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Apple Macintosh Turns 30 154

Posted by Soulskill
from the you-don't-look-a-day-over-40 dept.
snydeq writes "30 years ago today, Apple debuted the Macintosh. Here are some reviews of the early Mac models, including the Macintosh ('will be compared to other machines not only in terms of its features but also in the light of the lavish claims and promises made by Apple co-founder Steven Jobs'), the Mac SE ('contains some radical changes, including room for a second internal drive and even a fan'), the Mac IIx ('a chorus of yawns'), and the Mac Portable ('you may develop a bad case of the wannas for this lovable [16-lb.] luggable'). Plus insights on the Macintosh II's prospects from Bill Gates: 'If you look at a product like Mac Word III on that full-page display, it's pretty awesome. ... But the corporate buyer is never going to be a strong point for Apple.'" iFixit got their hands on a Mac 128K and did a teardown, evaluating the old hardware for repairability. What will the Mac look like in another 30 years?
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Apple Macintosh Turns 30

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  • I loved that when I turned on my old Apple IIe it dropped me right to a 'root' BASIC terminal and didn't cost a dime to begin my software enterprise as an elementary schooler. The Mac? Well, Resedit was just not the same...

    • My experience with a Mac was close... I wondered how the hell I could drop to a command line.

      I loved Macs for a good long time though. Even today I think they are pretty good machines even though I prefer Linux. I don't like the movement of Apple towards a Microsoft-like business model where they care about their own corporate agenda more than their users, but as long as they don't make it a total walled garden it still deserves some respect.

      • by Anonymous Coward on Friday January 24, 2014 @11:30AM (#46056543)

        You could hit the debugger switch, which was an add-on or semi-hidden piece, and get to a debug prompt. A very limited CLI.

        The main thing, though, was that NOT having a CLI on the classic MacOS was a 'burning the ships behind' moment. By removing that as a fallback, applications had to be graphical and work without CLI install/diagnostic processes, Even minor utilities had to have some effort put into a proper user interface.

        This worked, mostly. Some apps reimplemented command lines, and a lot of apps went to the super-limited interface, of course... but most stepped into the relatively new paradigms of the GUI (Apple not being the first, but popularizing it)

        • by jythie (914043)
          You could also run A/UX, which if I recall correctly was a good 'best of both worlds' solution.
          • by MightyYar (622222)

            I also recall it costing almost as much as the machine itself, and only running on their super-expensive machines. I like to putter around in unix, but I was lucky and always had access to a Solaris machine (either at work or school) while Mac was pre-OSX. I was running OSX as soon as it was available.

            • A/UX was indeed expensive. But even the early Macs could be decent Unix machines, as time (and open source a decade or more later) proved. The SE/30 was an incredible machine - able to take up to 128MB of RAM back when 'standard' was 1MB or less! Mine has seen lots of use as my piddly little home webserver [homeunix.net].
              • by cant_get_a_good_nick (172131) on Friday January 24, 2014 @03:11PM (#46059369)

                Remember that many of the early UNIX variants (SunOS, HP/UX, some others) started out on the 68000 chip. It was a very well designed and flexible chip. Then PowerPC was supposed to be a platform. (Remember CHRP [wikipedia.org]? of course not).

                Macs have this image of oddball hardware, but except for NuBus it really wasn't all that true.

                • Remember that many of the early UNIX variants (SunOS, HP/UX, some others) started out on the 68000 chip. It was a very well designed and flexible chip. Then PowerPC was supposed to be a platform. (Remember CHRP [wikipedia.org]? of course not).

                  Macs have this image of oddball hardware, but except for NuBus it really wasn't all that true.

                  Early? You call Unix on a 68000 Early? By cracky, I started out back in 1981 on our shared university system that ran on a DEC PDP-11/70. Boy were we all excited when a few years later we got to run on a VAX!

                  And fortunately this was in California so the 5 miles I had to walk up hill to get to the computer lab was free of snow.

                  • Early? You call Unix on a 68000 Early?

                    I'd say that Early is relative. I meant "early compared to today", and "early relative to start of the variant". For most people, the 68K days are two whole CPU architectures ago:

                    Intel x86 => (PA-RISC/SPARC/MIPS) => 68000.

