What was the smallest desktop Mac prior to the Mac mini? Apple’s LC series, which measures just under 3″ tall, although it has as big a footprint as four minis. The Mac LC, introduced in October 1990, was the first of the family.
The first Mac crippled from the ground up, the LC (code named Elsie, Prism, and Pinball) was designed to a new low price point of $2,500 with 2 MB of RAM and a 40 MB hard drive. The LC was the first Mac to run a 32-bit CPU on a 16-bit data bus, making memory access slower than it should be (the LC benchmarks at about 3/4 the performance of the Mac II, even though both use the same 16 MHz 68020 CPU). Although Apple had retired the 68020 chip with the Mac II in January 1990, it reintroduced it with the LC that October.
To add insult to injury, Apple programmed the ASICs to support no more than 10 MB of RAM even if more was installed.
The LC was available in a dual-floppy configuration for the education market.
Apple introduced a new color video standard (512 x 384 pixel) and a cheap 12″ color monitor to match it. With a VRAM upgrade, the LC supports 16-bit video (65,536 colors) on the 12″ monitor or 8-bit video (256 colors) on a standard 640 x 480 screen. Because of the odd screen size, some programs refused to run with the lower resolution monitor.
Along with the IIsi, the LC was one of the first Macs with audio input.
If anything, the LC was deliberately designed not to take market share from its siblings, the IIsi and IIci. We call it a Compromised Mac.
On the other hand, Apple sold 500,000 LCs within 12 months of release, making it a runaway success.
- Got a Mac LC or other vintage Mac? Join LEM’s Vintage Macs Group.
- Our System 6 List is for those using Mac System 6.
- introduced 1990.10.15 at $2,400; discontinued 1992.03.23
- Gestalt ID: 19
- model no.: M0350
- upgrade path: LC II, LC III, Quadra 605
- requires System 6.0.7 to 7.5.5
- addressing: 24-bit or 32-bit
- CPU: 16 MHz 68020
- FPU: 68881 (optional, uses LC PDS slot)
- ROM: 512 KB
- RAM: 2 MB on motherboard, expandable to 10 MB using a pair of 100ns 30-pin SIMMs; can use 1 MB, 2 MB, and 4 MB SIMMs
- L2 cache: none
- 1.8, relative to SE (compare to 2.4 for Mac II)
- 0.87, MacBench 2.0 CPU
- 3.31, Speedometer 3.06
- 0.22, Speedometer 4
- 2.6 MIPS
- video: 256 KB VRAM SIMM, expandable to 512 KB; supports 512 x 384 and 640 x 480 resolutions (must have 512 KB VRAM for 8 bits at 640 x 480, 16 bits at 512 x 384)
- VRAM: accepts one 100ns VRAM SIMM, 256 KB standard, can be upgraded with single 512 KB VRAM SIMM, other specs unknown, VRAM SIMM appears to be specific to early Macs.
- video port: DA-15
- Hard drive: 40 MB SCSI
- floppy drive: 1 or 2 1.4 MB double-sided
- ADB ports: 1
- serial ports: 2 DIN-8 RS-422 on back of computer
- SCSI ports: DB-25 connector on back of computer
- sound: 8-bit mono
- audio in: 8-bit mono
- expansion slot: LC PDS slot
- size (HxWxD): 2.9″ x 12.2″ x 15.3″
- Weight: 8.8 lbs.
- PRAM battery: 3.6V half-AA
- power supply: 50W
Accelerators & Upgrades
- Macintosh LC II (16 MHz 68030), although not economical, since it provides no additional speed and only adds support for virtual memory
- Macintosh LC III (25 MHz 68030), although it’s probably cheaper to simply buy a used LC III
- MicroMac Thunder (32 MHz 68030), optional 16 MHz 68881 FPU
- MicroMac Thunder Cache (32 MHz 68030), 32KB cache, optional 32 MHz 68882 FPU
- MicroMac ThunderPro (32 MHz 68030), optional 32 MHz 68882 FPU, breaks 10 MB barrier
- MicroMac Power WorkStation (32 MHz 68030), 32KB cache, expansion bay
- Quadra 605 motherboard (25 MHz 68LC040), although it’s probably cheaper to just buy a Quadra 605/LC 475
- Sonnet Technologies Presto 040 LC (25 MHz 68040 or 68LC040), discontinued
- Sonnet Presto Plus (33 MHz 68LC040 or 68040, Ethernet, and 32 MB additional RAM)
- LC Power WorkStation from MicroMac is an expansion chassis that includes a 32 MHz 68030 processor with a 32 KB cache, has room for two PDS cards, and has room for a second hard drive and an optical drive. Not cheap!
