Science Fair Project Encyclopedia
Named after the McIntosh, a type of apple favoured by Jef Raskin, the Macintosh was launched in January 1984 with a famous Super Bowl commercial. It was the first computer to popularize the graphical user interface (GUI), at that time a revolutionary development in desktop computing.
The operating system, originally called the System Software or System, officially became known as the Mac OS as of version 7.6 (although strictly speaking, version 7.5.1, being the first to display the Mac OS logo, is the first version of the Mac OS under that name). In March 2001, Apple introduced a modern and more secure Unix-based successor (AKA Darwin, a modern operating system based on Mach 3.0 and 4.4 BSD), Mac OS X (the "X" is a Roman numeral 10).
From its inception, the Macintosh has introduced or popularized a number of innovations adopted later by other PCs and operating systems.
Innovations introduced or popularized with the original Macintosh:
- A graphical user interface, icons, a desktop, etc.
- The use of a mouse or other pointing device in personal computing
- The "double click" and "click-and-drag" behaviors to perform actions with a pointing device
- WYSIWYG ("what you see is what you get") text and graphics editing
- Long file names, with whitespace and no file extension
- The 3.5" hard-shelled floppy disk as a standard feature
- Audio as a standard feature, including a built-in audio-quality speaker
- Aesthetic and ergonomic industrial design
- Separation of a program's code from its resources to allow localization, etc.
Innovations introduced or popularized with later Macintosh models or software:
- The PostScript laser printer
- Desktop publishing
- User programmability through HyperCard and AppleScript
- The SCSI interface (Mac Plus, 1986)
- Audio input as a standard feature (Mac IIsi & Mac LC, 1990)
- A CD-ROM drive as a standard feature (IIvx 900, 1992)
- A single desktop environment that may span multiple monitors
- Ethernet support as standard feature (Quadra 700 & 900, 1991)
- FireWire, also known as IEEE 1394, an Apple-developed standard also promoted by Sony under the name iLink (Blue and White G3, 1999)
- IEEE 802.11b and IEEE 802.11g wireless networking, branded AirPort and AirPort Extreme, by Apple (original iBook, 1999, PowerBook G4, 2003, respectively)
- The abandonment of the floppy disk (original iMac, 1998)
- The first commercially available computer to rely primarily on USB for peripheral connection (original iMac, 1998)
- A modern RISC-based architecture in the form of the PowerPC processor, developed jointly by Apple, IBM and Motorola (Power Macintosh 6100 , 1994)
- The first affordable DVD-R drive ("SuperDrive", Power Mac G4, 2001)
- Flat-panel displays as a standard feature on a desktop (Twentieth Anniversary Macintosh, 1997)
- First notebook computers with built-in pointing devices and rear-mounted keyboards (PowerBook 100 series, 1991)
- First notebook computer with dock/port replicator (PowerBook Duo, 1992)
- First full-size notebook computer with widescreen display (PowerBook G4, 2001)
- First notebook computer with a 17-inch display (PowerBook G4, 2003)
- First notebook computer to have backlit optic fiber keyboard. Built-in light sensors automatically adjust keyboard illumination and display brightness based on available ambient light. (Powerbook G4, 2003)
- First wireless base station to have audio delivered to Hi-Fi using wireless (AirPort Express Base Station, 2004)
The Macintosh project started in early 1979 with Jef Raskin, who envisioned an easy-to-use, low-cost computer for the average consumer. His ideas were collected into "The Book of Macintosh". Notable is Raskin's insistence on using meta-keys, rather than a mouse, to act as a pointing device.
Raskin, in September 1979 , was given permission to start hiring for the project and was, in particular, looking for an engineer that could put together a prototype. Bill Atkinson, a member of the Lisa team, introduced him to Burrell Smith, a service technician who had been hired earlier that year. Smith had already impressed Atkinson with his ingenious solution to a memory overflow problem. Reportedly, Atkinson told Raskin, "Jef, this is Burrell. He's the guy who's going to design your Macintosh for you." 
Smith's first Macintosh board design was to Raskin's specifications; it had a 64K memory, used the slow Motorola 6809E microprocessor, and had a 256 by 256 black and white bitmap display. Bud Tribble, a Macintosh programmer, was interested in running the Lisa's graphical programs on the Macintosh and asked Smith if he could incorporate the Lisa's Motorola 68000 microprocessor into the Macintosh while still keeping the cost down. By December 1980 Smith had succeeded in inventing a board design that not only utilized the 68000, but speeded it up from 5 MHz to 8 MHz; it also had a 384 by 256 bitmap display. Smith's design used fewer RAM chips than the Lisa and consequently was much cheaper. 
The innovative design caught the attention of Steve Jobs. Realizing that the Macintosh was more marketable than the Lisa, he began focusing his attentions on the project and its members. In January 1981 he completely took over the project, forcing Raskin to take a leave of absence.