                    SunOS & HP/UX were last on 68K in early 1990's. That's early enough for most people, and may predate the existence of a great number of Slashdot readers.

            • Well, IIRC, the only reason that A/UX even existed was because the US government had a requirement of POSIX compatibility for all computer purchases, even if the actual people and departments who wanted to buy the machines and use them had no intention of ever taking advantage of that.

        • by knarf (34928) on Friday January 24, 2014 @12:51PM (#46057471) Homepage

          Not having a CLI and forcing developers to either limit their applications to what could be pointed at and clicked, or implementing their own application-specific CLI is one of the reasons why the Macintosh ended up being a niche platform, derided by some as having its manual 'printed on drool-proof paper'. If there is one thing Apple did right when they introduced OSX it is their decision to 'allow' command line access.

          • Not having a CLI and forcing developers to either limit their applications to what could be pointed at and clicked, or implementing their own application-specific CLI is one of the reasons why the Macintosh ended up being a niche platform, ...

            Someone seriously misinformed you. I did Apple II, Mac and PC DOS and Windows development back in the day. The PC beat the Mac on price, there was no preference for CLI over GUI. When PC users had a chance to ditch CLI for a half decent GUI they jumped at it, MS Windows 3 (1 and 2 didn't qualify a half decent GUIs).

        • by perpenso (1613749) on Friday January 24, 2014 @06:44PM (#46062191)

          Some apps reimplemented command lines, and a lot of apps went to the super-limited interface, of course... but most stepped into the relatively new paradigms of the GUI (Apple not being the first, but popularizing it)

          Some friends and I were Apple II developers back then. We therefore had automatic acceptance into the Mac developer program. So we signed up and bought a Mac as soon as possible.

          Months before the Mac shipped, Apple sent the Inside Macintosh manuals (a set of three ring binders). So we had docs but no computer, Apple found a way to get developers to read the manual.

          While reading Inside Macintosh they introduced us to the new GUI paradigm and offered a convincing argument to go with the GUI and not just implement a terminal/console user interface.

          We couldn't afford a Lisa for development so we got 68,000 coprocessor boards for our Apple II's, cross assembled 68K assembly, and downloaded the binary to see it run. Took me days to get an application menu going, it was very frustrating, then I learned that the A5 registers was not for general purpose use. :-)

      • by TWiTfan (2887093) on Friday January 24, 2014 @11:37AM (#46056643)

        I don't like the movement of Apple towards a Microsoft-like business model where they care about their own corporate agenda more than their users

        I was unaware that there was a time when that WASN'T the case.

        • by Nerdfest (867930)

          I think feeling is that they are moving OSX towards more of an iOS/Windows 8 model where you are not allowed to installed arbitrary software easily if at all.

          • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

            by DewDude (537374)
            As someone who's used Windows 8; you are able to install arbitrary software in Desktop mode. Maybe not arbitrary Metro apps; but who cares about that?
          • I think feeling is that they are moving OSX towards more of an iOS/Windows 8 model where you are not allowed to installed arbitrary software easily if at all.

            For years OEMs have been struggling with the fact that hardware margins are slim, slim, slim. Obviously Apple's are 'less slim,' but still slim. They've realized their path to shareholder results is really software and services in an ecosystem, be it consumer or corporate.

            If you don't want this there will always be open-platform solutions...

          • by tlhIngan (30335)

            I think feeling is that they are moving OSX towards more of an iOS/Windows 8 model where you are not allowed to installed arbitrary software easily if at all.

            Except that will never be the case.

            First, the Mac App Store is a nice idea, but it's not the be-all end-all. Gatekeeper is easy defeated, and defaults to Mac App Store + Signed Apps.

            Signed apps are just that - signed. You buy a developer cert from Apple ($99). You sign your app and release it however you want - obviously not through the Mac App Store s

            • by Nerdfest (867930)

              Having to buy a developer licence qualifies as 'easily', in my opinion. The rest of the stuff is also 'for now'. As it is, there are already apps that can only be run if they're installed through the OSX app store. The concern is that things will keep heading this way. I see I've been modded down again though, so I guess there's no worry for Apple people. Enjoy. Let's see what happens.

              • As it is, there are already apps that can only be run if they're installed through the OSX app store.

