30 years of Macs: Up close and personal

30 years of Macs: Up close and personal

Summary: Macs have been more then just a technology, they've been part of our lives for 30 years now. Here's a brief, personal history of Macs as I, and many of my fellow ZDNet and technology writers, have seen it for more than a generation.

TOPICS: Hardware, Apple

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  • iMac G3: 1998

    The Macs of the late 90s weren't just for graphic designers and power users. The iconic , colorful tear-drop iMacs made Macs cool again. 

  • Mac mini: 2006

    Cool and powerful wasn't enough though by the mid-2000s, so Jobs introduced the first truly low-end Macs: the Mac mini. Still sold today, I've used Mac minis ever since day one as an affordable way to test Mac software and to serve as great little media servers.

  • MacBook Pro

    There have long been Mac laptops, but they really took off with the MacBook Pro. Some people, like my writer buddy, Andy Patrizio, just started with Macs in 2014. "My first Mac is 3 weeks old. Bought it because I want to see if I still have a knack for programming like I did, oh, 30 years ago. Going to try my hand at iOS development. Plus I wanted something sexier than low-end laptops."

    Others, like my freelance writer friend, Ron Miller, adopted the MacBook Pro when it first appeared. "I was a PC user until 2007 when my friend convinced me to try my first MacBook Pro. I bought the 17-inch and it's still in operation. My wife started using it when I bought my current 15 in MBP a few years ago. One of the reasons I was willing to try it was the switch to Intel, which meant I could run Windows and OSX at the same time. This was important because I was still doing technical writing then and I needed to run Frame, RoboHelp and other tools that were Windows-based.  I will add, I had been using computers for 20 years when I tried my first Mac and I was just immediately captured by how well it worked. It's not flawless, but for the most part I don't have to think about my computer or my OS and that was never the case when I was a Windows user," said Miller.

Topics: Hardware, Apple

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  • #10: Standard beige case with Mac? OH CRAP!!!

    That made me glad Steve Jobs killed the Mac clone business. Nothing can produce a better looking hardware compared to Apple.

    And I loved using that Apple ][gs at school. I've never heard of that name during the old days.

    Man, I still need to buy me an iMac and I cannot afford it. And no, a Mac Mini won't cut it. I need more GPU power than an Intel integrated graphics. I was at Astoria Park Elementary School in Tallahassee, FL.

    But I'm happy with Ubuntu (Unity being my favorite as I'm running a pre-release version of 14.04 from daily build of ISO) for what I have when I built myself a computer back during November of 2012. I've been Windows-free since that time; I just don't have a need for it and I'm glad to rid my life of it. :)

    I simply need to get back to the days of Macs (heh heh) by buying an iMac. A 27". It would be great to see if I could forgo the dock just to see if I could navigate a list of applications using an Apple menu like I've done in the past, much less care for a launchpad that were borrowed from iOS (iPhone/iPad) which I care nothing about. Of course, having a dock is nice. :)

    To anyone with newer versions of Mac OS X, is it possible to configure something like when you select a menu in the menubar, that it flashes 3 times before the menu executes and disappears; is it possible to do that to emulate like an old days of Mac OS 9 or earlier? :)
    Grayson Peddie
    • Launchpad

      I think it's underrated, personally. I use a trackpad for my 27 inch iMac and I think clutch (to activate LP) and type beats searching the Dock and then opening up the Applications folder. Utilities are first class Launchpad targets and that's convenient.

      Opinion, not science, of course.
    • What does this mean?

      "I've been Windows-free since that time; I just don't have a need for it and I'm glad to rid my life of it. :)"

      Sounds a lot like an Apple fanboi argument.
      • Perhaps it means

        That we prefer an OS which stays out of the way and doesn't ask stupid questions every time I tell it to do something.
        Perhaps I prefer an OS which automatically loads new hardware without announcing, "Windows has detected new hardware" please wait while my dumb ass figures out what to do with it.
        Perhaps we prefer a network to which nodes can be added without having to suffer through a "wizard" to connect them.
        • Sit down fan boy

          Every time I want to install something or change something on my Macbook Pro, it asks me for my password. And in this day and age of needing long and secure passwords/passphrases, it's a pain...but I get it.
          I'd also prefer it if Macs didn't prompt me with a message you have to click away when you run software the first time.

          Saying Macs don't prompt you all of the time just isn't true at all. They do.

