Mac LC

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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.

Macintosh LC

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.

Macintosh LC

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.

Details

  • 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

Mac OS

  • requires System 6.0.7 to 7.5.5
  • addressing: 24-bit or 32-bit

Core System

  • 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

Performance

  • 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

Graphics

  • 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: DB-15

Drives

  • hard drive: 40 MB SCSI
  • floppy drive: 1 or 2 1.4 MB double-sided

Expansion

  • 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

Physical

  • 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).

Online Resources

Cautions

  • 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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