24 Milestones in the Mac's 30-Year History

A look back at the high points -- and some low ones -- in the evolution of the Mac since 1984.

By Ryan Faas
Fri, January 24, 2014

Computerworld — Today, it's easy to take the Mac for granted.The whole platform, along with Apple itself, has been reinvented time and again as the tech world has changed, and at the ripe young age of 30 it shows little sign of going away. But there were many times over the past three decades when the Mac's future, and Apple's, was far from certain.

[ 30 Years of Apple's Mac Computer ]

Apple marked the anniversary by posting a lengthy and visually rich timeline on its website. And it even highlighted the date on its home page. Apple marked the Mac's 30th anniversary on its home page today.

Here are some of the most important milestones -- and some of the serious missteps -- in the Mac's 30-year history.

Original Mac introduction (1984): When Steve Jobs unveiled the original Mac on Jan. 24, 1984, he introduced the world to a new type of computing experience. Although GUI systems, including the Apple Lisa, had already been developed, the Mac was the first such system to be unveiled to the general public. Until then, such computers had largely been developed as experiment prototypes at labs like Xerox PARC or pitched to specific markets, often with a significant price tag. (The Apple Lisa originally sold for $9,995 in 1984 dollars.)

Note: Hardware teardown expert iFixit marked today's anniversary by tearing down an original Mac.

Test drive a Mac program: Despite the innovation it represented compared to other common PCS of the early 1980s -- the Apple II, Commodore 64 or IBM PC, for instance -- the Mac was priced higher than many of its early competitors. In an effort to show off the value of the Mac and its GUI, Apple CEO John Scully devised a program where potential buyers could borrow a Mac for a few days, take it home and test drive it. While the program was a successful in raising awareness about the Mac experience, it wasn't successful in jump-starting sales. Many would-be Mac buyers praised the computer when returning it -- then bought something less expensive.

The first expandable non-all-in-one Macs, The Mac II and SE (1987): Early Macs followed the same integrated all-in-one design as the original Mac, including the limited screen size and lack of upgrade or expansion options. Apple broke with that trend in 1987 when it launched the Mac II, the first Mac to use an external display, and the all-in-one Mac SE. Together, they were the first Macs that could be upgraded with additional RAM or expansion cards that could extend the hardware feature set.

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