          And while we're at it...
          - I'd prefer it if Macs didn't often give you the spinning color wheel of death for seemingly 5 minutes when coming out of deep sleep mode.
          - I'd prefer it if Macs had a f*ing dedicated backspace key, because when... oh I don't know...when you want to delete something to the left of your cursor without going through a stupid key combination to get that function.
          - I'd prefer it if Mac applications auto-arranged icons better. Sometimes applications are out of order, or overlapping...makes things hard to find sometimes.
          - I'd prefer it is Macs didn't keep a software's menu active in the top bar after you have minimized it.
          - Why it's so difficult to get a dual widescreen monitor setup off of a MacBook, I'll never know. And forget about adding a 3rd monitor...unless you want to spend a ton of cash.
          - I'd prefer that OSX would allow you to grab any side edge of an open window to resize it.
          - Fully uninstalling software 100% in OSX... is near impossible without jumping through all kinds of hoops and doing research online on how to do it. Even CultOfMac.com states that to uninstall something you need to delete the application from the folder, but that leaves program remnants scattered on the hard drive... to which CultOfMac.com says, "doesn't usually cause any problems". Uhh...what? That's not the point. If I want it uninstalled, I want all of it uninstalled. Annoying and stupid.

          Both OSX and Windows have their fair share of quirks and WTF features/issues...but I have used both extensively and I much prefer Windows. I feel very limited with OSX...like I am working in a locked down environment (which I am). With Windows I just have control over so much more stuff...and it can quite simply flat out do more stuff. I do like OSX though...I appreciate the clean and slick nature of it...but it's not for my serious work. It's like a play machine for me. When using Windows, I have the feeling that I can do almost anything...with a Mac it's like...what will OSX let me do? OSX insults my intelligence as a computer user. It treats me like I am a noob. That may be fine if you are a noob or not that computer literate...but it just annoys the crap out of me.
    • www.FB39.Com

      Good articles
    • open launcpad

      Open Lauchpad and you have a grid of icons that can open all your programs. Interestingly it is not much different from Windows 8 interface. You just don't go there first.you also have many other options to open programs. I like the dock. I rarely open a program that isn't there
  • I feel sad for macheads

    There is only one piece of technology I am personally so obsessively in love with and it sure isn't a computer!
  • Most important devices?

    Surely not computer, Mac or whatever. Instead e.g accumulator to get warm water, fridge, electric furnace and washer are those we can't live without. These things we got (in western world) not so long time ago. Personal computer is not vital is was made vital for us.
  • This article explains pretty clearly why apple failed...

    Apple barely made it to the 30th, surviving only because Microsoft bailed them out. The products are way over priced and glitchy with limited and very expensive software available. Even today at their zenith they only hold 2.5% of the PC market. I worked for KPMG In the late 80's and early 90's when they still had mac's but because of the lack of decent servers and business software we dumped them. Even today you can't get any decent accounting software for them.
    • Oh, we back on THAT again..

      Apple was not bailed out by Microsoft. This is one of those urban rumors that seemed to have stuck. Microsoft's "investment" in Apple was a part of a settlement in the San Francisco Canyon Company Lawsuit where Microsoft was sued for stealing Apple's Quicktime code for use in its new media player. This is common knowledge now. Apple still had 1.2 billion in cash. They were not exactly broke. Still, they were n a losing trajectory with the clones until Jobs killed them.
      • Cool Story Bro!

        Inaccurate but, cool story anyway!

        Apple had 1.2 Billion but, they were losing 250 Million a quarter and were expected to file bankruptcy within a year!

        Your issue is you cannot see beyond the money of the situation! Microsoft's money wasn't what saved Apple, Microsoft's Office suite and their willingness to invest in Apple is what saved Apple! Steve Jobs even marked that as a pivotal point in winning back the support of the market!

        Maybe you don't like that MS saved them but, guess what? They did and there's nothing wrong with that because MS was still struggling to make a name for themselves when they launched their first productivity app on Apple computers!

        The two companies have been so intertwined for the past 30 years that one helping the other out when they needed it isn't really a bad thing and you guys should stop thinking it is.
        • Oh I'll go one further though...

          Without Jobs, Apple never would have reached out to Microsoft to get that showing of support so, one could argue that both Gates and Jobs together saved Apple as the Next Operating System is what carried them into the 2000s.
        • MS Office was already on the Mac

          MS only threatened to pull it it when Apple sued them for the theft of the Quick time code. By the end of the negotiation with MS, Apple got EVERYTHING they were asking for and MS abandoned every position they took eventually settling on a purchase of stock in their competitor.

