The Mac at 30

24 Jan 2014

To celebrate 30 years since its first personal computer, Apple is looking back at its earliest ‘Macintosh’ designs to see how the small Californian company developed into one of the largest consumer tech firms in the world.

Apple has created its own mini-site, which features an easy-to-explore timeline charting the company’s progression from the Macintosh in 1984 to the Mac Pro in 2014.

In its birthday message, the company said: “In 1984, Apple introduced the world to Macintosh. It was designed to be so easy to use that people could actually use it. And it came with a promise – that the power of technology taken from a few and put in the hands of everyone, could change the world. That promise has been kept.”

On its mini-site, Apple has asked people from around the world to talk about their first Mac, to build an interesting and personal narrative detailing the company’s consumer history.

To honour the company’s 30 years of producing the Mac, looks at some of the most important computers in its history, and where better to start than the first model, the Macintosh.

Macintosh 128K

In a time when computers required code to be inputted to run programs, and computing in general was seen as something scientists would only use, the Apple Macintosh 128K created the first user interface for much easier use.

As its birthday message says, the emphasis was put on accessibility for the average user, so much so, that when the computer was booted up, a digital smiling face would great them.


Its spec was relatively impressive for its time but in today’s world wouldn’t even be seen in a pocket calculator. It featured an 8mHz processor, 9-inch black-and-white CRT screen, 400KB of storage on floppy disk and 128KB of RAM.

While it was designed for the average person, it certainly wasn’t affordable with a massive US$2,495 price-tag.

Macintosh Portable

Apple’s first laptop was essentially portable in name only. Released on 28 September 1989, the awkward-looking computer weighed in at just over 7kg and was 4 inches thick.

While eagerly anticipated by critics, upon its release it was heavily criticised for its lack of function and the fact that should the battery have insufficient charge to power the computer, it could not be powered directly through the mains because of a voltage issue.

Spec-wise, it was designed to be ‘high-performance’, with a processing power of 16mHz and memory of 1MiB, which was expandable to 9MiB.

Macintosh portable

Uptake of the US$6,500 computer was limited and it had a short shelf-life, but it was considered an innovative step towards portable computers.

It did make history, however, as it was the first laptop to be taken into space on board a space shuttle in 1991 and subsequently sent the first email from space.

Macintosh TV

In another first, the Macintosh TV was the first of its kind to implement an integrated TV in its latest model in 1993, in a step towards more multi-media devices.

It was also the only computer developed by Apple to be black until the release of its latest Mac Pro model.

With its built-in 14-inch Sony Trinitron CRT screen, you could switch to the TV function once you had a TV cable hooked into the back.

Macintosh TV

Specs started to show signs of improvement with its 5MB of RAM and, at the time, an impressive 160MB hard drive.

Despite its design, the Macintosh TV had a production run of only 10,000 units at a cost of US$2,097 and was discontinued the following year.


At the turn of the 21st century, Apple set out to create a whole new design of computer.

Arguably its most important model, the iMac, was the first Apple computer to use ‘i’ in its name as a sign of the growing importance of the internet in daily life.


It also had a complete overhaul in design in what was a tradition which has continued to this day of creating a sleek, minimalist computer. The distinctive egg-shaped device came in a variety of different colours, giving a personal taste to computers which hadn’t really been seen before.

With a 233mHz processor, 532MB of RAM and a 4GB hard drive, the iMac became a major player in the creative industry and would eventually become an industry standard.

Mac Pro

The latest edition to the Apple computer family sees its launch at the peak of the company’s power.

After years of success in the internet age, the Mac Pro is one of the most advanced and powerful machines on the market today.

Mac Pro

The almost weapon-like black cylinder design features a 3.7gHz processor, 12GB of RAM and a 256GB hard drive.

With its position as the most used creative computer in the world, the Mac Pro sold out after its launch and Apple isn’t currently expecting to be able to ship more until February, signifying how popular it has become.

All images courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

Colm Gorey was a senior journalist with Silicon Republic