10 of the Most Important Macs Ever

2006 – Over the past few years, I’ve been cutting back on some of the old Macs lying around the house. At one point I had an example of just about every Mac made until the late 1990s. As software is updated and time goes on, most of these computers become less and less useful as everyday productivity machines.

However, there are certain machines that I will be keeping, and I figure that I will take a look back on these machines, and give my explanation of why I believe they’re significant in one way or another.

  • Mac 512KMac 512K: The 512K was the second Mac – and not necessarily the most expandable one either. While peripherals could be connected, the machine itself could not be upgraded in any way (you could not add memory even), so it didn’t sell nearly as well as the Plus which came after it.
  • Mac Portable: The first portable Mac was huge and very heavy, but the battery lasted for 6 hours or more, and the screen was extremely sharp. It also boasted performance almost as good as the Mac II and featured a 40 MB hard drive. It also cost over US$7,000 with a hard drive, and many ended up being relegated to desk-use only.
  • Outbound Laptop: A slightly smaller clone of the Mac Portable, the Outbound sold poorly as in order to buy this machine, you already had to have a Mac Plus or SE in your possession. In essence, you were just buying an upgrade to your existing machine that allowed you to use it in the field. The Outbound did have a number of interesting features that allowed you to use a built-in RAM disk and connect your old compact Mac to the new machine to get a slightly faster system. The model I have is a dealer sample marked “not for resale”.
  • Mac Color ClassicMac Color Classic: The Color Classic and Colour Classic II (never sold in the States) were the only true compact Macs that featured a color screen. While it was slightly bigger than the older black & white compact Mac screens (10″ vs. 9″), the CC was also very underpowered and had a limited RAM upgrade path. It essentially contained an LC II logic board, which was a limited machine to begin with. It was replaced by the larger LC 520 (with a CD-ROM drive) shortly afterward and never became a huge hit in the US. In Japan, though, this model was followed by the Colour Classic II – with its faster 68030 processor and up to 36 MB RAM expansion, it’s what the original model should have been.
  • Mac IIfx: The “Wicked Fast” Mac in 1990, the IIfx was the fastest personal computer available at the time. With support for multiple monitors, a built-in math coprocessor, 6502 processors to control serial and ADB ports, as well as a variable speed fan in the power supply, it was also one of the most advanced. While it’s 40 MHz 68030 processor is slow by today’s standards, it was certainly adequate enough to last a IIfx purchaser for seven years or more.
  • PowerBook 100 SeriesPowerBook 140: This was Apple’s first true laptop with a built-in floppy drive. It was also my first laptop. While basic, it ended up being an excellent tool for me to take to and from school.

Now, of course, comes time for the notable machines that I don’t currently own. These are worth mentioning, because they were significant to the development of Apple’s product line.

  • Power Mac 6100/60: I had this machine in middle school, and it was the first Power Mac. It launched my Low End Mac writing career with two articles regarding the uses of this particular machine back in 2000 (Picking an Older Power Mac and Follow Up on the 6100, 7100, and 8100). While not totally useless today, it no longer fulfills any of my needs in a desktop computer.
  • PowerBook 5300cPowerBook 5300: Apple’s first PowerPC PowerBook, the PB 5300 wasn’t a particularly stellar performer. It was also well known for battery and case quality problems, and, while popular, it was a bit behind what it should have been. Thankfully, the 1400c, released a year later in 1996, made up for the disappointment.
  • Mac SE/30: The SE/30 was Apple’s first 68030-based compact Mac and unarguably the best performing of all compact Macs. Essentially a Mac IIcx in a compact-Mac case, it could accept up to 128 MB of RAM and even had a PDS card slot where an ethernet card, video card, or accelerator card could be added.
  • Clamshell iBookiBook G3/300: Apple’s first iBook launched Apple’s successful foray into taking a chunk of the consumer notebook market, as well as heading back into education. While the first models were a bit underpowered when it came to hard drive and RAM specs, they provided a good, basic tool for many students. The bright colors (tangerine and blueberry) also gave people something to get excited about in a laptop – something, which had never really before been considered “fun”. This model also launched WiFi.

There are many Macs out there, and while I have no space for all of them, some are worth keeping. Others are worth mentioning, and still others (such as the 5200/75LC) are better forgotten.

With Apple’s success with their new machines, such as the Intel-based iMac and MacBook Pro, it’s interesting to look back and see which of their computers really paved the way for their path of growth.

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