          As I said in my first post, Apple was on a losing trajectory with the clones but it wasn't MS lawsuit settlement that saved Apple is was Jobs return and setting the company on a new trajectory.
    • Higher priced not necessarily over priced

      My xp machine died and I went looking for a new machine. I walked into the store thinking I may have to get Windows 8 but didn't want to. I found that when you look at the similar processor, memory hard drive space I was only about $150 apart from a similarly set windows machine. Since I wanted a higher end machine I made the switch.
  • Gates should have learned better from Sonny Corleone

    You don't bail out competitors, you put a gun to their head (metaphorically, usually) and Bada boop bada bing bada bap, you blow their brains all over your nice Ivy League suit.

    Microsoft wouldn't have to be acting so bipolar now trying to be all things to all people on all patforms if they had killed Apple off when they could have..or just bought the damn thing cheap.
  • macfanatic

    I had one of those '80s models. Dunno which. Sold my house to buy it.
    I still have my G3 which was adapted by a hired technician to operate with my
    old laser printer & other accessories.
    I'm about to buy a MacBook Air after 10+ years with a Powerbook that only
    processes 32 bits.

    Macs are good for those of use who are not technicians because of what is called
    " intuitive " function. And, it seems to me, the software comes with fewer flaws.
    In my 30 years of modest to minimal use, the computers have Never failed me.
    They don't crash, they don't need constant fixes. IF ONLY there were a word program
    that is as ubiquitous as Word that has the reliability of Mac software.
    Thank goodness for Adobe & pdf.
    I have more trouble with Word for Mac than anything else on the computer
    and it is the only program that shuts itself off -- from some kind of apparent distress.

    I agree that many of us Mac fans are fanatics: loyal beyond reason.
    And I'm about to do it again: buy another Mac @ twice or more the price of comparable
    products. Of interest: the Sony VAIO vs the Macbook Air. Battery life wins the contest
    since I want to use it away from home.
  • MAC - Apple IIgs

    In 1986, we had an Amstrad PC1640.

    Compared to an Apple IIgs it had better graphics (with color GUI) and a faster 16-bit CPU, all for about $1,200.

    I used it for WordPerfect, a separate GUI-driven desktop publisher, BASIC, BBS via modem, and games.

    MS-DOS 3.2, GEM (Graphical Environment Manager), and DR-DOS Plus (could run CP/M programs).
    One 360K 5¼" floppy disk drive with a 20 Mb hard disk drive.
    Intel 8086 16-bit CPU @ 8 MHz
    EGA-compatible graphics with 640×350 16 color.
    Loudspeaker with volume control.
    Battery-backed real time clock and configuration RAM.
    Full size QWERTY keyboard with keyboard joystick port
    Two button mouse with dedicated port on system unit.
    Three full-length expansion slots.
  • Powerbooks?

    I've seen a couple of these 30 year retrospectives and have yet to see the Powerbooks included. They made Powerbook 140, 160, 180 and they were the first realistic and usable portable Macs. I was traveling a lot at the time and bought one for myself when my company refused to. I was able to get far more work done in the same period of time, particularly on the road.

    The Powerbooks were small, powerful, and excellent at a time when Apple really *needed* a hit product. As usual, Apple wasn't the first nor was it the cheapest but outstanding execution of this design opened a market segment that has since become one of the major channels for Mac sales.

    I've always thought the Powerbook as Apple's first practical foray into mobile was as much a watershed for Apple as the gumdrop iMac. It was a huge bet when they had to have a hit and it worked.
  • MS bailout of Apple and mobile notebooks

    One major source of Apple stress in those 80's years was 3 years ( or so) of totally disastrous MS Office releases - documents disappeared, became corrupted, Office apps died regularly with no recovery,...I always looked at the " investment" as a mea culpa payment ( as well as closely related to anti-trust pressures-- remember that , at the time, the Mac OS was only serious other option in the PC market.

    Have not seen reference to the Powerbook 100 - a true , for the time, light weight portable with a docking station. Was convenient, very light and worked well, even of the dock was too big. Problem was: Apple marketing let it be known that it was an end of life release... around the time of its release.

    Enough of the MS vs Apple religion. Both have survived for decades because millions like the environments that work for their needs. Two reasonable options should be okay while true believers "know" their preference is the best!