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The Mac Turns 30


Karissa Bell

Friday marks exactly three decades since Steve Jobs launched the Apple Macintosh, two days after the now-iconic 1984 commercial teased the computer to the world during Super Bowl XVIII.

Three decades and hundreds of Macs later, Apple is not only still cranking out innovative machines in personal computing, but has outlasted many of its original competitors.

“Every company that made computers when we started the Mac, they’re all gone,” Apple’s senior vice president of worldwide marketing Philip Schiller told Macworld. “We’re the only one left. We’re still doing it, and growing faster than the rest of the PC industry because of that willingness to reinvent ourselves over and over.”

Although Apple is now better known for its mobile products, such as the iPhone and iPad, its most recent computers continue to garner positive reviews, including the MacBook Pro,MacBook Air and iMac. The company also recently launched an all-new Mac Pro, its top-of-the-line machine whose performance is meant for the high demands of professional video editors.

Apple made several personal computers before the original Macintosh, but it’s the machine that launched the brand, and it stuck. The Mac was the first consumer personal computer to feature a graphical user interface and was arguably the most important release in consumer PC market. Recently, a prototype of the original Mac popped up on eBay, which attracted bids as high as $100,000.

To celebrate its milestone, Apple posted a visual timeline and released this reminiscent video on Friday.

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    1. Lisa

    In 1983, Apple debuted its first model, the Apple Lisa. The computer took more than three years to make, and around $50 million to develop. Named after Steve Jobs’ daughter, the computer was quite pricey, clicking in at nearly $10,000 (about $25,000 by today’s standards). The high price tag repelled most consumers, and the computer sold poorly.

    Though not technically a Mac, the Lisa nonetheless influenced the first Macintosh, which Jobs debuted on Jan. 24, 1984. (More on that later.)

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    2. Macintosh XL

    In order to ramp up Lisa sales, Apple redesigned the model in 1985, renamed it the Macintosh XL and lowered the price to $3,495.

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    3. Macintosh 128K

    Introduced in 1984, the 128 model was the first true Macintosh personal computer, and retailed for about $2,495. With its 9-inch screen, 128K of RAM and “easy to use” accessibility, the Mac was off to a robust start.

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    4. Macintosh 512K

    Released right after the 128, the 512 was virtually the same, but had four times more memory.

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    5. Macintosh Plus

    Enter 1986, when the Macintosh Plus emerges into the market. It had 1MB of RAM and cost about $2,599. It also came with an SCSI port, which meant users could install external hard drives.

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    6. Macintosh Portable

    The first battery-powered Mac creation entered the arena in 1989. It was considered fast for its time, operating at 16 MHz. Though it was quick, the Portable sold poorly and weighed nearly 16 pounds.

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    7. Powerbook

    Ah, that’s better. The Powerbook came out a few years later, in 1991, and was Apple’s first true portable computer, thanks to its lightness. The floppy disk drive was a separate, external entity. The line had staying power, continuing until 2006. (For Sex and the City buffs, Carrie Bradshaw penned most of her numerous columns on the Powerbook’s G3 incarnation.)

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    8. iMac

    Look at this pop of color. The iMac debuted in 1998 and was one of Apple’s first big projects after anointing Steve Jobs its CEO. Translucent and brightly colored, the iMac was a stylish step above its predecessors, and did away with floppy disk drives, opting instead for USB ports.

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    9. iMac G4

    The iMac G4 marveled tech lovers with its flexibility and flattened shape. Because of its thin neck, the screen could be pulled forward and swiveled around. The 2002 creation literally had audiences gasping during Steve Jobs’ keynote.

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    10. MacBook

    Apple trotted out the new MacBook in 2006, noted for its built in “iSight” webcam, crisp and glossy LCD screen and integrated keyboard.

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    11. MacBook Air

    The holy grail of modern day MacBooks, the Air is Apple’s sleekest invention, touted as the world’s thinnest notebook (due in part to the removal of the CD/DVD drive). Jobs unveiled it in 2008, and the line has continued to pump out redesigned and updated models. The original had an 80GB hard drive and bright LED backlighting.

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    12. iMac today

    Thinner and larger than past models, the modern iMac features a slender screen and a detached keyboard and mouse. The most recent 27-inch version sports a lighting-fast Intel processor and Fusion Drive data storage, which combines a traditional hard drive with Flash storage.