosh IIx introduced the Motorola 68030 processor, which added an onboard MMU. The first '32-bit clean' Macintosh was the Macintosh IIci. Later Apple released the 'Wicked Fast' Macintosh IIfx, which not only contained a 40Mhz 68040, but also contained two MOS Technology 6502 processors for use as auxiliary controllers. (The irony is that the MOS 6502 was the primary processor in the older Apple II line.) In 1991, Apple released the first computers containing the Motorola 68040 processor, which contained a floating point unit in the main processor. These continued to be the primary line until the release of the Power Macintosh line in 1994.

Since 1994, Apple has been using the PowerPC line of processors, starting with the [[PowerPC 601, which were later upgraded to the 603 and 604. In 1997, Apple introduced their first computer based on the significantly upgraded PowerPC G3 processor; and followed it with the PowerPC G4 in 1999. The latest generation of processor in use is the 64-bit PowerPC G5, introduced in 2003. During the transition to the PowerPC, Apple wrote a 68030-to-PowerPC translation routine that booted very early in the OS loading. The first version of the OS to ship with the earliest PowerPC systems was estimated to be running 95% emulated. Later versions of the operating system increased the percentage of PowerPC native code; until OS X brought it to 100% native.

In 2006, Apple performed another transition, this time from PowerPC to Intel processors.


Macintoshes include USB ports, standardized in 1998 with the iMac; and also FireWire, a less popular port developed by Apple to support more power-demanding devices.

Market share

Since the introduction of the Macintosh 128K in 1984, Apple have struggled to gain significant personal computer market share. The original Mac lacked software, resulting in disappointing sales in 1985 when consumers realized the IBM PC had more software available. In 1985 Microsoft introduced the Windows GUI environment for the IBM PC to compete with the Macintosh. This ultimately ended with a lawsuit between Apple and Microsoft, with Microsoft winning the case. By 1985 only 500,000 Macintoshes had been sold. Steve Jobs, prior to its introduction, predicted that it would sell two million units by 1985. Originally Jobs predicted it could sell five million within two years; sales eventually crossed the two million mark in 1988. It took seven years for the installed base to reach five million.

In the early-1990s Apple tried to persuade users to buy a Macintosh instead of an alternative running a Microsoft operating system. During this period, several brochures and advertisements were made stating the advantages of a Macintosh over a PC, such as built-in networking and ease-of-use.

By 1997 the Macintosh had over 20 million users. By 2002, the Macintosh installed base was predicted to be 50 million units. As of Q4 2003 Apple had 2.06% of the desktop share in the United States, which had increased to 2.88% by Q4 2004. Based on website statistics, overall Mac installed base is around 4.7%.


Page 1 of the 1984 "Macintosh Introduction" brochure published in Newsweek magazine.
Page 1 of the 1984 "Macintosh Introduction" brochure published in Newsweek magazine.
Ever since the introduction of the Macintosh in 1984 with the 1984 commercial Apple has been recognized for its efforts towards effective advertising and marketing for the Macintosh. In addition to the 1984 commercial, Apple also placed a 39-page ad in Newsweek magazine, published in the magazine from November 1984 until December. A separate "Macintosh Introduction" 20-page ad was also featured in Newsweek at the beginning of 1984, often remembered because Bill Gates was featured on page 15.

Apple spent more than US $2.5 million to buy all 40 pages of advertising in a special November 1984 Newsweek magazine to launch the "Test Drive a Macintosh" promotion; potential buyers with a credit card could trial a Macintosh for 24-hours and return it to a dealer afterwards. It began to look like a success with 200,000 participants; Advertising Age magazine also named it in the 10-best promotions of 1984. However, dealers disliked the promotion and supply of computers was insufficient for demand. In 1985, in an attempt to recreate the 1984 commercial for the Macintosh Office, the "Lemmings" commercial aired at the Superbowl in 1985; Apple went as far as to create a newspaper advertisement stating "If you go to the bathroom during the fourth quarter, you'll be sorry". It was a large failure and did not capture the attention that the 1984 commercial did.

In 1986 several brochures were created for the Macintosh Plus. In the early to mid 1990s many brochures and television commercials were created to promote the Macintosh Performa, to make the Mac more popular amongst families and demonstrate the ease-of-use compared to a typical computer running MS-DOS or Microsoft Windows.

Also in the 1990s, Apple started the "What's on your Powerbook?" campaign, featuring ordinary people in print ads and television commercials describing how the PowerBook helps them in their businesses and every-day lives. Some of the people featured in the campaign included Frances Lear, Tama Janowitz, Greg Ketchum, Michael O'Brien, Todd Rundgren, Art Monk, Martina Navratilova, Barry Ashley and Brian Durkin.