                That's by developer choice, who cares if someone choses to distribute through the Max app store vs. a website?

                There are ALSO still a number of apps that you can download to install - they do not even have to be signed, although that requires one extra step after you download them to run (you have to work around gatekeeper, which is as easy as a right-click Open).

                I personally use app store versions when I ca

          • Don't forget Debian/Ubuntu Apt-Get. It is a very similar concept. The only difference is you can add a repository in a config file, but for the most part, Debian and Ubuntu users stick to what is in Apt-Get before they go out of the default box.

    • MS Word (Score:5, Interesting)

      by Anonymous Coward on Friday January 24, 2014 @11:30AM (#46056539)

      MS Word on the original Mac was an incredible change. (This was before MS went all gung ho on Windows: they were still doing MS DOS and Windows was this DOS addon). I remember doing my physics papers on it and being able to put in math symbols and format and a bunch of other font and formatting things - all with a click of the mouse! And the WYSIWYG interface that printed what you saw on the screen!

      That was mind blowing back then. Because before that it was a text editor and trial and error in getting it to print well - or just an old fashioned IBM Selectric and a bottle of White-Out.

      Yeah, yeah, yeah, I had to write papers in the snow, uphill, both ways,.... AND LIKED IT!

      • Because I used a Mac at home, work allowed me to purchase Windows 286 and Word for use at work. I was probably one of the few who ever used Windows 2 for any real work.
        • by Lumpy (12016)

          I had a mac at home that had the add on card to run windows/dos. it was an actual 386 computer on an expansion card and it's output was piped to the video board via a 15 pin jumper cable.

          • I had a mac at home that had the add on card to run windows/dos. it was an actual 386 computer on an expansion card and it's output was piped to the video board via a 15 pin jumper cable.

            Brings back memories - I had a PC Transporter in my Apple][gs that let me run MS-DOS so I could emulate a VT100 and dial in to my wok mainframe. As a side note, the color finder first appeared on the Apple][gs via GS/OS. A great machine, but Apple was already moving away from the ][ series in favor of Mac. As i recall, there even was an Apple /e/ hardware board for the LC.

      • by mccalli (323026)
        Word 4.2 (I think it was .2) combined with my Mac LC and a Stylewriter was and remains my favourite word processor setup of all time - it got me through the last two years of university (first year I started with an ST, using First Word Plus). Loved 4.2 - perfect mix of simple but powerful.

        5.x brought in envelopes and a bunch of stuff I don't recall and didn't use, but started to get slow. 6.x is where the rot set in for me and I've never really liked any version since, whether PC or Mac.

        Cheers,
        Ian
      • by Solandri (704621)

        I remember doing my physics papers on it and being able to put in math symbols and format and a bunch of other font and formatting things - all with a click of the mouse!

        The scalable fonts also meant you could print banners by printing sideways on a dot-matrix printer, and not separating the individual pages. Perfect for printing title boards for posters or your science fair project.

        I still don't understand why after practically inventing scalable fonts (Postscript) and scalable GUI elements in a driv

      • I remember people going wild with fonts composing documents - because they could! Ditto a few years later with PowerPoint. Then some people learn the rules of simplicity and coherent design and it got better.
    • by unimacs (597299)

      I loved that when I turned on my old Apple IIe it dropped me right to a 'root' BASIC terminal and didn't cost a dime to begin my software enterprise as an elementary schooler. The Mac? Well, Resedit was just not the same...

      Didn't cost a dime? Even a IIe would have set you back between $2,500 and $3,000 in today's dollars.

      • by dbIII (701233)
        Came with it obviously. One thing that did "cost a dime", although several generations of copies before I saw it, was the wonderful integer BASIC that came with an assembler (wonderful for the assembler - I never used the BASIC). Before that I spent ages converting commands to hex and nearly always lost a byte somewhere and had to do it all over again (a pain since I only had a couple of half hour sessions with it a week). I didn't actually do anything useful with it, just noises and throwing stuff in vi
    • You did need to boot a formatted disk so you could save the program. Those 5 1/4 at the time were around a dollar a floppy (Well the cheap ones were 50 cents. but they lead to a lot of bad sectors). and I am sure the Apple IIe wasn't free either. So it cost you bit more than a Dime.

