1994 marked the 10th anniversary of the Macintosh, and in an unexpected development, Apple introduced its first DOS products that year.
The “Houdini” card turned a normal Quadra 610 into a dual-platform Quadra 610 DOS Compatible. At a keystroke, the user could switch between the comfortable Mac OS and the dominant Windows platform that was the only way to run certain apps.
But these were just evolutionary developments; the revolution was one month off.
PowerPC to the People
March 1994 marked the beginning of the end for the Motorola 680×0 line of processors, at least as far as the Mac was concerned.
Three new models – the Power Mac 6100, 7100, and 8100 – moved the Mac platform from CISC (Complex Instruction Set Computer) architecture to RISC (Reduced Instruction Set Computer). Most amazing of all, Apple had so carefully engineered the Power Macs – and so closely worked with Motorola and IBM in designing the PowerPC CPU – that the Power Macs tended to be more compatible with old software than the Quadra models had been when they were first introduced.
Apple’s wizards had created an emulator that worked so well that even some programs written for the original 1984 Macintosh could run flawlessly – and far faster – on the new Power Macs with their entirely new processor.
Needless to say, Apple sold over a million Power Macs within one year of their introduction.
However, Apple didn’t immediately abandon 680×0 chips. One reason was that there was not yet a low power version of the PowerPC for use in laptops.
May saw the introduction of six 68040-based PowerBooks, the Duo 280 and 280c, and the PowerBook 520, 520c, 540, and 540c. The extra power of the 68LC040 compared with the 68030 made these very popular, as did the color screens on the 280c, 520c, and 540c.
The 500-series of laptops (code named Blackbird) was one of Apple’s finest PowerBook designs – and the last that would come from the factory with an internal modem and a built-in ethernet port until the PowerBook G3 of 1997.
It seems like we been using System 7.5 for ages. [This article was first published in 1999.] It was introduced in June 1994, and new features included desktop printing, Extensions Manager, WindowShade, a menubar clock, Open Transport networking, ColorSync, built-in CD-ROM drivers and Apple Guide, an online help system.
Here’s a more extensive list:
- “Fat” – one version supports both 680×0 and PowerPC Macs.
- The Finder is purportedly faster and it is scriptable.
- Apple Menu Options with the hierarchical Apple Menu and recently used items
- Drag and Drop
- Desktop Printing
- Open Transport, a more efficient network protocol
- Menu Bar clock, based on SuperClock
- Extensions Manager
- The Launcher became a standard component, not just for Performas.
- General Controls was enhanced with the options to protect the System and Application folders, a shut down warning, whether to show the desktop when the Finder was hidden, whether to launch the Launcher automatically, and which window to display when you open and save a document.
- New desktop patterns
- Included CD-ROM drivers with a new appearance for the AppleCD Audio Player.
- Better Find File, with things like more search options per search, numbers of items to display, and so on.
- Apple Guide, a much more comprehensive help system.
- PowerTalk for things like directories and email services on the desktop.
- QuickDraw GX
- The Documents folder could be created automatically by the General Controls.
The biggest thing System 7.5 introduced was great stability for PowerPC models, and we quickly standardized on it at the publishing house where I worked at the time – and five years later we were still using it for everything from the Mac IIsi up through Power Macs that didn’t require a newer version of the Mac OS.
Apple Begins to Use IDE
Apple had a reputation for innovation and for sticking with its own standards. Hard drives were SCSI, plain and simple – at least they were until June 1994, when Apple shipped the Quadra 630 (a.k.a. Performa 630, LC 630) with an IDE hard drive, the same kind of hard drive used in the Wintel world.
Put simply, IDE drives were a fair bit less expensive than SCSI drives and offered reasonable performance for entry level computers – and their Ultra ATA descendants offered incredible performance until the SATA era.
At the time, it took Mac users by surprise to see an IDE drive in a Macintosh. Some viewed it as selling out to the dark side, a process that would continue over the years as Apple adopted PCI expansion slots, USB ports, and eventually even moved to Intel CPUs – all technologies introduced on Windows PCs.
Apple teamed up with America Online to create eWorld, which was launched in June 1994. eWorld was based on the AOL model of proprietary services, although it did allow access to the Internet – something few were familiar with in 1994. The service was never widely popular and was discontinued within two years.
A Cheaper PowerBook
The first PowerBook in my family was a PowerBook 150, purchased after its price fell below $1,000. The machine shipped with 4 MB of memory, a 120 MB hard drive, a 4-bit/16 shade passive-matrix grayscale display, and a 33 MHz 68030 CPU, making it a nice field machine. This was Apple’s low-end PowerBook designed to keep costs down. The screen was not its best feature, and it had no ADB port for connecting a mouse or external keyboard.
Like the Quadra 630, it uses an IDE hard drive, and it was the first regular PowerBook (that is, not a Duo) to support more than 14 MB of RAM. It could handle 40 MB, which was a lot for a notebook in those days.
Over the years Apple has had a difficult time keeping notebooks below the $1,000 mark.
Power Performa, Power DOS
In September, Apple put the Performa label on the Power Mac 6100, and in November, it shipped a Power Mac 6100 DOS Compatible, again making it easy for Mac users to work in the Windows world when they had to.
Licensing the Mac OS
Bill Gates had urged Apple to license the Mac OS shortly after the Macintosh was launched in 1984, but Apple wanted to control its own destiny and kept the Mac – hardware and operating system – to itself for over a decade, although there were a handful of unauthorized Macintosh clones.
The Mac’s market share was declining in the early 1990s, and new COO Michael Spindler determined that licensing the Mac OS was the best way to grow it. Spindler tried to sell the idea to Compaq and Gateway, but both declined (after pressure from Microsoft, according to some sources). Steve Kahng, formerly of Daewoo’s PC division, wanted to run with it, formed Power Computing, and showed its first Macintosh clones at the November 1994 Comdex show.
In December, Power Computing became the first Mac OS licensee, although it was beat to market by Radius and wouldn’t deliver product until May 1995.
The PC Competition
I worked as a book designer when the Power Macs first came out. For many years my specialty was academic books with footnotes, which we designed in FrameMaker. It was an incredibly powerful program, but it was excruciatingly slow on a Mac IIci. Things improved with Quadras, where FrameMaker was bearable.
But on the Power Mac – on the Power Mac, FrameMaker could sing! Others raved about Photoshop speed improvements or smoother gaming, but I knew the power of the PowerPC when I ran the PowerPC native version of FrameMaker. It went from being sluggish to being faster than Quark, the program our other designers used for “trade” books. Suddenly FrameMaker wasn’t just a powerful program; it became an efficient tool. (Before that, it was the only tool for books with footnotes or tables, so we had to make do with its lackluster performance.)
I was a late adopter of the PowerPC at home; I graduated from a Centris 610 to a Umax SuperMac J700 in June 1998, mostly because my web work for Low End Mac demanded a lot more horsepower than I had – and the $800 close-out price on the SuperMac matched the cost of upgrading my Centris to only double its performance! For the same money, I saw at least a tenfold performance increase.
I was very satisfied with Mac OS 8.1, and in 1999 this machine had a 180 MHz 604e CPU, 104 MB of memory, a 2.1 GB hard drive, and a fast (for the era) 8x CD-ROM player. It was nearly as fast as the Power Mac 7600/200 I used at work back then – at least until we upgraded it with a G3 card.
The reason I run Low End Mac is simply that few of us need the latest, greatest computer technology – and when we do buy it, we feel outdated within six months. Low End Mac grew out of my philosophy of getting the most from what you have and learning to be content with less than state-of-the-art equipment.
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