In 1995, Apple responded to the introduction of Windows 95 with both several print ads and a television commercial demonstrating it's disadvantages. One print ad read "Introducing Windows 95. It has a trash can you can open and take things back out of again. Imagine that." - a feature which the Mac OS had had since its introduction 11 years earlier. In a television commercial, a presentation speaker struggles with his new computer running on Windows 95, resulting in the audience trying to assist him, shouting out MS-DOS commands. Eventually he is told to buy a Macintosh.

Towards the late 1990s, Apple published fewer paper advertisements and brochures and focused more on TV commercials. In 1997 the Think Different campaign was launched, and became Apple's company slogan. In 2003 Apple aired a television commercial for the PowerMac G5, and in 2004 a special ad for the iMac G5 was aired. In 2006, Apple started their new "Get a Mac" initiative by running new ads. The "I'm a Mac... I'm a PC" ads featured John Hodgman as the PC and Justin Long as the Mac, with David Mitchell and Robert Webb as PC and Mac respectively in the UK.

Effects on the industry

Apple has introduced a number of innovations in direct relation to the Macintosh that were later adopted by the rest of industry as a standard for the design of computers. Possibly Apple's number one effect on the industry was the first large-scale use of a graphical user interface in operating system software. Today, almost every mainstream operating system relies on a graphical user interface, and many operating systems still echo the design of the original Macintosh graphical user inteface, such as the use of the "double click" and the "drag and drop behaviours"; as well as introducing a graphical user interface, the Macintosh 128k also popularized the use of a mouse as a pointing device in computers, and marked the first mainstream computer to use the mouse. The Macintosh 128k also introduced software which allowed "WYSIWYG" (what you see is what you get) text and graphics editing, which today is the prevailing standard in text edtiors, and photo manipulation applications. As well as introducing many innovations in the field of the graphical user interface, the Macintosh 128k also introduced significant technical improvements such as: long file names permitting whitespace and not requiring a file extension, 3.5" floppy disk drives as a standard component, 8-bit mono audio including built-in speakers, and an output jack as a standard feature, the "All-in-One" design (see: iMac G5 for an example of the design applied), and built-in networking features.

Innovations introduced or popularized in the field of personal computing by later Macintosh products:

  • The PostScript laser printer (LaserWriter, 1985)
  • Desktop publishing 1985
  • User-friendly programming (first through HyperCard, then through AppleScript, and now through Automator)
  • The SCSI interface (Mac Plus, 1986)
  • A single desktop environment that can span multiple monitors
  • Audio input/output as a standard feature (Mac IIsi & Mac LC, 1990)
  • First laptop with keyboard behind a palmrest (PowerBook 100, 140 and 170 1991)
  • First laptop with built-in pointing device (PowerBook 100 series, 1991), a trackball (although the Macintosh Portable, released in 1989, also had a trackball, it was, at 16.8 pounds, not considered a laptop by later standards)
  • A CD-ROM drive as a standard feature (IIvx, 1992)
  • First notebook computer with dock/port replicator (PowerBook Duo, 1992)
  • First true touchpad as a pointing device on a notebook (PowerBook 500, 1994)
  • First notebook with built-in Ethernet support (PowerBook 500, 1994)
  • First notebook with built-in compact disc-quality stereo sound, both input and output (PowerBook 500, 1994)
  • Flat-panel displays as a standard feature on a desktop (Twentieth Anniversary Macintosh, 1997)
  • The abandonment of the floppy disk (original iMac, 1998)
  • The first notable coloration of computer hardware, in contrast to the ubiquitous beige, gray or black 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)
  • FireWire, also known as IEEE 1394 serial bus, an Apple-developed standard also promoted by Sony under the name i.LINK (Blue and White G3, 1999)
  • IEEE 802.11b and IEEE 802.11g wireless networking, branded AirPort and AirPort Extreme by Apple, also monikered as WiFi, (original iBook, 1999, PowerBook G4, 2003, respectively)
  • The first affordable DVD-R drive ("SuperDrive", Power Mac G4, 2001)
  • 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 a keyboard with automatically-adjusted fiber-optic backlight (PowerBook G4, 2003)
  • First operating system to use hardware acceleration (OpenGL) for the graphical user interface, (Quartz-Extreme) (Mac OS 10.3 (Panther), 2003)
  • First wireless base station to have audio delivered to a stereo system or entertainment center using Wi-Fi (AirPort Express, June 2004)
  • First easily affordable 64-bit based personal computer (Power Mac G5 and iMac G5 using the IBM PowerPC 970 processor)
  • First notebook computer to provide dual-link DVI (PowerBook G4, 2005)
  • First Multitouch device in widespread use. (iPhone, 2007)


(See also List of Macintosh models grouped by CPU)

Further Reading


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

External links

This article includes material taken from Wikipedia under the terms of the GFDL. Please note: as a derivative of a GFDL-licensed work, contributions to this article are also made available under the terms of the GFDL.