  • Still have it, should check to see if it runs.
    • Capacitors are failing on analog boards that haven't been powered up in 20 years.
    • It probably will (Score:4, Interesting)

      by davidwr (791652) on Friday January 24, 2014 @11:27AM (#46056495) Homepage Journal

      They used lead solder back in those days, assuming the floppy drive isn't too dusty and your boot disk is intact.

      When Steve Jobs died I booted a mid-80s Mac and it came up fine. MacPaint (source code here [computerhistory.org]) was an amazing feat given that it had to run in 128KB (really 192KB - like most Mac applications of its time, it made extensive use of the code that was in the 64KB of ROM).

      So was the "disk copy" program that could copy a 400KB (400,000 byte) disk in only 4 passes. It stole a large chunk of the 22KB RAM normally allocated to video to do it.

    • by idontgno (624372)

      My SE rocks.

      Got it for free; basically, local small-town newspaper had been using it to lay out classified ads, but had moved on (newer machines after 15 years) and the screen was completely burned in with the layout software entry form.

      Ebay to the rescue. Now the SE has a new CRT, 4 megs of ram, and a SCSI-to-ethernet adapter so that I can use Ethertalk and TCP/IP on the in-house network.

      Cool little machine. At least, after I bought the extra-long Torx screwdrivers I needed to get into the case. Damn Steve

  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday January 24, 2014 @11:19AM (#46056369)

    I don't want to start a holy war here, but what is the deal with you Mac fanatics? I've been sitting here at my freelance gig in front of a Mac (a 8600/300 w/64 Megs of RAM) for about 20 minutes now while it attempts to copy a 17 Meg file from one folder on the hard drive to another folder. 20 minutes. At home, on my Pentium Pro 200 running NT 4, which by all standards should be a lot slower than this Mac, the same operation would take about 2 minutes. If that.

    In addition, during this file transfer, Netscape will not work. And everything else has ground to a halt. Even BBEdit Lite is straining to keep up as I type this.

    I won't bore you with the laundry list of other problems that I've encountered while working on various Macs, but suffice it to say there have been many, not the least of which is I've never seen a Mac that has run faster than its Wintel counterpart, despite the Macs' faster chip architecture. My 486/66 with 8 megs of ram runs faster than this 300 mhz machine at times. From a productivity standpoint, I don't get how people can claim that the Macintosh is a superior machine.

    Mac addicts, flame me if you'd like, but I'd rather hear some intelligent reasons why anyone would choose to use a Mac over other faster, cheaper, more stable systems.

    • by hummassa (157160)
      Is this evidence of time travel? ;)
    • by Anonymous Coward

      My 486/66 with 8 megs of ram runs faster than this 300 mhz machine at times.

      Have you disabled PointCast? All those updates must slow down your home network.

    • by MightyYar (622222)

      The funny thing about this is I Googled the post and it matches exactly an Eve Online discussion forum post from 2009, but nothing else. I thought for sure it was lifted from a usenet discussion somewhere.

    • by trazom28 (134909)

      Why don't you bring this up on a CompuServe forum?

  • But the corporate buyer is never going to be a strong point for Apple.

    Pure anecdote, but my current job in software development and the previous two were at small companies that were 100% Apple shops. At this point the latest Windows version with which I have any real experience is XP. I spend 95% of my time either in a cross-platform browser, a cross-platform IDE or at a bash prompt. So the only real advantage to Windows (ignoring gaming) is to make the last one of those (bash prompt) more annoying.

    • Similar here, at my previous job... except irony of ironies, while even the manager and sales droids were very happy with their Macs, the Photoshoppers were Windows only.

      Meanhile at my current job, where the developer workstations are pretty much all Linux, I am looked down upon because my laptop of choice comes pre-installed with a certified UNIX OS.

      (Posting from my home desktop Linux right now BTW, in case anyone wants to accuse me of being a hipster).

      • by jedidiah (1196)

        > I am looked down upon because my laptop of choice comes pre-installed with a certified UNIX OS.

        No. You're looked down upon because you think that means something.

      • As much as I prefer OS X to Windows (and Mac hardware, generally speaking, to WinTel hardware), I would not be jazzed about a job that required me to run a Linux laptop. Too many headaches.
    • by PPH (736903)

      But the corporate buyer is never going to be a strong point for Apple.

