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The Macintosh, commonly called the Mac for short, is a line of personal computers designed, developed, manufactured and marketed by Apple Computer, running the Macintosh operating system ("Mac OS"). more...

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Named after the McIntosh apple, the original Macintosh was released on January 24, 1984; it was the first popular personal computer to use the now-standard graphical user interface (“GUI”), with windows on a desktop and mouse control instead of the then-standard command line interface. Apple continued to sell its Apple II family as well as Macs until 1992–93. Since then, all Apple computers have been of the Macintosh family. The current range varies from the "budget" Mac mini desktop to the mid-range server Xserve. Macintosh systems are mainly targeted towards the home, education, and creative professional markets; more recently, the Xserve G5 server has enabled Apple to gain exposure in the enterprise market.

The original Macintosh operating system was in use from the time of the release of the original Mac, and underwent many major revisions. However, it became evident that the Classic Mac OS lacked many “modern” operating system features. In 1999, Apple introduced the new BSD Unix-based Mac OS X, featuring improved stability, multitasking and multi-user capability, while supporting older “Classic” applications by providing a “Classic” compatibility layer. The current version of Mac OS X is Mac OS X v10.4 Tiger, which is sold preinstalled in all Macs (the Xserve comes with Mac OS X Server). To complement the Macintosh, Apple has developed a series of digital media applications (collectively the iLife suite), two applications that are geared towards productivity (the iWork suite), and software aimed at the creative professional market, including Final Cut Pro, Shake, and Aperture.

Current product line

The iMac ships with the Mighty Mouse, a distinctive white keyboard, bluetooth and AirPort cards, an internal iSight camera and a power cord. A bluetooth wireless keyboard and mouse are available for additional cost. Although not all models currently come with all of these, it is possible that some of these accessories will come standard with other models.


1979–84: Development and introduction

The Macintosh project started in early 1979 with Jef Raskin, an Apple employee, who envisioned an easy-to-use, low-cost computer for the average consumer. In September 1979, Raskin was given permission to start hiring for the project, and he began to look for an engineer who could put together a prototype. Bill Atkinson, a member of the Lisa team—which was developing a similar but higher-end computer—introduced him to Burrell Smith, a service technician who had been hired earlier that year. Over the years, Raskin hired a large development team that designed and built the original Macintosh hardware and software; besides Raskin, Atkinson and Smith, the team included Chris Espinosa, Joanna Hoffman, George Crow, Jerry Manock, Susan Kare, and Andy Hertzfeld.

Smith's first Macintosh board design was built to Raskin's specifications: it had 64 kilobytes of RAM, used the Motorola 6809E microprocessor, and had the capacity to support a 256 × 256 pixel black-and-white bitmap display. Bud Tribble, a Macintosh programmer, was interested in running the Lisa's graphical programs on the Macintosh, and asked Smith whether he could incorporate the Lisa’s Motorola 68000 microprocessor into the Mac while still keeping the production cost down. By December 1980, Smith had succeeded in designing a board that not only used the 68000, but made it faster, from 5–8 Megahertz; this board also had the capacity to support a 384 × 256 bitmap display. Smith’s design used fewer RAM chips than the Lisa, and because of this, production of the board was significantly more cost-efficient. The final Mac design was self-contained and had far more programming code in read-only memory (ROM) than other computers; it had a non-expandable 128k of RAM.

The innovative design caught the attention of Steve Jobs, the co-founder of Apple. Realizing that the Macintosh was more marketable than the Lisa, he began to focus his attention on the project. Raskin finally left the Macintosh project in 1981 over a personality conflict with Jobs, and the final Macintosh design is said to be closer to Jobs’s ideas than Raskin’s. After hearing about the pioneering graphical user interface (GUI) technology being developed at Xerox PARC, Steve Jobs negotiated a visit to see the Xerox Alto computer and Smalltalk development tools in exchange for Apple stock options. The Lisa and Macintosh user interfaces were clearly influenced by the one designed at Xerox. Jobs also commissioned industrial designer Harmut Esslinger to work on the Macintosh line, resulting in the Snow White design language; although it came too late for the earliest Macs, it was implemented in most other mid- to late-1980s Apple computers. However, Jobs’s leadership at the Macintosh project was short lived; after an internal power struggle with Apple’s new CEO John Sculley, Jobs resigned from Apple in 1985, went on to found NeXT, another computer company, and did not return until 1997.

The Macintosh was hinted at on January 22, 1984, with the now-famous 1984 Super Bowl commercial directed by Ridley Scott. The Mac itself was officially introduced and went on sale on January 24, 1984 for a retail price of US$2,495 (more than US$6,000 in today’s terms), bundled with two useful programs designed to show off its interface: MacWrite and MacPaint. Although the Mac garnered an immediate, enthusiastic following, it was too radical for some. Because the machine was entirely designed around the GUI, existing text-mode and command-driven programs had to be redesigned and rewritten; this was a challenging undertaking that many software developers shied away from, and resulted in an initial lack of software for the new system. Many users, accustomed to the arcane world of command lines, labeled the Mac a mere "toy".


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