Discontinued accelerators (68030 unless otherwise noted) include the Applied Engineering TransWarp (50 MHz), DayStar Universal PowerCache (33, 40, 50 MHz), Extreme Systems Impact (33 MHz), Fusion Data TokaMac (25 MHz 68040), and Total Systems Enterprise (32 MHz).
- Apple IIe Card: A Tool for Getting Macs into Schools, Mac Musings, 2018.02.08
- Creating Classic Mac Boot Floppies in OS X, Paul Brierley, The ‘Book Beat, 2008.08.07. Yes, it is possible to create a boot floppy for the Classic Mac OS using an OS X Mac that doesn’t have Classic. Here’s how.
- Know Your Mac’s Upgrade Options, Phil Herlihy, The Usefulness Equation, 2008.08.26. Any Mac can be upgraded, but it’s a question of what can be upgraded – RAM, hard drive, video, CPU – and how far it can be upgraded.
- The Compressed Air Keyboard Repair, Charles W Moore, Miscellaneous Ramblings, 2008.07.24. If your keyboard isn’t working as well as it once did, blasting under the keys with compressed air may be the cure.
- A Vintage Mac Network Can Be as Useful as a Modern One, Carl Nygren, My Turn, 2008.04.08. Old Macs can exchange data and share an Internet connection very nicely using Apple’s old LocalTalk networking.
- Vintage Mac Networking and File Exchange, Adam Rosen, Adam’s Apple, 2007.12.19. How to network vintage Macs with modern Macs and tips on exchanging files using floppies, Zip disks, and other media.
- Vintage Mac Video and Monitor Mania, Adam Rosen, Adam’s Apple, 2007.12.17. Vintage Macs and monitors didn’t use VGA connectors. Tips on making modern monitors work with old Macs.
- Getting Inside Vintage Macs and Swapping Out Bad Parts, Adam Rosen, Adam’s Apple, 2007.12.14. When an old Mac dies, the best source of parts is usually another dead Mac with different failed parts.
- Solving Mac Startup Problems, Adam Rosen, Adam’s Apple, 2007.12.12. When your old Mac won’t boot, the most likely culprits are a dead PRAM battery or a failed (or failing) hard drive.
- Better and Safer Surfing with Internet Explorer and the Classic Mac OS, Max Wallgren, Mac Daniel, 2007.11.06. Tips on which browsers work best with different Mac OS versions plus extra software to clean cookies and caches, detect viruses, handle downloads, etc.
- The 10 worst Macs ever, Dan Knight, Mac Musings, 2007.10.23. The ten worst Macs of all time – and one of them came out just last year.
- Simple Macs for Simple Tasks, Tommy Thomas, Welcome to Macintosh, 2007.10.19. Long live 680×0 Macs and the classic Mac OS. For simple tasks such as writing, they can provide a great, low distraction environment.
- Interchangeabilty and Compatibility of Apple 1.4 MB Floppy SuperDrives, Sonic Purity, Mac Daniel, 2007.09.26. Apple used two kinds of high-density floppy drives on Macs, auto-inject and manual inject. Can they be swapped?
- I still use my LC, Tommy Thomas, Welcome to Macintosh, 2009.02.20. An interview with Scott Baret, who has been using the same Macintosh LC since 1991.
- The 25 most important Macs (part 2), Dan Knight, Mac Musings, 2009.02.17. The 25 most significant Macs in the first 25 years of the platform, continued.
- 2 pizza box Macs: An original LC and an LC III, Leo Titus LeBron V, Collection Spotlight, 2007.08.01. Pushing an LC III to the limit and dealing with a dead Macintosh LC.
- Mac System 7.5.5 Can Do Anything Mac OS 7.6.1 Can, Tyler Sable, Classic Restorations, 2007.06.04. Yes, it is possible to run Internet Explorer 5.1.7 and SoundJam with System 7.5.5. You just need to have all the updates – and make one modification for SoundJam.
- Appearance Manager Allows Internet Explorer 5.1.7 to Work with Mac OS 7.6.1, Max Wallgren, Mac Daniel, 2007.05.23. Want a fairly modern browser with an old, fast operating system? Mac OS 7.6.1 plus the Appearance Manager and Internet Explorer may be just what you want.
- Format Any Drive for Older Macs with Patched Apple Tools, Tyler Sable, Classic Restorations, 2007.04.25. Apple HD SC Setup and Drive Setup only work with Apple branded hard drives – until you apply the patches linked to this article.
- Making floppies and CDs for older Macs using modern Macs, Windows, and Linux PCs, Tyler Sable, Classic Restorations, 2007.03.15. Older Macs use HFS floppies and CDs. Here are the free resources you’ll need to write floppies or CDs for vintage Macs using your modern computer.
- Birds of a Feather Mac Together, James & John, RetroMacCast, 2007.02.04. Looking at the Macintosh LC, Jeremy Mehrle’s Mac collection, and the week’s Mac news.