      Really? Back in the 'old days', Boeing selected the Mac SE as the standard desktop for office employees. Networkable, with an easy to use GUI, it was a good enough for people whose jobs didn't involve a full blown workstation. These were Apollo, IBM, and Sun machines.

      But then someone got the Microsoft bug and we were told to switch. Trouble was, the cost estimate justifying the switch priced a Mac complete with a full suite of software against a PC with a DOS prompt. So when the IT people delivered the PCs

  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday January 24, 2014 @11:39AM (#46056675)

    That's how they pitched the Mac... that is to say, a computer that's not just for computer nerds.

    "I think a nerd is a person who uses the telephone to talk to other people about telephones. And a computer nerd therefore is somebody who uses a computer in order to use a computer."
        - Douglas Adams

  • by Anonymous Coward
    That video has no volume control? It's hidden under some sort of fade graphic? Oh the irony that Apple got its reputation for a user interface, but that this video made me want to hurl the computer right at the head of the idiot who decided it's OK to cover the interface of the video player.
  • by sunderland56 (621843) on Friday January 24, 2014 @11:54AM (#46056855)
    ...and *still* stuck in their parent's basement, unable to make it in the business world.
  • I purchased my first Macintosh in 1990. A Macintosh LC to replace my Apple //e. I would have purchased a Mac much sooner, but I was waiting for a color model I could afford. I couldn't see moving from my color //e to a black & white Mac. When did you purchase your first Mac, and which one was it?
  • that in the commercial Apple was referencing 1984 and all the invasion of privacy and Big Brother-ness that went along with it, and now they are doing essentially the same thing.

    • all the invasion of privacy and Big Brother-ness that went along with it

      Apple is the only large company left that is not trying to track everything you do to resell to others. Your data is YOUR DATA on an iOS system, not going into the Googleplex to figure out what ads to send you...

      They are exactly as they were in the ad, a fighter against a central overseer directing your whole life.

    • Especially with regards to the Mac platform I have no idea what you are talking about.

  • We got one in our lab the first day. Although there were a couple of other graphical workstations just starting to come out, this was by far the cheapest.

    The original Mac did not have an internal disk, but a 384K floppy. 128KB was way too small. You couldnt get rid of the annoying watch icon until about 512K.

    Today you get a million times more memory- 128GB flash drive- for a lower price.
    • by aiadot (3055455)

      Today you get a million times more memory- 128GB flash drive- for a lower price.

      But why? 640KB ought to be enough for everybody.

    • Two things.

      First The Floppy was 400k, not 384k.
      Second, comparing a computer to a flash drive is disingenuous. I can buy a 16 gb flash drive for twenty bucks. A 16 gb sodimm kit would cost me $180, and a computer to go around those memory chips would probably cost a few hundred bucks if I built it myself, and closer to a thousand If I got it from Apple.

      Cheaper than an original Mac, at the time, but not dramatically so. Of course, it is orders of magnitude faster, and more capacious.

    • by Hatta (162192)

      Today you get a million times more memory

      Hell, only 5 years after the 128K Mac was released, Apple released the SE/30 which supported up to 128M of memory. A factor of a thousand in 5 years.

      • by peter303 (12292)
        "support" is different from "afford" An installed megabyte was $100 in 1990.
        • Yes. But many years later, I got an SE/30 and maxed out the RAM, just to have finally done it. Fortunately it didn't cost too much on eBay.

  • Memory was shared poorly between the CPU and video. Compared to the Amiga and Atari ST, the Mac128K ran very slowly. While the Amiga and ST could overlap CPU memory cycles and video memory cycles running the CPU at nearly full speed, the Mac designers had the CPU waiting every other four CPU cycles to give video time to access memory. The CPU effectively ran just slightly faster than half speed for most codes during pixel display.

    It only ran at full speed out of ROM and during video blanking intervals.

  • That video from the link in the post is like a cavalcade of hipsters!

