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24 milestones in the Mac's 30-year history

Ryan Faas | Jan. 27, 2014
Today marks the 30th anniversary of the arrival of the now-iconic Apple Macintosh computer. Columnist Ryan Faas looks back over the past three decades at some of the highlights and lowlights of the Mac's -- and Apple's -- evolution.

Diversification gone awry (1987-97): The Mac II may have been the first major departure from the original Mac design, but it was far from the last. During the decade that followed, Apple released an incredible number of different models, eventually creating multiple product lines for a range of different markets. The Quadra range was for business, the Performa line went to home users and LC line aimed primarily at schools. Despite the different markets and occasionally different case designs, many of the Macs shared similar, if not identical, hardware regardless of name or model number. Things got even more confusing when Apple began selling Macs with model numbers in each line that differed only in the software that came pre-installed on them. The diversification became so pervasive that, at one point, Apple provided poster-sized product matrixes to Mac resellers just so they could keep the line-up straight.

The PowerBook 100 (1991): Apple's first attempt at a laptop was a miserable luggable computer called the Mac portable that weighed 16 pounds and was the antithesis of today's sleek MacBooks. Following its dismal launch, the company retooled and developed the PowerBook 100, which featured the now iconic clamshell design of modern notebook computers with a pointing device (in those days a trackball) positioned between two built-in wrist rests. Several models followed, diversifying across price points and features. Apple eventually broke out some models with different designs to create the PowerBook Duo and PowerBook 500 series.

The PowerBook 100 opened the door for future, sleeker Apple laptops.

The PowerBook Duo (1992): The PowerBook 200 (a.k.a. the PowerBook Duo) was an early precursor to today's MacBook Air and ultrabook PCs. It was the thinnest and lightest notebook computer on the market when it arrived. Apple shaved weight and space from the design by eliminating many components and ports, including floppy or optical drives, support for external drives of any kind, any type of display connector, and the ADB port used for Apple keyboards of the time. The only ports included were a single serial port for connecting to printers and other peripherals and a proprietary docking port. (An internal modem was an option, as well). When Duo users wanted access to other ports, they relied on an optional docking station called a Duo Dock that resembled a cross between a desktop Mac and a VCR into which the Duo was inserted, which allowed it to act as a desktop Mac with a full set of ports and other components. The PowerBook Duo line continued for several years and was, in many ways, ahead of its time. After canceling the Duo, Apple released a minimalist notebook in 1997 called the PowerBook 2400 and, of course, in 2008 the stunningly sleek and popular MacBook Air.

 

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