It’s been 27 years since Apple cofounder Steve Jobs introduced the first Macintosh computer, following the famous “1984” commercial aired during the Super Bowl.Since then, many things have gone Apple’s way, while many others have gone exactly the opposite.
For instance, we can’t imagine that Jobs would have been happy in 1984 knowing that Microsoft DOS- and Windows-based PCs would come to absolutely clobber the Mac. He would have not been happy that the Mac would have puny market share for decades, basically a high-end niche tool for creative-types.
But he might have smiled at the idea that he’d come back to Apple later in his career to save the Mac and the company.
He’d probably be happy knowing that in the December quarter of 2010, Apple would sell more than 4 million Macs for more than $5 billion in revenue.
And if you’d shown him the new MacBook Air in 1984, even Steve Jobs would have been amazed.
The original Mac changed everything by using a graphical user interface and a mouse to control the things on the screen instead of a text-based command line.
When Steve Jobs introduced the iPhone in 2007, he referred to this as one of the first revolutionary user interfaces that Apple had invented in its history. (The second was the iPod touch wheel, and the third was the iPhone's multi-touch gesture interface.)
Apple's all-in-one design has been through many iterations since the mid-1980s. The Plus was one of the most successful early Macs in Apple's history.
Apple's II series was expensive but allowed for bigger, external monitors, and had room for expansion.
Apple's first battery-operated computer included a black-and-white screen and weighed more than 15 pounds. It wasn't a big hit.
But Apple eventually became very good at making portable computers.
The Mac II series continued to get slicker (and cheaper). This was one of the first Macs we had at home in the early 1990s, attached to a then-enormous 16-inch monitor.
Early Mac laptops had trackballs, before Apple switched to trackpads later in the 1990s.
They had colour screens, but had lower resolution than today's iPhones.
The Quadra became Apple's expensive, high-end line focused on business employees.
Meanwhile, the Performa became Apple's consumer-focused line in the early 1990s. A third line, 'LC,' was designed for educational customers.
Eventually, these computers would ship with modems and could connect to 'eWorld,' Apple's version of AOL.
The Duo series of PowerBook laptops was unique in that it included a 'Duo dock,' which let you dock your laptop to a monitor and keyboard at home.
What, you thought Apple TV was the company's first shot at the living room?
This Macintosh TV -- basically a black, all-in-one Performa -- had a built-in TV tuner and a 14-inch Sony Trinitron display.
Apple only made 10,000 of them, according to the Macintosh TV Wikipedia page.
The Power Mac line took over from the Quadra as Apple's high-end line, representing Apple's switch to new 'PowerPC' chips, developed by Apple, IBM, and Motorola.
This was a special Mac because it came with a second chip -- an Intel chip capable of booting Microsoft Windows. The idea was that someone who absolutely NEEDED to run some Windows software could buy this, and then get the benefits of having a Mac. But it didn't become a hit.
If you squint, this almost looks like one of the more-recent iMacs, including a flat-panel display and a custom Bose sound system. It also had leather wrist pads and TV/FM tuners.
But it was very expensive and not very popular. (Though it did make its way onto the set of 'Seinfeld.')
The original 'Bondi blue' iMac was probably the first sign that Steve Jobs was going to be able to turn things around at Apple.
It was crazy looking, and didn't have a floppy drive, but it was very cool, including a translucent plastic case that let you see inside it.
The 'iMac look' started making it into other aspects of Apple's hardware design, including the 'Blue and White' G3 tower -- the first Apple tower computer with a swing-out door that let you easily add RAM, hard drives, and other upgrades to the computer.
The iBook represented Apple's big push into consumer laptops around the end of the 1990s. It looked neat and had a handle.
The Pismo PowerBook G3 had Firewire (for hooking up digital camcorders and external hard drives), AirPort (for early wi-fi networks), and hot-swappable side bays to add a second battery, DVD-ROM drive, or even a Zip drive.
The G4 cube was a good idea -- a cheap, no-frills Mac -- that didn't work. But it later gave birth to the Mac mini.
Apple's laptops really started to get attention when they went metal with the 'TiBook.' Apple was making thin, durable laptops with great displays.
This is around the time that UNIX geeks started getting interested in Macs because the newish Mac OS X operating system was based on UNIX.
The first flat-panel iMac had a weird tube holding it onto a round base, and looked more like a lamp than a computer. But it was the first indication that the LCD would become standard for mass-market desktop computers, not just laptops.
Apple tried getting into the server business with Xserve, offering high-end servers running OS X with cool, hot-swappable hard drives.
The problem is that the server industry wound up moving lower-end, with commodity hardware getting meshed together with software, a la Google's huge server farms.
Apple discontinued the XServe line in 2010.
Today's Mac Pro still has a similar, stunning metal design as this Power Mac G5.
The Mac mini became Apple's big hope to attract 'switchers' from Windows, because it was cheap and could already hook up to their existing keyboards and monitors.
It eventually got Intel chips and became much thinner.
Some geeks even hook them up to their TVs to use for watching web video.
The iMac has since evolved into a beast, available with up to four processing cores and up to 27 inches in screen size. This makes a great bedroom TV, and could represent Apple's eventual transition into selling actual TVs.
The plastic, Intel-based MacBook became Apple's go-to consumer computer in the mid-2000s, helping push Apple's quarterly portable computer revenue far beyond its desktop computer revenue.
The MacBook Air was first unveiled in 2008 and impressed because it could fit into a manila envelope. But it was slow and expensive and didn't sell very well. (Some people thought it was crazy that it didn't include an optical drive.)
But the new MacBook Air, unveiled in late 2010, is the future of the Mac laptop line. It doesn't have a hard drive, using completely Flash-based memory, so the battery lasts long and it doesn't get very hot. It's quick and turns on instantly, and is incredibly thin and light.
Expect the rest of Apple's laptop line to look more like this sooner than later.
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