  • by kheldan (1460303) on Friday January 24, 2014 @01:28PM (#46057949) Journal
    I remember the first time I saw a Macintosh. I was in my late teens, very much a young techie, and visiting what few computers stores there were at the time was a treat for me, I'd maybe get an opportunity to play with some of the new, cutting-edge stuff I could only dream about affording. At the time I was using Z80-based systems running CP/M, so there were no fancy bitmapped graphics for me, only a text terminal with ASCII/ANSI character sets. I'd heard about this "Macintosh" thing, and happened upon one, and sat and played with it for a few minutes. I found the "graphical user interface" to be "cute", but somewhat useless. After poking around with it for a few minutes, I thought to myself "well, this graphical thing is cute and clever, but let's get a look under the hood at the real operating system" and attempted to find a way to exit to the command line I expected was underlying this frilly graphical thing on the screen. Imagine my surprise (and to a lesser degree, horror!) when I discovered that this frilly, almost childish-looking graphical thing on the screen was in fact the operating system itself! I shook my head and blinked in disbelief and walked away, disbelieving that anyone could ever do anything useful with such a machine. To this day I've never owned an Apple product, but I guess I do have to admit that they were on to something big with the Mac.

    ..and no, Mac fans, I am not trolling you, and this is not flame-bait either, this is a true story, so spare me the hate, OK?
    • by mccalli (323026)
      I had the same experience the first time I saw a GUI machine - an Atari ST in a shop. Although I'd read magazines (anyone remember Input magazine in the UK?) about graphical interfaces, I hadn't ever actually used one or seen one for real.

      My first thought on seeing it was "how do I get out of this and where's the computer?". I was essentially looking to type load "" somewhere and was baffled that I couldn't do it.

      Cheers,
      Ian
    • The most impressive thing I saw from Apple was their laser printers, which were one of the first for consumers. The gui was neat but seeing a computer produce a physical thing that looked so good blew me away....

    • by lord_mike (567148) on Friday January 24, 2014 @04:40PM (#46060629)

      I remember my first time. It was at a department store that had decided to open up a "business computer" shop. I remember going in and seeing the mac, and trying it out. I was blown away. It was such a completely different paradigm, I didn't know what to do or how to use the machine. Even the text was different--black on white? Who would have ever thought of that? Is there any reason to even have a keyboard? I didn't manage to use it once while I was there. I played around with McPaint for about an hour and left disoriented. I looked at the other PC's, Compaq's, and PC clones around the store, and they seemed so incredibly antiquated. My mind was blown. I knew that whatever this Macintosh was, it was going to change a lot of things with computing. I wasn't sure if I was going to like that or not, but change was inevitable... and it was.

  • by hey! (33014) on Friday January 24, 2014 @01:31PM (#46057999) Homepage Journal

    The Blackbird [wired.com].

    It was chunky by modern standards, but back in 1994 it was elegant and sleek. I still think it looks really good. More importantly, I think the 540c was the best computer for *working on* I've ever had. It had a terrific keyboard, a trackpad whose operation has never been equalled in my opinion, and you could swap out the optical drive for a second battery for a then-astounding four hours of battery life.

    The screen was in modern netbook range for size (9.4 inches/24 cm diagonal), and very low resolution (640 x 400), but somehow it was very comfortable to work on for a long time. The entire system had only 4MB of RAM, but the software was built around this and it felt like plenty. About the only thing I didn't like was the proprietary Ethernet transceiver connector, (a) because it was proprietry and (b) because it was garbage. That's it. Everything else was as perfect as the technology of the day could make it.

    If I could have a mint 540c with software and a pair of fresh batteries, I'd use it instead of my modern laptop for a lot of things like writing where I had to focus on one thing for a long time, use a keyboard and didn't need a lot of CPU. Alternatively I'd settle for a laptop with a really good keyboard.

  • To the left of the actual Mac SE review, there is an ad sporting "WordPerfect is Now Easy to Learn". Ach. Those times.
    • Wordperfect! (OT trivia ahead!)

      I recall a documentary about technology on BBC in the 80's (when the BBC cared about technology) - Wordperfect were touting the fact that they were the first corporation in the world to have a full time call-queue DJ ! The spin they put on it was amazing and all the people interviewed said calling their support was great.

      Like MS Office of the now, Wordperfect of the then, had weird odd version numbers for Macs.

      Wordstar was thankfully the closest DOS came to Vi ;)

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