25 Years of Mac

Macintosh History

2003: First OS X Only Macs, iBook G4, Power Mac G5, iMac G5, and Mac OS X 10.3

Dan Knight - updated 2008.02.06 - Tip Jar

Beginning of the End for Classic

January 2003 market the end of the Classic Mac OS era. With the introduction of a new version of the 'Mirrored Drive Doors' Power Mac G4 with FireWire 800, the 12" PowerBook G4 at 867 MHz, and 17" PowerBook G4 at 1 GHz at the Macworld Expo, Apple had the first Macs that couldn't boot into any version of Classic Mac OS, although Mac OS 9.x was supported in Classic Mode - and would continue to be supported in Classic Mode until OS X 10.5 "Leopard" shipped in late 2007.

The new PowerBooks were the first to feature an aluminum enclosure, and the 12" PowerBook was closely modeled on the successful 12" iBook, but with a G4 CPU, Bluetooth, AirPort Extreme support, and Nvidia GeForce 4 420 Go graphics. Like the iBooks, it had 128 MB of mainboard memory (256 MB total from the factory, expandable to 1.125 GB) and a 12" 1024 x 768 display.

Dimensions were 8.6" x 10.9" x 1.18" (219 x 277 x 30 mm), and it weighed 4.6 lb. (2.1 kg).

The 17" PowerBook used Nvidia GeForce 4 440 Go graphics, shipped with 512 MB of RAM, and could be expanded to 2 GB. It's signature feature was a 17" 1440 x 900 display, and it was just 1" thin - the same as the titanium PowerBooks. Battery life was rated at 4.5 hours.

iMac Updated

Apple simplified the iMac line in February, offering a single 15" G4 iMac with an 800 MHz CPU and a Combo drive alongside a 1 GHz 17" iMac G4 with a SuperDrive. The 17" iMac was a big step forward, as it was the first iMac with a 133 MHz system bus, 64 MB of video memory, support for Bluetooth and AirPort Extreme, a 7200 rpm hard drive, and a 4x SuperDrive. As with the January Macs, these iMacs can only boot into Mac OS X.

Apple further improved the iMacs in September. The 1 GHz 15" iMac G4 and 1.25 GHz 17" iMac G4 were the first with USB 2.0 support. These were joined by a 20" iMac G4 in November, the last G4-based iMac and the first 20" iMac.

The 900 MHz iBook G3

The last G3 iBooks were introduced in April. Both the 12" iBook and 14" iBook were available at 900 MHz. (There was also an entry-level 12" 800 MHz CD-ROM model.) These were the last iBooks capable of booting into Mac OS 9.x; all future models would require Mac OS X. The next generation of iBooks (covered below) would use the G4 CPU.

eMac Improved

The 2003 eMac saw many improvements: support for AirPort Extreme, a 133 MHz system bus, Radeon 7500 graphics, a 1 GHz top speed, and a 4x SuperDrive in the top-end model. (The 800 MHz eMac could boot into Mac OS 9.2.2, but the 1 GHz model requires Mac OS X.)

The Retro Power Mac

Apple had a bit of a problem: Some crucial Mac apps still hadn't been ported to Mac OS X and didn't run or didn't run well in Classic Mode. There were also installations that had standardized on Mac OS 9.x and weren't ready to migrate to a whole new operating system - this was especially true for schools.

To meet the needs of this market, Apple dusted off the Mirrored Drive Doors Power Mac model from 2003 and reintroduced it as a 1.25 GHz model (with single or dual processors) in late June. This was the last Mac that could boot into the classic Mac OS.

The Power Mac G5

G5 cooling systemThanks for some serious engineering by IBM and strong pressure from Apple to include the G4's velocity engine, the Power Mac G5 was introduced on June 23 using IBM's PowerPC 970 CPU. Processor speeds ranged from 1.6 GHz to 2.0 GHz. Unlike earlier Power Macs that ran the CPU at many times bus speed (which had ranged from 100 MHz to 167 MHz in the G4 era), the new Power Macs ran the bus at half of CPU speed - 800 MHz on the entry-level model and 1 GHz at the top end.

