Blast From the Past

MacUser, December 1993

Dan Knight - 2001.03.28

Just eight months earlier, MacUser had lauded the new Centris line. In this issue, the noted the end of that nameplate. And just like the April 1993 issue, Apple introduced more new models than you could easily keep track of.

Keep It Simple, Apple

Maggie Canon opens this issue looking at the way Apple is reorganizing its products into four lines: education, mass market, computer dealer, and PowerBook. Apple had something for everyone - including several new models unveiled later in this issue.

Easy Ethernet

One of the great lesser known technologies of this era was EtherWave from Farallon. Unlike regular 10Base-T ethernet cards and adapters, which have to be wired to a central hub, EtherWave cards and adapters could daisy chain up to 8 devices - then link that to a hub, if necessary.

My favorite was the EtherWave adapter that plugged into a PowerBook's LocalTalk port, drew power from the ADB port, and let you easily and fairly inexpensively put pre-190 PowerBooks on ethernet. Very smart.

Going Native

Apple hadn't yet released the Power Mac, but companies including Adobe, Aldus, Microsoft, Claris, and Deneba were committed to producing PowerPC native versions of their software.

AppleShare Pro and Apple Workgroup Server 95

Take the monstrous Quadra 950, put a special SCSI card in the processor direct slot, and load it with a hybrid of A/UX 3.0.1 (Apple's version of Unix), and you've got one very hot $11,639 server. Benchmarks showed the AWS 95 smoked a Quadra 950 running AppleShare 3.0.2 when opening files; it also outperformed AppleShare under a heavy client load.

And Then There Were 4

The big feature article covered Apple's new four-quadrant strategy. Apple would have one line for the education market (LCs), another for the mass market (Performa), and yet another for the business market (Quadra). Alongside the three desktop lines was the PowerBook series.

To further confuse matters, the same exact computer might appear as a Quadra, an LC, and under several Performa model numbers. This was quite the opposite of the simplification Apple has seen since the return of Steve Jobs in 1997.

Performa 460, 466, 467

At the bottom end, the LC III was bumped from 25 MHz to 33 MHz, creating the Performa 460 series. (The education version would be called the LC III+.) The 460 sold for $1,300 with 4 MB RAM and a80 MB hard drive.

Performa 550

Take the 460 motherboard, drop it into a beige all-in-one case with a 14" monitor, and you have the Performa 550 at $2,000.

Quadra 605, LC 475, Performa 475, 476

Take the tried-and-true LC design and drop in a 68LC040 CPU. That gives you the most compact Quadra ever - and the model with the most different names in this lineup. The Quadra 605 and its twins offered very decent performance for about $1,300.

Quadra 610

The Centris 610 ran a 25 MHz 68LC040. Apple replaced it with the 25 MHz Quadra 610, providing 25% more speed at the same price. Except for the least costly model, the Q610 had a full-fledged 68040 CPU, not the math challenged LC version.

The 610 offered the same performance as the 605, had room for an internal CD-ROM, and accepted up to 64 MB of memory, almost twice as much as the 605.

Quadra 650

Apple also replaced the 25 MHz Centris 650, giving the world the 33 MHz Quadra 650.

Duos Done Right

The new PowerBook Duo 250 and 270c had active-matrix displays, replacing the lackluster passive-matrix grayscale screens of the Duo 210 and 230. The 270c even added a 16-bit color screen to the equation.

Both models used 33 MHz 68030 CPUs and weighed less than 5 pounds.

System Software for the '90s

According to Henry Bortman, John Rizzo, and Stephan Somogyi, three new additions to the Mac OS would give even older Macs the features they needed for the 1990s.

QuickDraw GX

Desktop printing debuted with QuickDraw GX, which required System 7.1 or later, 1 MB of additional RAM, and at least a 68020 CPU. And desktop printing was just part of the package. Under GX, each printer had its own queue, and the user could select printers within the Print dialog - no need to go to the Chooser if the printer already had an icon on the desktop. You could even print a document by dragging it to the desktop printer icon.

I was a book designer back in 1993; we were very excited about the typographic possibilities of QuickDraw GX. Smart fonts would let you tighten or loosen the tracking between characters, adjust the font's weight (more than just regular and bold), and have the computer automatically use ligatures (substituting "Þ" for "fi" is one example).

