Macintosh - Introduction

October 2016

A brief history of the Macintosh

This article's goal is to trace the history of Apple, Inc. through its major products, and in particular its flagship: the Macintosh.

Steve Wozniak and Steve Jobs were two high school friends to whom we owe the creation of the first Apple computers. Their first steps into the computer industry were with Hewlett Packard (for Wozniak), and Atari (for Jobs). It was Steve Wozniak who was inspired first, creating what would later become the Apple I in 1976. His friend Jobs urged him on, and on 1 April 1976, they created the company Apple Computer, in order to be able to sell the Apple I. This first machine was unsuccessful, and they had to wait until 1977 for their company's first hit, the Apple II.

For the time, the machine's technical specifications were extraordinary:

  • up to 64KB of RAM
  • 1Mhz processor
  • A 6-color, 280x192 graphic interface, or 16-color/40x48
  • (no hard drive)
  • optional floppy disk drive

The Apple II

In 1980, after the release of the Apple II, the startup already had several thousand employees. Jobs started to work on the Lisa project.


But executives were unsatisfied with the results and pulled him from the project. But he was also involved with another project: the Macintosh, a $500 personal computer.

Alas, all good things come to an end, and in 1981, the company had its first crisis: sales were down, Wozniak had been in an airplane crash that brought the future of his career into doubt, and to top it all off, IBM came out with the first PC, which, with the IBM juggernaut behind it, quickly outsold Apple's machines.

Jobs quickly understood that Apple need to aim higher than its business competitors.
Also, Sculley (the president of Pepsi-Cola) became head of the company in 1983 (incidentally, the slogan "Think Different" has been used to tout both Macs and Pepsi... coincidence??)
The two men had a somewhat rocky relationship.

The release of the first Macintosh

This event took place on 22 January 1984. It was successful up until Christmas, when buyers started to hesitate, discouraged by the lack of hard drive connectivity. In 1985, the friction between Sculley and Jobs would get even worse. After a failed ploy by Jobs, the board of directors voted in favor of Sculley. Jobs resigned. The months that followed were not financially profitable.

By then, Sculley's ability to head a computer company was being called into question. The first conflicts with Microsoft were showing up: The release of Windows 1.0 led to a compromise saying that Microsoft would not use the same technology as Apple. The Mac broke out of the slump with the release of desktop publishing tools and software (like PostScript printers and PageMaker).

The release of the Mac II

In 1987, the Mac II continued Apple's resurgence. It reached the point where many believed that Windows could not slow the Mac's development (1989). But PC clones appeared, and the May 1990 release of Windows 3.0, which could run on every one of these clones, was a cause for alarm at Apple, still the sole manufacturer of the Macintosh.

The PowerBook

The idea of granting manufacturers licences in order to boost production of Macs was abandoned by the new CEO (Michael Spindler, named in June 1993). In 1991, Apple came out with the first PowerBooks. They were a huge success. Apple then began to research Personal Digital Assistants, which would later lead to the release of the Newton in August 1993. The less-than-perfect handwriting-recognition system earned it a somewhat unfavorable reputation among users. In 1994, the first PowerMacs arrived. These machines, which used a processor developed jointly by IBM and Motorola, were easily able to rival and even surpass the speeds of the latest Pentium processors. Meanwhile, licences were granted to several companies to build Mac clones running MacOS (including Power Computing and Umax), but this wasn't enough to make up for Apple's delay in updating their business strategy. What's more, the release of Windows 95 didn't make things any easier. In January 1996, as Apple was going through its worst crisis, the Performa, a low-cost machine, was released to timid sales, and Spindler was forced to resign. Gil Amelio replaced him.


In late 1996, with the situation unchanged, Apple announced that it was buying NeXT and bringing back former CEO Steve Jobs. The goal of this merger was to integrate the NeXTstep kernel into the development of the next MacOS (project Rhapsody, planned for 1998). In early 1997, Amelio had to resign, having been unable to get the company back on track. Jobs then assumed larger duties within Apple, and wasted no time in making decisions intended to restructure the corporation. In August 1997, at MacWorld in Boston, Jobs made change and new beginnings the focus of his speech, including the announcement of new ad campaigns, new Macs, the progress of Rhapsody, and most importantly, a deal made with Microsoft. This deal let both companies share patents for 5 years. Apple offered Microsoft $150 million in stock, and Microsoft paid Apple an unknown sum to settle intellectual property issues which had arisen during the development of Windows.

Regarding the clones, which had ended up stealing more customers from Apple without boosting Mac sales, Jobs made the decision to rescind the licences that had been granted, thereby halting the clones' production.

In November 1997, Jobs announced that Macs would from then on be sold directly from the manufacturer, over the Internet and by telephone, as well as the release of the PowerMac and PowerBook G3. In one week, the Apple Store became the third-largest e-commerce site on the Web.

The iMac

In January 1998, Jobs announced its first profitable quarter in more than a year. In May, he introduced a new type of Mac: the iMac, with a balance of performance and price meant to satisfy everyday users. He also explained that the MacOS X project would rely not just on Rhapsody (NeXT technology), but also on MacOS 8. The year 1998 was a highly profitable one for Apple, with iMacs selling like hotcakes. In 1999, the release of the "Blue & White" PowerMac G3 and the announcement of the iBook kept the momentum going. Next came the announcement of the G4 generation of PowerMacs.

In January 2000, the introduction of iTools, a line of online services, demonstrated a new firmly Internet-oriented strategy for Apple, while Steve Jobs announced that he would remain the head of the company.

written by Tittom (Visit IRCMania)

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