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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.

The beige Power Mac G3 went on sale in 1997.

The Power Mac G3 (1997): The Power Mac G3 was the first Mac to use the PowerPC G3 processor designed specifically for Mac OS. The model also stands out because it was the first Mac released under a new strategy that eliminated the confusion of 1990s by breaking the Mac lineup into just four categories — professional desktop, consumer desktop, professional notebook and consumer notebook. With minor exceptions like the Power Mac G4 Cube, Apple remained true to that strategy for several years and was successful with it.

Rhapsody and blue and yellow boxes: Figuring out how to integrate NeXT's Unix-based OS with the aging Mac OS was a complicated process, largely because it required more than just grafting a Mac interface onto NeXT's foundations. Apple also needed to provide a way to run older Mac apps in the new OS and to provide developers a road map and the tools needed to migrate their code. The initial strategy was called Rhapsody and involved two independent user environments running next to each other known as the blue box and yellow box that users would switch between. The blue box was conceived as an updated version of the old Mac OS along with its familiar interface while the yellow box represented the new OS along with all its modern computing underpinnings. Rhapsody never became a product as originally envisioned, but the blue box concept did find its way into OS X in the form of the Classic environment that could be used to run Mac apps that hadn't been updated for Mac OS X.

The first iMac (1998): The launch of the original iMac was one of the most significant moments in Apple's history. It represented a return to the ease and enjoyment of use that typified the original Mac. It also returned to the Mac's all-in-one roots and introduced the world to the design genius of Jonathan Ive. The iMac also illustrated Apple's commitment to the future by shipping without a floppy drive and with USB, then a new technology that had yet to become a major standard, as its only peripheral interface. With the focus on USB, a technology initially designed for PCs, the iMac also showed Apple's commitment to interoperability with PCs.

The Blue and White G3 (1999): The second-generation Power Mac G3 followed in the iMac's design footsteps, but it was significant for a much different reason. It was easier to open, upgrade and expand than any Mac before it. Lift a simple latch and the side folded out to reveal the motherboard, processor (which was removable and upgradable), RAM slots, PCI expansion slots (another PC standard) and drive bays for as many as three hard drives. Apple maintained much of the extremely flexible and easy-to-work-with design in its Mac Pro towers for nearly 15 years, right up until it introduced the new cylindrical Mac Pro that went on sale in December.


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