The typographic embellishments of QuickDraw GX didn't catch on, but the printing technology became a standard part of the Mac OS.


AOCE (Apple Open Collaboration Environment) was a powerful part of System 7, but almost nobody took advantage of it. PowerTalk, which was part of System 7 Pro, set out to change all that.

Having email and a mailbox built into the Mac OS was part of Apple's strategy. Users would be able to email documents inside other programs, such as WordPerfect 3.0. Nice idea, but it never really caught on.

The PowerTalk Key Chain was a good idea that vanished for a while, then reappeared in Mac OS 9. The Key Chain lets you connect to multiple servers easily and also stores your passwords. It was ahead of its time in 1993.


When I was a DOS geek, I didn't understand how Mac users did without batch files. AppleScript provided that kind of power and more to anyone with System 7.0 or later and 4 MB of memory. AppleScript remains a powerful, if underutilized, technology today.

Affordable Color Upgrade

Back in 1993, NuBus video cards selling for under $1,000 were considered affordable - Mac users today think twice about spending an extra $100 for improved video.

This article looks at cards from E-Machines, Lapis, Radius, RasterOps, Sigma, and SuperMac. Most supported 24-bit video on 16" monitors. Most offered good to excellent performance. (The Lapis cards trailed the pack considerably.)

MacUser's top choices were the SuperTech Spectrum/24 Series IV, the fastest card tested, and the Radius PrecisionColor 24Xp, the best value for a 16" monitor.

Platform Choice

John C. Dvorak used to have the back page of MacUser. In this issue, he compared Macs with Windows computers. His findings"

Mac Advantages

  1. Robustness. Macs crash less than Windows machines. Dvorak estimated Windows crashes 2-3 times more often.
  2. True drag and drop. Macs don't require complex installers. Most of the time, you just drag a file where it belongs.
  3. SCSI support. Sure, some PCs supports SCSI, but it's never as simple as it is on the Mac.
  4. Mouse feel. "Apple has all sorts of amazing algorithms to make the mouse easy to use. With Windows, the mouse is jumpy and hard to control."
  5. Better looking output. Mac fonts have better hinting (detail) and Mac documents look better when printed.

Windows Advantages

  1. Cheapness. It costs less to buy a Windows PC, "but the machines are much shoddier than the Mac."
  2. Newer software. More development takes place for Windows.
  3. Greater variety of machines. Hard to believe, considering the dozen or so models Apple had, but then the Windows world has dozens of companies making beige boxes.
  4. Cheaper, faster IDE hard drives. Apple finally saw the light and started using IDE drives with the Quadra 630 and PowerBook 150 in mid-1995.
  5. Upgradability. Most Windows computers could have their CPUs replaced with faster ones.

Now that the round mouse is history, I'd have to say Apple retains all five advantages listed. SCSI has been replaced with USB and FireWire, but Apple's implementation remains superior.

PCs remain cheaper, in both senses of the word, although you can often find refurbished iMacs for US$650 or so - and no need to add a monitor. One way Apple reduced price was using IDE drives, which eliminates the 4th Windows advantage.

Upgradability has improved. Quadras from that period could take PowerPC upgrades made by Apple starting in 1994. Even the first generation Power Macs have G3 and G4 upgrade options. At this point, neither platform seems to have an advantage.

Dvorak concludes his article by comparing the Mac to Sony Betamax, something I also did recently. His recommendation is that Apple bite the bullet and go Intel, just as Sony finally abandoned Beta and started making VHS recorders.

Eight years later and some people are still making the same suggestion, while Apple remains committed to a different, better course of action.


Apple had an eight-page ad extolling CD-ROM.

Intel had a two-page ad asking, "What's a company like us doing in a magazine like this?" Wouldn't you know it, practically any program that runs on the Mac is also available for Windows - so why not go Intel?

APS was selling an internal 127 MB hard drive for $189, 170 MB for $199, and 240 MB for $259. Their biggest drive was a 3 GB Micropolis for $2,499.

MAC Xtra was selling 4  MB 30-pin SIMMs for $146, IIfx SIMMs for $151, and 72-pin SIMMs for $167. 16 MB 30-pin SIMMs were $639, IIfx SIMMs were $579, and 72-pin SIMMs were $619. These prices were up considerably from those in the April 1993 issue.

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