Dan Knight - 1998.01.10
Second Class Macs are Apple's somewhat compromised hardware designs. For the most part, they're not really bad - simply designs that didn't meet their full potential. (On our rating scale, the more brown apples, the worse the hardware.)
The Macintosh LC is the oldest Compromised Mac. Designed specifically to be the cheapest color Macintosh to date, the LC cut some corners. It ran a 32-bit 68020 CPU on a 16-bit data bus, making memory access slower than it should have been - all to save the cost of a couple SIMM sockets and keep the motherboard a bit smaller.
Although Apple had moved from the 68020 CPU to the 68030 in September 1988, it reintroduced it with the LC in November. (At the time, the 68020 was considerably less expensive than the 68030.) The LC tests at about 75% the performance of the Mac II, even though both use the same 16 MHz 68020 CPU, because of its 16-bit data bus. And where the 68030 can fully support virtual memory, the 68020 doesn't have that capability built into the CPU.
To add insult to injury, Apple programmed the ASICs to support no more than 10 MB of RAM. With 2 MB on onboard memory and a pair of SIMM slots that could support 4 MB modules, this wasn't seen as much of a limitation at the time. After all, System 6 couldn't use more than 10 MB, and it was limited to 8 MB on most Macs. With the introduction of the low cost troika (Classic, LC, and IIsi - each one a Second Class Mac), Apple wanted to position the LC specifically for the home and education market. The company believed that allowing too much RAM might cut into sales of the more costly IIsi and IIci.
Of course, had Apple not somehow limited the LC, the IIsi would have had very little market.
Apple introduced a new color video standard with the LC - 512 x 384 pixels - and an inexpensive 12" color monitor to support it. (In those days the 13" 640 x 480 display sold for about $800!) With a VRAM upgrade, the LC supports 16-bit video on the 12" monitor and 8-bit video on a standard 640 x 480 screen. Because of the unusual video mode of the 12" color screen, some programs refused to run with it.
Apple's one innovation on the LC was the availability of an Apple II emulator for the processor direct slot (PDS). This was the primary reason for the 512 x 384 video mode and cheap 12" color monitor.
The LC wasn't a horrible Mac, just a compromised one. It was replaced with the 68030-based LC II in March 1992.
- introduced October 1990 at $2,400; discontinued March 1992
- requires System 6.0.7 to 7.5.5
- CPU: 16 MHz 68020
- FPU: 68881 (optional, uses PDS slot)
- performance: 1.8 (relative to SE, compare to 2.4 for Mac II, 2.9 for 20 MHz 68030-based IIsi)
- 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
- video: 256 KB VRAM, expandable to 512 KB; supports 512 x 382 and 640 x 480 resolutions (must have 512 KB VRAM for 8-bits at 640 x 480)
- L2 cache: none
- ADB: 2 ports for keyboard and mouse
- serial: 2 DIN-8 RS-422 ports on back of computer
- SCSI: DB-25 connector on back of computer
- LC PDS slot
Links for the Day
- Mac of the Day: PowerBook 5300, introduced 1995.08.25. The first PowerPC PowerBook - known for flaming performance.
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- World Book Encyclopedia 2012 DVD, Tommy Thomas, Reviews, 2013.03.05. "You may be asking yourself, in an age of Wikipedia and instant information, is World Book still relevant?"
- Vintage Computer Festival SouthEast, April 20-21, 2013, Simon Royal, Mac Spectrum, 2013.02.25. Old Apple gear and old PCs.
- iMessage: The Ultimate Messaging Service?, Simon Royal, Mac Spectrum, 2013.02.21. In most ways, Apple's iMessage is far superior to BlackBerry Messenger.
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