Because of the heat generated, the Power Mac G5 had 4 thermal zones and 9 cooling fans. The case was made of aluminum, which has excellent heat conduction properties, and the front and back panels were filled with small holes to allow lots of airflow. (The same design is now used for the Mac Pro.)

The entry-level 1.6 MHz model had a single CPU and included three regular 33 MHz PCI expansion slots. It had an 8x AGP slot for video and room for up to 4 GB of RAM. The rest of the line - a 1.8 GHz single CPU model and a 2.0 GHz dual processor one - had three 100/133 MHz PCI-X slots and supported up to 8 GB of RAM. These were the first Macs to use SATA hard drives.

The 3G iPod and the iTunes Music Store

third generation (3G) iPodThe next step in iPod evolution was the third-generation iPod, announced on April 28, 2003. The new iPods sported a dock connector on the bottom rather than a FireWire port on the top. This paved the way for USB support.

Apple also moved the control buttons, which had surrounded the scroll wheel, and used four separate buttons located between the display and the scroll wheel. (The iPod would revert to the classic design with the next generation.) Capacities were 10 GB, 15 GB, and 30 GB.

Also announced that day was the iTunes Music Store, an online music service that was fully integrated with the latest version of iTunes. At this point, iTMS was exclusively available for Mac users; no Windows version of iTunes yet existed.

All content was protected with Apple's FairPlay DRM, and Apple sold one million songs the first week.

On June 19, Apple began shipping USB cables for the iPod's dock connector, creating a much broader market, since USB was available on a lot more Windows PCs than FireWire was. And on June 23, Apple announced that it had sold one million iPods.

In September, Apple increased storage capacity with 20 GB and 40 GB iPods, also announcing 10 million songs sold through iTMS.

On October 16, Apple released iTunes for Windows and made the iTunes Music Store available to Windows users.

Newer PowerBooks

The 15" PowerBook moved from titanium to aluminum in September, gaining a top speed of 1.25 GHz. New features include a FireWire 800 port and USB 2.0, as well as the Bluetooth and AirPort Extreme support that were already in its 12" and 17" siblings. The new model moved to ATI Mobility Radeon 9600 graphics with 64 MB of video memory.

The updated 17" PowerBook jumped to 1.33 GHz and used the same Radeon 9600 graphics as the 15" model.

At the same time, Apple bumped the 12" PowerBook to 1 GHz, added Nvidia GeForce FX Go5200 graphics and DVI support (using a mini DVI port), and doubled mainboard RAM to 256 MB, allowing expansion to 1.25 GB.

The iBook Goes G4

The iBook was the last Mac to make the transition from G3 CPUs to G4. The G4 iBooks were introduced in October with an 800 MHz 12" model and two 14" models, 933 MHz and 1 GHz (nominal - it actually ran at 1.07 GHz). These iBooks used ATI Mobility Radeon 9200 graphics and had 128 MB of RAM on the mainboard, expandable to 1.125 GB. Like the PowerBooks, they supported AirPort Extreme.

To keep the iBooks from cutting into the 12" PowerBook market (these models all had a 1024 x 768 display), the iBooks used a CPU with a smaller level 2 (L2) cache and had half as much mainboard RAM.

Mac OS X 10.3 'Panther'

The next version of Mac OS X was released on October 24 and provided a significant performance improvement over earlier releases. New features included Fast User Switching (one user didn't have to log out so another could be logged in), Safari, Exposé, and iChat AV, along with the brushed metal appearance. System requirements included a G3 or later CPU, NewWorld ROMs (indicated by a built-in USB port), at least 128 MB of RAM (256 MB strongly recommended), and 1.5 GB of hard drive space.

Support for the WallStreet PowerBook and Beige Power Mac G3 was dropped, although hacks such as XPostFacto made it possible to install and run Panther. These were the first G3 models that had been supported in earlier versions of OS X to be phased out.

Next - 2004: iPod mini and photo, Faster 'Books and Power Macs, and the iMac G5

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