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The Macintosh, now correctly called the Mac (since its introduction, Apple
has officially changed the name of the computer to Mac), is a family of
personal computers manufactured by Apple Computer, based in Cupertino,
Launched in January, 1984 with a famous Super Bowl commercial, it was the
first computer to popularize the graphical user interface (GUI, pronounced
The operating system, simply called the System Software or System,
officially became known as the Mac OS as of version 7.6. In March 2001,
Apple introduced a modern and secure Unix-based successor, Mac OS X.
From its inception, the Macintosh has introduced or popularized a number of
innovations adopted later by other PCs and operating systems:
* A graphical user interface, icons, a desktop, etc.
* The use of a mouse or other pointing device in personal computing
(later, the standardization of an optical mouse on all desktop
* WYSIWYG text and graphics editing ("what you see is what you get")
* Long file names (originally 31 characters, now 255)
* The PostScript laser printer
* Desktop publishing
* The SCSI interface
* Audio (both speakers and microphone) as a standard feature
* A CD-ROM drive as a standard feature
* Windows that may span multiple monitors
* Ethernet support as standard feature
* FireWire, also known as IEEE 1394 or iLink (Sony)
* AirPort wireless networking, also known as IEEE 802.11b and IEEE
* The introduction of the 3.5" floppy disk as a standard feature
* The abandonment of the floppy disk (iMac August 1998 and Power
Macintosh G3 Blue & White January 1999)
* The first commercially available computer to feature USB for peripheral
* A modern RISC-based architecture in the form of the PowerPC processor,
developed jointly by Apple, IBM and Motorola (Power Macintosh 6100,
* Aesthetic and ergonomical industrial design
Steve Jobs and a number of Apple engineers visited Xerox PARC in 1979, three
months after the Lisa and Macintosh projects had begun. They had been
invited by Xerox, an investor in Apple, to see the Xerox Alto and Xerox Star
computers, which were pioneers in usable GUI user interface technology.
There is debate over the degree of impact that this visit had on Apple's
products -- Apple's GUIs ended up working and looking different 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.
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 introduced on January 22, 1984, with a famous Super Bowl
commercial featuring a female athlete throwing a hammer through a giant
image of a dictator ("Big Brother", vaguely reminiscent of the dominant
computer maker at that time: IBM). The Mac went on sale two days later for a
price of $2,495.00.
Although the Mac garnered an immediate enthusiastic following, it was too
radical of a departure for most. Since the machine was entirely designed
around the GUI, existing command-line 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.
In 1985, the combination of the Mac and its GUI with 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 has continued to be the
standard platform for publishing and printing houses.
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
Pentium series. An alliance of Apple Computer, IBM and Motorola was
announced 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 PowerPC remains the Macintosh CPU to date, although
the architectural benefits and speed differences of RISC versus CISC remain
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.
The Apple II and IBM PC computer lines had been "cloned" by other
manufacturers who had reverse engineered the minimal amount of firmware in
the computers' ROM chips and subsequently legally produced computers that
would run the same software. These clones were seen by Apple as a threat;
Apple II sales had presumably suffered from the competition provided by
Franklin Computer Corporation and its ilk. (Subsequently, the threat proved
to be real; today, Dell Computer, Gateway Computer, and Hewlett-Packard all
sell more IBM PC compatible computers than IBM does.)
The Macintosh's system software strategy was created with an eye toward
suppressing any Mac clones. The Macintosh system software was a very large
amount of complicated code that embodied the Mac's entire set of APIs,
including the use of the GUI and file system, and a large amount of this
system software was included in the Macintosh's ROM chips. Hence any
competitor who attempted to create a Macintosh clone would have to either
illegally duplicate all the copyrighted code in the ROMs -- in which case
Apple could legally squash the manufacturer -- or reverse-engineer the ROMs,
which would have been an enormous and costly process without certainty of success.
The strategy was successful; for years, several manufacturers created
Macintosh clones, but they obtained their ROMs by actually purchasing one of
Apple's Macintosh computers and removing from it the required parts, then
installing those parts in the clone's case. This resulted in very expensive
clones that were never popular, and Apple could safely say that its share of
the Macintosh computer market was not in danger.
However, by 1995, Apple owned only about 7% of the worldwide market share of
computers, and decided to launch a clone program, by which it would license
the Macintosh ROMs and system software to other manufacturers who agreed to
pay a royalty. The aim was to increase Apple's market share in the desktop
computer market. From early 1995 to mid-1997, it was possible to buy
PowerPC-based clone computers, running Mac OS, from Motorola, Power
Computing, and Umax. The styling on the Mac clones often more closely
resembled that of a PC than of a Mac, but the clones frequently offered a
lower price and sometimes better performance.
Soon after Steve Jobs' return to Apple, he terminated the clone program. He
stated that the clone program was ill-conceived and had been a result of
"institutional guilt", meaning that there had been a widely held belief at
Apple that had the company aggressively pursued a legal cloning program
early in the history of the Macintosh, consumers might have turned to
low-priced Macintosh clones rather than low-priced IBM PC compatible
computers, and Apple might have ended up in the position currently occupied
by Microsoft -- an extremely profitable company with low margins with a wide
base of consumers perpetually dependent on its system software products. By
now, Jobs stated, it was too late for this to happen; the clone program was
doomed to failure from the start; and since Apple mostly made money by
selling computer hardware, for the most part, it ought not engage in a
licensing program to reduce its hardware sales.
* Mac II
* Mac Plus
* Mac SE
* PowerBook G3
* PowerBook G4
* Power Macintosh
* Power Macintosh G3
* Power Macintosh G4
* Power Macintosh G4 Cube
* Power Macintosh G5