Jobs and a number of Apple engineers visited Xerox PARC in December 1979, three months after the Lisa and Macintosh projects had begun. After hearing about the pioneering GUI technology being developed at Xerox PARC from former Xerox employees such as Jef Raskin, Steve Jobs negotiated a visit to see the Xerox Alto computer and Smalltalk development tools in exchange for Apple stock options. There is debate over the degree of impact that this visit had on Apple's products -- Apple's GUIs ended up working and looking differently from the PARC GUIs, and GUIs had been an active area of computing research since the late 1960s -- but it is clear that the Xerox visits were extremely influential on the development of the Lisa and Macintosh. See History of the GUI.
Jobs made another key move in 1981 when he combed the world for a design company for Apple products. He struck a multi-million dollar deal with Hartmut Esslinger of frogdesign (now simply frog). Esslinger developed the Snow White design language for Apple products. Every Snow White product has lines running over part of its surface, making the product appear smaller than it really is. Esslinger's first Apple product design was the Mac SE. The Snow White language appeared consistently on Apple's computers, monitors, numerous peripheral devices, and even on the plugs of cables. After an internal power struggle with new CEO John Sculley in the 1980s, Jobs resigned from Apple and went on to found NeXT Inc., and Esslinger followed Jobs to develop the design language for NeXT products.
The Macintosh's predecessor, the Lisa computer, was introduced in January 1983 for a price of $9,995.00 with many of the GUI-related innovations later seen on the Macintosh. It was aimed at business customers but was too much of a hard sell at the time; it was not a success for Apple, and the line was discontinued in 1986.
The Macintosh was hinted at on January 22, 1984, with a famous Super Bowl commercial featuring a female athlete throwing a hammer through a giant TV screen image of a dictator ("Big Brother", alluding to the tyrant character of the novel Nineteen Eighty-Four, and to the dominant computer maker at that time: IBM, colloquially known in the industry as "Big Blue"). The Macintosh was officially introduced and went on sale on January 24, 1984, for a price of $2,495.00.
Although the Mac garnered an immediate enthusiastic following, it was too radical for some. Because the machine was entirely designed around the GUI, existing text-mode and command-driven programs had to be redesigned and rewritten, a challenging undertaking that many software developers shied away from, which initially led to a lack of software for the new system.
In 1985, the combination of the Mac and its GUI with Aldus Pagemaker and Apple's LaserWriter printer enabled a low-cost solution for designing and previewing printed material, an activity that came to be known as desktop publishing. Interest in the Mac exploded, and it is only recently that it has started to lose its dominance as the standard platform for publishing and printing houses with the introduction of newer DTP software for Windows before Mac OS X (Adobe's InDesign - 2003).
By the early 1990s, it was thought by some that RISC-architecture CPUs would soon dramatically outpace the speed increases occurring over the same time in CISC CPUs such as the Macintosh's Motorola 68000 series and Intel's x86 series. The AIM alliance of Apple Computer, IBM, and Motorola was announced to create a series of RISC CPUs called the PowerPC. Existing Macintosh software that had been written for the 68000 series CPUs -- including some large sections of the Mac OS -- were made to run with a software emulator. The PowerPC remains the Macintosh CPU to date, although the architectural benefits and speed differences of RISC versus CISC remain controversial.
In 1995, Apple started the Macintosh clone program in order to regain lost market share in the desktop computer market. This program was cancelled in August 1997 when negotiations between Apple and the clone makers to extend the licensing agreement broke down, and Apple bought back the licenses of Power Computing and other clone vendors.
(See also List of Macintosh models grouped by CPU)
- Old World ROM
- 1984: Macintosh 128K, Macintosh 512K
- 1986: Macintosh Plus
- 1987: Macintosh II, Macintosh SE
- 1988: Macintosh IIx
- 1989: Macintosh SE/30, Macintosh IIcx, Macintosh IIci, Macintosh Portable
- 1990: Macintosh IIfx, Macintosh Classic, Macintosh IIsi, Macintosh LC series
- 1991: Macintosh Quadra, PowerBook
- 1992: Macintosh IIvx, PowerBook Duo
- 1993: Macintosh Centris, Macintosh Color Classic, Macintosh Performa, Macintosh TV
- 1994: Power Macintosh
- 1997: Power Macintosh G3, PowerBook G3, Twentieth Anniversary Macintosh
- New World ROM
- Apple v. Microsoft
- Carbon programming
- Cocoa programming
- Andy Hertzfeld
- List of Macintosh software
- Macworld Conference & Expo
- Apple Computer's Website
- The 1984 introducion of the Macintosh
- Articles from Jef Raskin about the history of the Macintosh
- Anecdotes about the history of the Macintosh (folklore.org)
- The Macintosh Clones
- All Mac models, with specs
- All Mac models, with specs, offline, is a program
- Making the Macintosh: Technology and Culture in Silicon Valley
- How was born the Mac - a short Hungarian story about Macintosh
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