- 30 days of old school computing: No real hardships, Ted Hodges, Vintage Mac Living, 2006.10.11. These old black-and-white Macs are just fine for messaging, word processing, spreadsheets, scheduling, contact management, and browsing the Web.
- Jag’s House, where older Macs still rock, Tommy Thomas, Welcome to Macintosh, 2006.09.25. Over a decade old, Jag’s House is the oldest Mac website supporting classic Macs and remains a great resource for vintage Mac users.
- Productive at the low end: 3 Mac users share their tales, Tommy Thomas, Welcome to Macintosh, 2006.08.29. Whether it’s using WordPerfect 3.5ep on a PowerBook 1400, writing and surfing on a clamshell iBook, orplaying around on a Power Mac 9500, these users find old Macs the right solution.
- Vintage Macs with System 6 run circles around 3 GHz Windows 2000 PC, Tyler Sable, Classic Restorations, 2006.07.06. Which grows faster, hardware speed or software bloat? These benchmarks show vintage Macs let you be productive much more quickly than modern Windows PCs.
- Floppy drive observations: A compleat guide to Mac floppy drives and disk formats, Scott Baret, Online Tech Journal, 2006.06.29. A history of the Mac floppy from the 400K drive in the Mac 128K through the manual-inject 1.4M SuperDrives used in the late 1990s.
- Elsie, a prototype of the Macintosh LC, Ted Hodges, Vintage Mac Living, 2006.06.26. This LC prototype has “confidential” ROMs, a reset button on the motherboard, and only supports 1-bit video.
- System 7.5 and Mac OS 7.6: The beginning and end of an era, Tyler Sable, Classic Restorations, 2006.02.15. System 7.5 and Mac OS 7.6 introduced many new features and greater modernity while staying within reach of most early Macintosh models.
- Turning an LC or other ancient Mac into a webcam with a QuickCam, Tyler Sable, Classic Restorations, 2006.01.25. As long as it has 4 MB of RAM and a hard drive, any 16 MHz or faster Mac that supports color can be configured as a webcam.
- System 7: Bigger, better, more expandable, and a bit slower than System 6, Tyler Sable, Classic Restorations, 2006.01.04. The early versions of System 7 provide broader capability for modern tasks than System 6 while still being practical for even the lowliest Macs.
- Web browser tips for the classic Mac OS, Nathan Thompson, Embracing Obsolescence, 2006.01.03. Tips on getting the most out of WaMCom, Mozilla, Internet Explorer, iCab, Opera, and WannaBe using the classic Mac OS.
- The Joy of Six: Apple’s fast, svelte, reliable, and still usable System 6, Tyler Sable, Classic Restorations, 2005.12.06. System 6 was small enough to run quickly from an 800K floppy yet powerful enough to support 2 GB partitions, 24-bit video, and the Internet.
- Which system software is best for my vintage Mac?, Tyler Sable, Classic Restorations, 2005.11.22. Which system software works best depends to a great extent on just which Mac you have and how much RAM is installed.
- Guide to LC PDS Video Cards. Includes Focus, Radius, and RasterOps cards for the LC processor direct slot.
- LC design and caveats, Mark Benson, 68kMac.com, 2005.10.11. Apple’s original low-cost, slightly crippled, compact, modular Macs. Also, the difference between auto-inject and manual-inject floppies.
- Making the most of the LC, Adam Robert Guha, Apple Archive, 9/1. Although old and slow, the LC and LC II have practical upgrade potential.
- Games for ‘030s, Brian Rumsey, Low End Mac Gaming, 5/26. A look at games that run nicely on the old 68030-based Macs.
- Hands on: Sonnet Presto Plus, Mark Looper, 3/2/2000
- Why Should I Choose System 6 for the Mac II Family?, Manuel Mejia, Mac Daniel. If they can use System 7, why use System 6?
- System 6 for the Macintosh, Ruud Dingemans. If you have an older, slower, memory-limited Mac, System 6 is fast, stable, and still very usable.
- Mac LC Upgrade Page, MacSpeedZone
- Review: Sonnet Presto
- How Can I Upgrade a Classic II or LC II?, Mac Daniel
- Faster browsing on older Macs, Online Tech Journal
- Information on 32-bit addressing
- Email lists: Classic Macs Digest, Vintage Macs
- System6, the email list for those who choose to use System 6.0.x.
- Memory upgrade guide
- Links to System 6.0.8 and 7.0.1
- Macintosh LC Technical Specifications, Apple Knowledge Base Archive
- Apple discontinued support and parts orders for this model on 2001.01.01. You may be able to find dealers with parts inventory either locally or on our parts and service list.
- Serial port normally restricted to 57.6 kbps; throughput with a 56k modem may be limited. See 56k modem page. For more information on Mac serial ports, read Macintosh Serial Throughput.
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